ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The 2018 NCAA Volleyball Tournament opens up on Thursday afternoon, and for the first time in history, it will be in The Venue at UCF. On Sunday night, the No. 21 UCF volleyball team was seeded 13th by the selection committee and will host a trio of matches this week.
It will be a Sunshine State showdown in Orlando, as the Knights welcome in-state foes Florida, Florida State and Florida Gulf Coast to The Venue. The Knights will square off with FGCU on Thursday night at 7 p.m. The No. 16 ranked Gators will battle the Seminoles in a 4:30 p.m. contest. The winners of the two matches will meet on Friday at 7 p.m. for a berth in a regional.
Tickets are on sale, but very few seats remain for this action-packed weekend. UCFKnights.TV will have the call for all three matches for free.
A NATIONAL SEED
At a gathering at Burger U, the Knights made history yet again in 2018, with the first national seed in program history. UCF rolled through The American slate with an 18-0 record, becoming just the third team in league history to go undefeated. The Knights also had a win over then-No. 3 USC at the Bubly Invitational in late August. UCF broke into the AVCA Coaches Poll for the first time in history earlier this season and finished the regular season with an RPI of 10.
When the American Athletic Conference season awards came out on Monday, the Knights were well represented in the major categories and on the conference teams. Head coach Todd Dagenais was honored as the league’s Coach of the Year, the second of his career, and McKenna Melville took home Freshman of the Year honors. Melville, Jordan Pingel and Kristina Fisher picked up First Team All-Conference honors, while Anne-Marie Watson landed a spot on the Second Team.
UCF has formed a brick wall at the net during the 2018 campaign. Entering the season with two new middle blockers, the Nerissa Moravec and Kathryn Wesolich have far exceeded expectations, guiding the Knights to a record season for block assists just above 500. Wesolich enters the weekend with 132 block assists, just 13 away from the single-season record set 1993 by Emily Bridson.
KNIGHTS IN THE NCAA TOURNAMENT
Thursday will be the Knights ninth foray into the NCAA Tournament. UCF last reached the big dance back in 2014 after winning the American Athletic Conference title. In eight previous trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Black and Gold have reached the second round twice, coming in 1997 and in 2003. The Knights reached the AIAW National Championship Tournament in four consecutive seasons between 1977 and 80, winning the 1978 National Championship.
>> Florida Gulf Coast enters the postseason as the champions of the ASUN. The Eagles went 26-6 in the regular season and 15-1 in league play. Thursday will be the third meeting this season between UCF and FGCU. The Knights came away with a 3-1 win at the Sunshine State Classic to open the season and a 3-0 victory later at the UCF Challenge.
>> The No. 16 Gators finished third in the SEC with a record of 15-3 in league action and 24-6 overall. Florida will be boosted by the return of Thayer Hall, who was out of the lineup for several weeks. The Gators won the regular season matchup with the Knights 3-1, before UCF rolled off 24 straight wins.
>> The Seminoles went 15-3 in the ACC to finish in second behind Pitt and posted a 19-9 mark in the regular season. UCF and Florida State have not met since 2016.
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