ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF volleyball team needed a thrilling fourth-set comeback to maintain its perfection in the American Athletic Conference on Saturday afternoon at Temple. Down by eight, the No. 23 Knights (22-3, 13-0) rallied to win their 19th straight match and tie the program record for best start in The American.
Two weeks after nearly breaking the program record for blocks in a match, the Knights posted the sixth highest total with 18 rejections on Saturday.
Middles Nerissa Moravec and Kathryn Wesolich formed an impenetrable wall at the net with 16 combined stuff, split nine and seven, respectively. Anne-Marie Watson total seven blocks with one solo, while McKenna Melville totaled six assists.
Melville and Amber Olson finished with double-doubles, their 18th and fifth, respectively. Melville recorded 21 kills and 10 digs. Olson dropped 26 assists to go with her 10 digs.
Offensively, the Knights hit .248 for the match. Melville tallied a .302 attack percentage on 53 swings. Moravec and Wesolich were flawless with eight kills on 20 combined attacks. Watson drove home 11 kills and Kristina Fisher picked up 10 kills.
After trading early shots, the Knights caught fire with a 13-4 run to open up a nine-point advantage with four Knights racking up multiple kills, plus a pair of rejections. Moravec and Melville closed out the game with their third tandem block. The Knights were on fire to start with a .586 clip at the net with 18 kills on 29 swings with just one error.
A Melville kill, followed by solo stuffs from Watson and Fisher, helped UCF jump out to an 8-5 lead. The hosts managed to trip the gap down to one on a handful of occasions, but a Watson, Wesolich block that was bookended by kills from Melville and Fisher generated a five-point opening at 19-14. The attack cooled down to a .205 mark, but Melville led the way with seven kills. The block turned away five Temple attacks, including solos from Watson and Melville.
The Black and Gold climbed back from an early three-point hole to tie the set at 8-8. Temple then took control of the game with a 14-5 run that UCF could not overcome. Temple totaled a .256 hitting percentage, while the Knights only picked up eight kills.
The match looked destined for a fifth set when Temple started the fourth on a 9-1 run. Down 18-11, the Knights started their charge. A pair of Temple errors and a Briana Garcia kill pulled the Black and Gold within four. After the Owls extended the lead back to six, two more attack errors by the hosts brought UCF back within two at 23-21. Determined to avoid a fifth game, the Knights staved off three set points before tying it up at 24-24 on a Wesolich, Melville stuff. After trading point until 29-29, Briana Garcia capped the comeback and won the match with a kill off the block. Jordan Pingel was a rock in the back with 11 digs, and the block turned away seven attacks to help the Knights overcome the large deficit. UCF totaled 15 kills with just a pair of errors in the final frame.
NOTES TO KNOW
>> Jordan Pingel finished with 23 digs to lead the way. It was her 13th match with at least 20 saves this season.
>> The 32 block assists were the second most in a match in program history.
>> With seven assists, Wesolich climbed up to No. 7 on the UCF single-season block assist record book with 109 assists.
The Knights will return home next weekend for a pair of matches in The American. The Knights will host Cincinnati on Friday at 7 p.m. and ECU on Sunday at 1 p.m. Friday will be a part of Alumnae Weekend, where UCF will honor all generations of volleyball players that have worn the Black and Gold.
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