DALLAS, Texas (UCFKnights.com) – The No. 21 UCF volleyball team became the American Athletic Conference outright champion on Friday afternoon in Dallas. The Knights (25-3, 16-0) notched their 10th sweep of the year in a 3-0 win at SMU.
In her first start as an all-around setter, Amber Olson stepped up in a big way for the Knights. The younger half of the Setting Sisters had a career day with 35 assists and 16 digs, along with a pair of block assists. Olson was flawless in 102 set attempts without committing a ball handling error.
To help the rookie setter, outsides Kristina Fisher and McKenna Melville powered the offense with 36 of the Knights’ 45 kills. Fisher posted a season-high 20 scores at a .318 clip, her second 20-kill match of the year. Melville cruised with 16 kills on 52 swings, finishing just one dig shy of a double-double.
Per usual, Kathryn Wesolich and Anne-Marie Watson were walls at the net, as the Knights tallied 12 blocks on the afternoon. Wesolich tallied six block assists, while Watson turned away six more balls, including one solo.
Jordan Pingel led the way with 22 digs in the back row, as the Black and Gold held SMU below .101 hitting for two of the three frames. The Mustangs finished with a .146 attack percentage, marking the seventh time this year the Knights have held a team below .150.
After SMU took an early lead, UCF roared back on a 12-5 run to open up a 16-10 advantage. SMU managed to trip the gap down to three at 20-17, but a Mustang attack error, a Watson kill and a block by Wesolich and Watson quickly put the set out of reach. Melville put away five kills in the opener. The block totaled six rejections in the frame, with Wesolich and Watson accounting for three assists apiece.
UCF sprinted out in the second to a 5-1 lead, including an ace and a kill by Melville. The hosts slowly chipped away at the advantage to tie the set up at 16-16. Down 20-18, the Knights went on a 7-2 run to rally and open a two-set lead into the break. UCF recorded 17 kills, led by 14 combined from Fisher and Melville, at a .227 attack percentage.
Again, the Knights started on an early 5-1 run, this time with a trio of scores from Fisher. SMU never allowed the Black and Gold to extend the to extend the lead to more than four, eventually cutting it down to two at 23-21. At match point, the Knights needed three chances to put away the contest, as Fisher capped the match with a drive through the block. Fisher was unstoppable in the final frame, converting nine of her 21 swings. Pingel also prevailed in the back row with nine saves.
NOTES TO KNOW
>> Pingel totaled her 15th match of the year with at least 20 digs.
>> Fisher finished one kill shy of matching her career high, a 21-kill effort against Central Arkansas last year.
>> Friday marked the 13th time the Knights have reached 10 blocks in a match and the third time doing so in a sweep.
The Knights will play their final regular season road contest of the year at Houston on Sunday at 2 p.m. (ET).
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