Aug. 27, 2010
Houston Baptist Box Score | FGCU Box Score
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By Sarah Tarasewicz
FT. MYERS, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Junior Kristin Fisher (Clearwater, Fla.) and sophomore Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia) combined for 55 kills as the UCF volleyball team swept through the opening day of the Florida Gulf Coast Tournament by defeating Houston Baptist, 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 25-17), and the host Eagles, 3-0 (25-15, 25-23, 25-22), Friday at Alico Arena.
Fisher totaled 29 kills, 18 digs and two block solos in the pair of contests, while Vilde hit .447 with 26 kills, six digs and a team-best three total blocks.
As a team, the Knights outhit their opponents 93 kills to 65 kills, and also tallied 87 assists compared to only 59 for the opposition. On the defensive side of the ball, the Black and Gold had 90 digs between the two contests, with the Huskies and the Eagles combining for 75.
Junior transfer Rachel Vukson (Oakville, Ont.) ran the Knights' offense efficiently all day, totaling 36 assists in the opening match, before concluding the night with 41 assists against FGCU. She added three kills, seven digs, a block solo and one service ace in the pair of matches.
"Rachel did an incredible job running the offense today," head coach Todd Dagenais said. "She is setting really well. She distributed the ball well enough that she had Florida Gulf Coast guessing, which is really important."
vs. Florida Gulf Coast
In the nightcap, the Knights not only fought the Eagles head-to-head, but also had to battle a massive home crowd of 1,041 at Alico Area. Fisher hit .314 with a match-best 17 kills, four digs and two block solos and Vilde followed closely behind with a .429 clip with 14 kills, two digs and three total blocks, to help UCF stay composed and take a hard-fought win from the home team.
"It was a huge challenge for a really young team to have to come into an environment as electric as it was tonight," Dagenais said. "(Florida Gulf Coast) made this match part of its `Welcome Back Week,' so there were students everywhere. The Eagles really responded to their crowd extremely well in all facets of the game."
The Black and Gold jumped out on FGCU early, claiming a 25-15 victory in the opening set. But, the Knights had to claw their way back in both the second and third sets in order to secure the win in the match.
"We played well enough to hang just with them and then just created little points of separation along the way," Dagenais said. "It was really important that we jumped on them in the first set. It was really good to see us pull away in front of a hostile crowd. What was most remarkable was that in the second set we trailed at several points and still found a way to come back and win by two points. The third set was the same thing. We were neck and neck and then they pulled away from us, but we fought back to close the gap and finally pull ahead of them to win it."
UCF hit .407 in the first set, .371 in the second set and concluded the match with a .238 attack percentage.
"Offensively, we functioned at the highest level that I've seen in three years," Dagenais said. "The way our defense carried us in the first match, our offense really carried us in the second match.
The defense was not dormant, however, as Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas) kept her streak of matches with 10 or more digs alive against the Eagles with a match-high 14 digs. The sophomore has now posted double-digit digs in 11-straight matches, dating back to the end of last season.
Fellow sophomore Dani Harrison (Tallahassee, Fla.) was also a key component in the Knights' defensive scheme, tallying a career-best eight digs in the contest against the Eagles.
vs. Houston Baptist
Vilde hit a match-best .474 with 12 kills and a service ace in the season-opener against Houston Baptist and Fisher added her first double-double of the season after leading the Black and Gold with 14 digs, while also matching Vilde for the team and match-high with 12 kills.
"Evija really had a break-out match," Dagenais said. "It showed me that she is going to continue on the trend that she left off with last year. Kristin also put up big numbers for us offensively. She was solid in both the front row and back row. If she can hit .240 all year and can average four kills a set I think that we will be a pretty good team. As a program, I feel as if we can play not great and still find a way to win, which is what we did today."
As a team, the Knights outhit the Huskies .232 with 45 kills to .089 with only 28 kills for Houston Baptist. UCF also had 48 digs compared to its opponent's 38.
Producing big numbers again in the back row during the match was Murphy, as she totaled 13 digs in the contest.
"Defensively, Meredith again did such a great job of controlling the tempo of the match. Roxy Mendez (Orlando, Fla.) also got to see playing time in all three sets and she did a really great job in both passing and serve receive."
In her collegiate debut, Mendez tallied six digs and added two assists. The defensive specialist was the only true-freshman to see the court for the Knights against the Huskies.
The Black and Gold will conclude the tournament Saturday against a Bethune-Cookman squad that returns four starters from 2009, when it tallied a 13-15 overall record and a second-place showing in the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference. Kaiyana Johnson is the top returner for the Wildcats, having been named to the MEAC Championship All-Tournament Team last season. UCF holds a 16-0 advantage over Bethune-Cookman in the all-time series, having won 20-consecutive sets in the squads' last seven meetings and claimed wins in 48 of 49 sets all-time versus the Wildcats. The only set UCF dropped to Bethune-Cookman was the second set of the teams' only meeting in 2002.
Following the FGCU Tournament, the Black and Gold will continue one of its two six-match road stretches in Wilmington, N.C., at the UNC Wilmington Hilton Garden Inn/Courtyard by Marriott Classic. During the tournament, the Knights will face the host Seahawks, UNC Greensboro and South Carolina State.
Season tickets are now available for purchase for only $30 online at UCFAthletics.com or by calling the UCF Athletics Ticket Office at (407) UCF-1000. The Knights are set to host 13 regular-season matches at The Venue at UCF this season, which includes 10 Conference USA contests.