By Andrew Jennette
FAIRFIELD, Conn. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF volleyball team came away with a third place finish after falling in both doubleheader matches on the final day of the SHU Hampton Inn Shelton Invitational. The Knights staged a furious comeback, but came up short against Fairfield, 3-2 (20-25, 21-25, 25-21, 25-13, 15-13), before being defeated by Dartmouth, 3-0 (20-25, 21-25, 24-26), Saturday.
Heart-breaking losses like we had against Fairfield happen for a reason, head coach Todd Dagenais said. As a team, we have to figure out what it is that's putting us in these positions. Right now, we need someone to step up and take charge of the direction of this team and this season. We are still trying to find the person that's going to do that.
It was difficult to bounce back from such a tough loss in game one, but that was the hand we were dealt and that was hand we had to play. We understood the challenges, Dagenais continued. We have to take a long hard look at ourselves and figure out who we are and where we want to go. It has to start with our senior leadership.
UCF continues its season-long six-match road trip next weekend as it heads to Austin to take part in the Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational. The tournament also features No. 4 Texas, No. 20 Illinois and Cincinnati.
Fairfield 3, UCF 2 - Box Score
In a 10 a.m. start against Fairfield (4-5), the Knights (3-6) rallied back from an 0-2 deficit to even the match before falling in the fifth set in a back-and-forth thriller. The Black and Gold out-killed and out-dug the Stags, 61-47 and 83-76, respectively, but were unable to complete the comeback.
The Knights battled in the first two sets, but could not overcome a series of attack errors as they hit 13 of their 36 miscues and dropped the frames 20-25 and 21-25.
Trailing 7-2 and facing defeat in the third set, UCF showed off its resiliency as it scored 11 of the next 13 points to take a 13-9 lead it would never relinquish. Sophomore DeLaina Sarden picked up four of her 13 kills in the frame. Redshirt junior Angelica Crump also recorded four of her game-high 14 in the stanza.
The Knights surged to a 25-13 victory in the fourth frame as senior Evija Vilde went off with eight big kills in the set. Vilde finished with 12 kills in the match. Junior Roxy Mendez finished off a great set for the Knights with back-to-back service aces.
UCF held a 6-5 lead in the final set before Fairfield rattled off six of the next seven points to seize control of the frame. Redshirt freshman Kayla Keller registered five kills in the final stanza and picked up her first double-double of the season with 13 kills and 13 digs.
Dartmouth 3, UCF 0 - Box Score
Despite a strong offensive performance from Vilde, the Knights fell in three sets to Dartmouth in the second game of Saturday's doubleheader. Vilde finished the match with a game-high 17 kills on a spectacular .500 hitting percentage and finished the match with zero errors.
The Knights again out-killed and out-dug their opponent, but the Big Green's offensive efficiency allowed them to out-hit UCF .283 to .167 which proved to be the difference in the match.
After dropping sets one and two, the Black and Gold came out with a purpose in set three behind Vilde and sophomore Ashley Gialenios who had 9 kills at a .438 clip for the match. UCF took a 24-18 lead late in the frame powered by a career-high 15 digs by Keller. However, the Big Green rattled off eight-consecutive points to take down the match and send the Knights back to Florida in third place.