GAINESVILLE, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – Less than 24 hours after knocking off No. 7 USC, the UCF volleyball team nearly downed another top-10 opponent in No. 4 Florida. The Knights’ underdog efforts came up short in a tightly-contest 3-1 loss (26-24, 17-25, 25-23, 25-17) to the Gators.
Despite a 1-2 record on the weekend at the Bubly Invitational, UCF (3-3) stood toe to toe with a trio of teams recognized by the AVCA Coaches Poll.
Outside hitters Kristina Fisher and McKenna Melville powered the offense with 29 kills between the two of them, as the Black and Gold tallied a .230 hitting percentage. Nerissa Moravec and Kathryn Wesolich made an impact on the attack from the middle with eight scoring swings.
On the other side, Melville and libero Jordan Pingel played a vital role in keeping a top-20 offense from a year ago under .300 hitting. The duo combined for 41 digs, split 21 for Pingel and 20 Melville. UCF posted eight blocks on the afternoon, as four different Knights recorded multiple rejections. Moravec led the way with four stops, while Anne-Marie Watson, Kathryn Wesolich and Melville chipped in with three apiece.
Boosted by their victory over the Women of Troy on Saturday, the Knights flew out of the gates in the opening set with a four-point lead through 11-7. The Gators managed to square things up at 18-18. With a 24-23 advantage, UCF appeared to win the opener as Taelor Kellum’s attack sailed long, but upon review, the officials judged that the attack deflected off the UCF attack. Florida turned around and claimed the first set with two straight points. Melville, Fisher and Watson posted 15 of the Knights’ 17 kills, while the block sent a trio of balls back over the net.
Whether fueled by the sudden change in the first set or by a desire to level the match before the intermission, the second set was never in doubt of UCF. Tied 4-4, the Black and Gold broke free with a 7-3 run. Florida cut the lead down to three at 14-11, but the Knights ran away with it on a 11-4 run. The Black and Gold hit a match-high .382 with no errors on 34 swings.
Out of the break, UCF took control in the third set early with a two or three-point advantage that stretched out to four at 15-11. The Gators chipped away until they were able to take a 19-18 lead. UCF errors began to hurt the attack with six miscues giving points to the hosts. Melville struck for five kills in the frame.
Despite posting an .026 clip at the net, UCF did not allow Florida to run away with the final game until the late stages. The Black and Gold fell on the wrong side of an 11-4 run to finish the match. Melville and Pingel were all over the place to thwart the Gators’ attack and force the hosts into a match-low .219 clip by notching 12 combined digs.
On playing the Gators tight…
We went toe to toe with two top-10 teams and another great program in Louisville. We just want to take a step every day. We took another step on the court today against a team that already has Final Four victories this season. I don’t think I could be any happier with a 1-2 weekend. We had come legitimate chances to win every match. We are still learning our system. I like where we are right now, but I love where we’re going to be in November.
On Florida’s play…
You have to give Florida a lot of credit. They are a Final Four team, and they were able to take our punches and bring it back at us later in the match. That’s the type of thing you come to expect from a nationally elite team like them. They were able to go to Thayer Hall when they were in tight situations. Their whole team played great, but I give a lot of credit to Thayer for her exceptional performance tonight.
On the impact of the first set finish…
It was bittersweet. We thought that we won the first set, and going up 2-0 on a team like Florida would have made a big difference. Those are some of the things in volleyball that you cannot control. I was incredibly proud of how our team was able to bounce back in the second set.
On the defensive outings by Jordan Pingel and McKenna Melville…
I thought Jordan and McKenna had great weekend. They were both unbelievable. Having two players put up big numbers on defense this weekend allowed us to stay in ever match and have a chance.
On the performance of the assistants…
I give a lot of credit to my assistants. Brian Doyon had a great gameplan in every match that put our players in a position to win. Jenny Maurer helped the setters do a great job running the offense and giving our attackers the confidence to score. It’s great when you can delegate parts of the game to a great staff that can help the team be even more successful.
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