Nov. 7, 2013
By Andrew Jennette
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF volleyball team's recent slate of heavy travel wraps up this weekend as the squad heads north to take on Rutgers and UConn in American Athletic Conference play. This will be the Black and Gold's fourth weekend road trip in the last 30 calendar days.
The Knights (16-7, 7-3 The American) will take on the Scarlet Knights (4-21, 0-11) on Friday night at 7 p.m. before heading up I-95 North to battle the Huskies (11-15, 2-9) on Sunday at 2 p.m. UCF currently sits just a half-game behind SMU for sole possession of second place in the conference standings.
We're going to two buildings we've never been in before, UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said. We've got to get used to the lighting and the travel, just some little things to deal with first and foremost, but once we get in the gym it's just a matter of finding a way to execute on somebody else's court. It's going to be a challenging road trip for us. We've already seen in this conference that home court is a big advantage.
The first opponent of the weekend for the Knights will be Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights are eagerly searching for their first conference victory as a member of The American and UCF is sure to get their best shot on Friday evening. Rutgers is led offensively by sophomore outside hitter Alex Lassa who has started every match this season and ranks fourth in league at 3.43 kills per set. The Knights swept Rutgers in the two team's first meeting back on Oct. 6 at The Venue.
Right now Rutgers is struggling in the standings, Dagenais continued. They are losing, but they are losing close and they are a lot more formidable at home than on the road. We're expecting that to be quite a challenge. It's an opportunity for us to be really detail oriented, really work on our serve and pass game and try and find a way to execute at a high level offensively and defensively.
After the tilt with the Scarlet Knights, the Knights will travel approximately 173 miles north to battle the Huskies in a Sunday matinee. UConn has played a conference-leading 102 total sets with a league-high 10 five-set matches. One of those five-setters was a 3-2 defeat to the Knights in Orlando on Oct. 4. The Huskies are led offensively by sophomore middle blocker Erika Thomas, an Ocoee native via The First Academy, who has 209 kills and a .278 attack percentage.
As much as I would say Rutgers is better than their record, UConn is way better than their record," Dagenais said. "They are starting to get some of their players that were injured back. We don't know a lot about UConn because they are playing some different players than they were earlier in the season. We're not exactly sure what we're getting with them and it may be one of those matches where we have to get on the floor and make adjustments.
Last weekend, UCF swept USF in the rivalry match between the two Florida schools. This season the Knights have bested USF twice with a pair of 3-0 sweeps. Outside of their losses to UCF, the Bulls are 7-1 against the rest of the conference. Not only did the UCF victory last Friday halt a five-game winning streak for the Bulls, but it extended the Knights' own winning streak to three games.