April 19, 2010
SIESTA KEY, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - With 186 total points, the UCF volleyball team edged in-state rival USF by 5.5 points to claim the team cup at the Fiesta on Siesta Key Beach Volleyball Tournament Saturday on Siesta Key Beach.
During the all-day event, the Knights faced teams from Miami, Florida State, Florida Gulf Coast, Jacksonville, Stetson and Notre Dame, among others.
"I think UCF has clearly shown its viability as a nationally ranked collegiate beach volleyball program," head coach Todd Dagenais said of the win. "Hopefully in the future we will look back and recognize that this tournament victory was a major step toward having beach volleyball become a reality."
UCF had two pairs place in the top five in the Gold Division of the competition, with the pair of Kristin Fisher (Clearwater, Fla.) and Tory McCutcheon (Milton, Ontario), as well as the pair of Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas) and Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia), tying for fifth in the tournament's top division.
"Evija definitely improved the most over the course of our beach training and competition," Erik Peterson, who served as the Knights' head coach for the event, said. "She was siding out tremendously, her defense was unbelievable and she was hammering balls at the tournament. She did some things that absolutely amazed us this weekend."
UCF was the only school to have three pairs competing in the Gold Division of the event.
In the Silver Division, the Black and Gold were represented by the team of Dani Harrison (Tallahassee, Fla.), Nichole Riedel (Denver, Colo.) and Angelica Crump (Atlanta, Ga.). The trio finished the event in a seven-way tie for ninth place.
"Against Notre Dame, the team of Harrison, Riedel and Crump were down 13-6 at one point of a game," Peterson said. "But, they came back and made a spectacular 7-0 run to pull it out. That seven-point run was the difference between them making it into the Silver Bracket instead of the Bronze, and those eight or nine points were what propelled us into the No. 1 spot."
The Knights finished the opening round of pool play undefeated, as Crump/Harrison defeated Stetson, Fisher/McCutcheon took down Florida Gulf Coast and Vilde/Murphy swept Webber, all by scores of 2-0. Youngblood/Reiterova would complete the opening round in a 1-1 tie with Jacksonville.
Murphy and Vilde entered bracket play as the No. 2 seed in the Gold Division, where they would start off the action with a victory over Florida Gulf Coast and advance to the Elite Eight. But, a computer error would determine that the pair played the wrong team and would have to replay the opener. The squad was not distracted by the error and would go on to defeat the right opponent to officially advance to the Elite Eight. The pair would drop its next match to Miami, however, to finish the event tied for fifth out of 59 total pairs.
The journey was not quite as dramatic for the team of Fisher and McCutcheon, as they handily dropped Florida State out of contention with an opening-round victory, but would succumb to another pair from Florida State in round two to conclude the tournament tied for fifth.
The final team to compete in the Gold Division was Youngblood and Reiterova, and they finished the tournament in a tie for ninth after falling in a nail biter, 15-14, to Florida Gulf Coast in the opening round.
A lot of the success of the team over the weekend was due in large part to the Knights' hard work training in the week leading up to the event under the direction of Peterson.
"I think this was a great opportunity to be put into the position where I could share some of what I have learned playing in qualifiers and trying to make the AVP tour," Peterson said. "I understand the hard work it takes to play beach volleyball and I think I was able to instill a little bit of that into them and was able to give them some pretty fun drills that I know not a lot of people out there are doing. Overall, being able to serve as the head coach for this event and seeing what I was teaching translate to the court was a really rewarding experience for me."
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