In what has been a season full of exceptional accomplishments by the UCF women’s volleyball team, Tuesday night’s 3-0 sweep of UTEP added to the impressive list of achievements. The Knights (20-11, 12-8) reached the 20-win plateau in the regular season finale for the first time since 2003 and scored the most conference wins in program history with 12 during Conference USA play.
Head coach Todd Dagenais knows his team has done all they can do when it comes to making a run at a NCAA Tournament at-large bid. With a win over No. 1 USC in their pocket from earlier this year, Dagenais team will enjoy the moment and hope for at least one more match in 2011.
“At this point we have done all we can do in terms of trying to build a NCAA tournament resume, so now we just have to wait and see what happens with the rest of the country,” Dagenais said after the match. “We understand that we are probably on the outside part of the bubble, but we are really excited to be in that position of having the 20-win season and at least putting ourselves into consideration.
“This is a huge step for the program and huge step for this group of women,” Dagenais added. “It is an honor and tribute to all of the student athletes that we have had here during our tenure. So many of those players paved the road for us to have the opportunity to have such a great season. Now we get to sit back and enjoy what we’ve accomplished and hope to have the chance to accomplish more this year.”
Playing its third match in five days, the Knights showed no ill effects from the thousand-plus miles logged as it swept the Miners (19-14, 9-11) for the second time in 2011. It was also the six-consecutive win in the series as the UCF defense stifled the home team’s offensive output to just .109 for the night.
As has been the case most of the year, the first set belonged to the Knights as they burst out of the gates with a quick 5-0 run then followed that up with a 7-0 run to take a 14-4 lead. They would close out the set at 25-13 behind 12 kills and a .267 attack percentage. Both Angelica Crump (Atlanta, Ga.) and DeLaina Sarden (Lawrenceville, Ga.) totaled four kills apiece while the team swatted three total shots in the stanza.
After hoisting nine assists in the first set, senior setter Rachel Vukson (Oakville, Ontario) turned it on in the second, dishing out 16 helpers to lead the Knights to a 25-20 score. Crump was the recipient of many Vukson passes, delivering five kills to go along with her two block solos in the stanza. The Knights hit .250 overall in the frame while connecting on 17 kills.
The Miners made it interesting in the third as they held a 13-9 lead until Crump smacked down three-straight kills followed by back-to-back daggers by junior Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia) and capped off the 6-0 run with a Vukson ace to take a 15-13 lead. The crucial streak sparked the Knights to go on to close out the set, 25-21, as Crump and Vilde combined for the last three kills to sweep the match.
On the evening, Crump spiked down a match-high 18 kills (.389) while Vilde joined her in double figures with 11 of her own. Sarden missed out on her 13th double-digit kills performance by one, but led the squad with a .421 hitting percentage. Vukson ended the contest with 41 assists for a 13.67 assist per set average to bring her season total to 1377, the eighth-best season total in school history.
UCF will learn its postseason fate on Sunday at 6 p.m. as the 64-team field for the NCAA Tournament is announced live on ESPNU.