ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – In its first match as a nationally ranked program, the UCF volleyball team found itself down to Houston after three sets on Friday night in The Venue. The No. 25 Knights (19-3, 10-0) showed their trademark resiliency by rallying to a 3-2 victory (25-20, 20-25, 20-25, 25-14, 15-10) and extending their winning streak to 16 matches.
The Knights were led by a career performance from outside McKenna Melville. The rookie notched her first career 20-20 match with 27 kills and 20 digs. She became the first Knight to have at least 20 kills and 20 digs in a match since Evija Vilde recorded 22 kills and 23 digs on Oct. 23, 2011 against Southern Miss. The rookie converted 27 of her 75 swings for a .265 hitting mark.
Offensively, the Black and Gold struggled to find its rhythm after a solid first set. UCF rebounded with clips of .406 and .333 over the final two frames to finish the match with a .183 attack percentage. Kristina Fisher came up big with 16 kills for the Knights. Right side Briana Garcia made the most of her attempts with eight kills on 21 attempts.
While the offense sputtered, the defense kept the Knights within reach. Four players recorded double-figure digs. Jordan Pingel posted a career-high 34 digs to anchor the back line. Erin Olson and Amber Olson both posted double-doubles of 13 digs-26 assists and 10 digs-26 assists, respectively.
UCF tallied 10 blocks on the night, led by Kathryn Wesolich’s five. It was the eighth time the Knights have recorded double-figure rejections this season.
UCF flew out of the gates with a 12-6 lead. Houston clawed back to trim the lead to one at 18-17, but a Kill by Alli Sabol, followed by a block from Anne-Marie Watson and Kathryn Wesolich created just enough space for UCF to pull away. Melville powered the offense with five kills, while Pingel posted nine digs.
Houston rebounded to tie the match in the second, taking advantage of 12 UCF attacking errors. Even with 10 digs from Houston, the Knights were outhit -.019 to .078.
After starting the set with a 2-0 lead, Houston countered to open up a five-point gap. UCF struggled to cut into the deficit until the Cougars scored their 21st point. The Knights built some momentum, finishing the frame on a 6-4 run.
With their backs against the walls, the Knights took a 4-3 lead that they would not relinquish. Up 11-9, the Black and Gold scored 14 of the next 19 points to win the frame. UCF hit a blistering .406, powered by seven kills from Melville at a flawless .636 clip.
Melville took over in the final set. The rookie drove home six of UCF’s 10 kills. Tied 5-5, the Knights rolled off a 10-5 run to clinch the match, finished off by a Fisher kill off the block.
NOTES TO KNOW
>> Pingel’s 34 digs tied Kristen Petrasic for the third most digs in a match in program history.
>> With the win, UCF stayed in first place of The American.
>> Defensively, the Knights finished with 95 digs, a new season high.
Sunday will be Dads-Daughters Day and Volloween. Kids are encouraged to dress up and take part in Halloween activites, starting at 12:15. UCF will give away 200 t-shirts to Dads and Daughters in attendance. Sunday will also feature a social media contest for a pair of tickets for the UCF Football game against Temple next Thursday. Dads and daughters in attendance are encouraged to post a picture on Twitter of themselves at the match and tag @UCF_Volleyball for a chance to win.