It was a memorable day for the UCF volleyball team as they took a back-and-forth five-set victory (24-26, 25-17, 25-14, 21-25, 16-14) over Cincinnati on Sunday afternoon at The Venue. The Knights (19-8, 10-4 The American) improved to 13-2 on their home court and helped head coach Todd Dagenais earn his 100th-career victory.
The match featured high drama as the teams exchanged the lead 13 times to go along with 29 ties. The Bearcats (2-27, 2-13) showed off tremendous heart as they battled back from a 2-1 deficit to force a deciding fifth game with a four-point win in set four. The deciding stanza proved to be the most dramatic of all as the teams were deadlocked at one, two, three, four, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, and 14 before UCF put the match away with back-to-back points.
“We have to give Cincinnati a ton of credit,” Dagenais said. “We played hard and we didn’t always execute well, but we were really fortunate to win this match. I told everyone from the beginning if they thought this match was going to be a cakewalk they were nuts. Cincinnati is a team that’s been in a lot of close matches all year long and was coming off a big win at USF two nights ago. They are getting better and better. Coach (Molly) Alvey and her staff go in day in and day out and improve their program. They are really going in the right direction.”
Freshman outside hitter Taylor Gallart shined with 15 kills and eight digs while hitting .312. The Germantown, Md., native did not start the match, but once again provided a huge spark offensively for the Knights in relief. Senior Angelica Crump led the way with 19 kills on 50 swings, including four big hits in the final set. Junior DeLaina Sarden was solid in the middle, smacking 12 kills, hitting .312 and coming up with three block assists.
“I’m proud to be a UCF Knight,” Dagenais said when asked about win 100. “I’m proud of the players that we have and the coaching staff that we have and the fact that we’ve won 100 matches in the six years we’ve been here. We’ve turned the program and the culture around and that’s something we’re all really proud of. You look back on 100 wins and there’s just so much that goes into that. I’ve been really fortunate to be surrounded by great people, both in the gym and at home.”
Defensively is where the Black and Gold truly shined as they held Cincinnati to just a .117 attack percentage while racking up 68 digs and denying 13 shots at the net. Juniors Kaye-Alese Green and Loren Cory proved to be a formidable tandem block as they each set new-career highs with nine block assists apiece. Junior libero bounced back from her first single-digit dig effort in two months on Friday with a team-high 28 digs (5.60 per set). Freshman Shelby Foyer also got into the act from her middle back spot with 11 digs, her double-digit dig performance of her rookie season.
The Knights return to action next week for their last two home matches of the season against SMU and Houston. Friday night’s contest v. the Mustangs will be “Family Night” as family members of all players will be honored. That evening will also see the 2003 UCF Volleyball team celebrate its 10-year anniversary of reaching the NCAA tournament. Sunday’s home finale against the Cougars is “Senior Day” and will honor UCF’s two outgoing seniors, Crump and Roxy Mendez.