Oct. 9, 2013
By Andrew Jennette
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF volleyball team kicks off a four-match road trip with a pair of conference contests as it travels to Cincinnati and Louisville this week. This will be the first of four scheduled conference-road weekends for the Black and Gold as they look to remain unblemished in league play.
The Knights (12-4, 3-0 The American) will take on the Bearcats (0-17, 0-4) on Thursday night at 7 p.m., and then drive down I-71 to battle the first-place Cardinals (8-6, 4-0) on Sunday at 1 p.m. Sunday's match against Louisville will be televised live on ESPNU with Melissa Lee and Nell Fortner on the call.
"I think being on ESPNU gives us an opportunity to really represent what our university has become over the past few years," head coach Todd Dagenais said. "It gives us an opportunity to get into homes all across the country and make a first impression both in the volleyball world and in the sports world about UCF as both a university and as an athletic department."
The first opponent of the week for the Knights will be Cincinnati. The Bearcats graduated six of their top players from last season and are adjusting this year to a roster composed primarily of freshmen and sophomores. Cincinnati, however, swept UCF (25-15, 25-20, 25-23) in the last meeting between the two teams just a season ago.
"Cincinnati is a young team that's playing a lot of underclassmen who continue to get better and better each week," Dagenais continued. "We completely expect their freshmen are getting better at this time of year just like our freshmen are and that poses a significant threat especially when they are at home. We know that they are very strong on defense so we're going to have to find new and creative ways to score."
After the tilt with the Bearcats, the Knights will travel approximately 106 miles southwest to battle the Cardinals in front of a nationally-televised audience. Louisville comes into the week as the hottest team in The American, winning their last six matches. The Cardinals feature a balanced offensive attack as four different players have already eclipsed 100 kills in just 46 sets played.
"Louisville is obviously the standard bearer of the league," Dagenais concluded. "They have players on their team that know what it's like to be on a top 10 program in the country and to play under that kind of scrutiny and pressure. The players they have that don't have that experience have national-level athleticism. They are so versatile and can attack you from a variety of directions. They find ways to spread the ball around and keep you off balance. They have played by far the toughest schedule of anyone in the league and they are very capable of running the table in conference."
UCF junior DeLaina Sarden was named American Athletic Conference Player of the Week after two strong performances in the Knights' victories over UConn and Rutgers. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native recorded 13 kills on a .484 hitting percentage, and also added five digs in a five-set victory over the Huskies. On Sunday, Sarden helped UCF cruise to a 3-0 victory over the Scarlet Knights by adding 10 kills on a .421 hitting percentage along with three digs and three total blocks. Sarden leads the conference with an outstanding .452 hitting percentage for the season, and is hitting .443 through three games of conference play.