ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – A week after knocking off then-No. 7 USC from the ranks of the unbeaten, the UCF volleyball team will be back in The Venue this weekend for its home opener in the UCF Challenge. The Knights will face FIU and UIC on Friday, before closing out the tournament against Wofford on Saturday.
All three UCF matches will be available on UCFKnights.TV.
The Knights made an appearance in the weekly AVCA Coaches Poll with 12 votes, 10 spots back from cracking the Top-25. It was the first time that UCF received votes since Oct. 5, 2014, the year the Black and Gold won the American Athletic Conference Championship.
In conjunction with UCF Football’s home opener on Saturday night, the tournament finale a 2 p.m. will have free admission. Fans will be required to park in the free football lots on Saturday. More information on parking can be found here.
Here are five things to know heading into the UCF Challenge:
1. REPEATING HISTORY
Last weekend at the Bubly Invitational in Gainesville, the Knights picked up their first win against a ranked opponent when they downed the Women of Troy since 2011, when coincidentally, the Black and Gold swept then-No. 3 USC. Kristina Fisher finished with 20 kills at a .220 clip to lead the way, falling one kill shy of her career high. McKenna Melville and Anne-Marie Watson joined her in double figures. Jordan Pingel and Erin Olson were phenomenal on defense with 24 and 22 digs, respectively.
2. OUTSIDES ON FIRE
Fisher and Melville have created quite the tandem for the Knights with 4.48 kills and 3.29 kills per set, respectively, to lead the offense. Melville has notched a double-double in four of the six games this season. The rookie out of Eagan, Minn., has reached double figures in all but one match this year. Her kills per set tally has her ranked 24th in the nation. Fisher, on the other hand, has cracked double figures on a trio of occasions, including twice at the Bubly Invitational, where she garnered All-Tournament honors.
3. DOUBLE THE DIGS
Libero Jordan Pingel climbed up The American rankings this week with 58 digs over 11 sets last weekend. The lone senior on the 2018 squad has crossed the 20-dig plateau on a pair of occasions this season. Pingel continues to close in on the program record for digs in a career. Through six matches this season, the Colorado Springs, Colo., native has 94 digs and needs 241 more to reach 2,000 for her career and pass Meredith Murphy for first all time.
4. THERE’S NO PLACE LIKE HOME
The Knights return home after six matches on the road to start the year. The Venue has been a welcomed sight for the Black and Gold during the Todd Dagenais era. During his tenure, UCF is 21-7 on home opening weekends, including a two-match sweep of Power 6 opponent Virginia last year.
5. THE FIELD
• FIU has had a strong start to the season, winning five of its first six matches. The Panthers are led offensively by Margherita Bianchin and Ronja Klinger with more than six kills per set combined. The Knights and Panthers will renew their longstanding rivalry with the first match since 2015. UCF leads the series 31-21.
• UIC flew out of the gates to start the year with three straight wins, but the Flames enter the weekend with a 4-3 mark. Tatyana Ndekwe holds a 1.23 blocks per set tally, while the offense has three players averaging more than two kills per set. The lone meeting between the two programs came back in 1993, when UIC outlasted UCF 3-2.
• Wofford posted a 4-3 record through the opening two weeks of the season, both of which have been on the road. Catie Cronister has powered the offense with 3.08 kills per set, while Colleen Reilly has 1.31 blocks per set. Saturday will be the first meeting between UCF and Wofford.
FOLLOW THE KNIGHTS
Follow UCF Volleyball on social media on Facebook (/UCF.Volleyball), Twitter (UCF_Volleyball) and Instagram (UCF.Volleyball).
GET THE APP
Never miss any UCF Knights news from your favorite team by downloading the free UCF Knights app right to your iOS or Android phone! The app provides personalized information for men's and women's teams, scores, schedules, loyalty programs and even breaking news.