ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – When libero Jordan Pingel set foot on campus four years ago, UCF volleyball head coach Todd Dagenais knew that the Colorado Springs, Colo., native was going to be special. Little did he know that she would turn out to be one of the best defensive players ever to don the black and gold.
On Sunday during the Knights’ (16-3, 7-0) 3-1 (18-25, 25-19, 25-16, 25-16) victory over UConn, Pingel broke the program’s career digs record, becoming the first player to ever reach the 2,000-mark. The lone senior on the 2018 squad passed the 1,999 from Meredith Murphy (2009-2012).
The record was just one of several milestones for the Knights this weekend. Two days after Dagenais became the second coach in program history to reach 200 wins, UCF recorded its 1,000th all-time win. The Knights are just the 24th NCAA Division I team to reach that mark.
As for the match, the Black and Gold continued its unbeaten streak in the American Athletic Conference with another impressive defensive outing. Pingel led the way with 25 digs. She was joined in double figures by McKenna Melville and Erin Olson with 14 and 12, respectively. After an opening frame that saw the Huskies hit .429, the Knights buckled down to hold the visitors under .120 for the final three frames, finishing the match with at .169.
On offense, the Knights cruised with a .252 clip at the net. Melville continued to lead the way with 17 kills at a .231 attack percentage. Fellow outside Kristina Fisher struck for 11 kills. Olson notched a career-high six kills from front row to go along with 40 assists, for her eighth double-double on the year.
The Huskies opened strong in the first set. Tied 9-9, the Black and Gold fell on the wrong side of a 10-3 run. The Knights hit a match-low .120 compared to UConn’s .429. Pingel racked up all six digs for the hosts in the first.
UCF responded quickly in the second. The Knights never trailed after the second point. A service ace by Pingel, followed by a kill by Watson, helped the Knights open a four-point lead 12-8, which never dwindled to less than two. Melville and Watson teamed up for nine kills, while Fisher was flawless with three kills on eight swings. Pingel closed in on the record with eight digs.
The Knights jumped out to a 5-1 lead, behind a pair of kills from Melville. The lead grew to as many as nine at 18-9. The offense churned to the tune of a .312 clip, powered by six kills by Melville. Six different Knights recorded a kill in the frame. Pingel pulled within two of the record with five digs.
The Black and Gold continued to heat up offensively in the final set, hitting a match-high .323 with an 81-percent sideout mark. After starting with seven of the first eight points, the Knights never looked back. Fisher saved her best for last, finishing with five kills on a flawless .417 clip. Melville powered home five kills as well. Pingel etched her name in the history books early in the frame with her second dig.
NOTES TO KNOW
>> Pingel now has 2,004 career digs. She trails Morgan Heise of SMU by 375 for The American career record.
>> Sunday marked the 13th straight win for the Knights, the longest since 2014 when UCF won The American title.
>> The Black and Gold kept pace for the conference lead with Cincinnati. Both clubs remain undefeated at 7-0 after the fourth week of league action.
Overall thoughts on the match…
We had to overcome some adversity, going down 1-0. We always believe in our offense. We believe in what we are capable of doing. We believe that our defense can stop teams from scoring. We didn’t do that in the first set. We made some adjustments and kept them below .120 in the final three sets. It came down to executing on our side and gritting one out.
On Jordan Pingel’s record…
When we recruited her from the junior national team, we knew we were getting something pretty special. We knew that she could play great defense and pass extremely well. She’s grown to do more than what we expected her to do. There’s not many people who have 2,000 digs in a career. She’s going to leave her as the digs leader and one of the best defensive players statistically in UCF history.
A lot of people don’t realize that it’s not just the 2,000 is where she’s the most valuable to us. It’s her presence on the floor, in the huddle and in the locker room is where she makes the biggest impact. She is one of the few players that I have ever allowed to have veto power on the court to adjust or call something different from what I called. She shook me off today on a scheme, because she saw something that she wanted to do. It’s like having another coach on the court.
On the 1,000th win…
1,000 wins is really special because we’re just the 24th team to do that. This milestone is just a tribute to the coaches and the players before our time here. There’s 40-plus years of UCF Volleyball that has contributed to this milestone. This really goes out to everyone that built this program, and it’s our job to carry the torch. We look forward to being able to celebrate this with all our alumnae during homecoming weekend when we bring everyone back for our all-generation reunion.
UCF hits the road for a pair of matches at ECU and Cincinnati next weekend.
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