July 9, 2014
By Megan Herboth
Border Patrol Blog
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - Last month, Todd Dagenais and his UCF volleyball team took a trip up north for eight matches against the Canadian Senior and Junior National Teams.
With the challenging schedule that lies ahead of us this year, we knew that getting some extra competition was going to be really important, and so an opportunity to go and play against a national team that is loaded with professionals playing all over the world, who are getting ready to play at a high level was something that was really important to us, Dagenais said.
In the first international tour for the Knights under Dagenais, the team faced top-level competition at the Canadian Olympic Volleyball Training Center in Winnipeg, Manitoba. The Knights chose a Canadian destination because they knew they would face tough competition with the Canadians preparing for the Pan Am Cup, a major zonal championship.
Despite playing in a new setting with an international ball, which is wound a bit tighter than the ball that the Knights use in regular season games, UCF jumped right in, playing the top Canadian team in the first few days of competition. Dagenais compared the quality of play to a top-five team in the NCAA.
The size difference wasn't that much, Dagenais said. The speed difference was a little bit greater. But the power, the accuracy, the low air, that was completely eye-opening for our players. The only time you see that power, speed and execution is when you're playing a top-five or a top-ten team.
Playing a top caliber team in the opening days was a benefit to UCF, as the Knights came away with some key learning points. Dagenais noted that he was really pleased with his team's response to the outcome of the game and the adjustments that were made. With 30-35 women in Canada's training camp, the Knights were able to play a variety of teams during their stay, keeping them competitive and teaching them to make adjustments quickly.
The NCAA allows collegiate athletic programs to take an international trip every four years, and donations and fundraising made the trip possible for the Knights. Dagenais noted that the program was extremely appreciative of the generosity and assistance of UCF Volleyball supporters for making this monumental experience possible.
One of the biggest benefits of playing internationally was the 10-day practice period allowed by the NCAA leading up to the trip. The Knights were able to work on new offensive and defensive systems that they will now be able to take into the 2014 season.
UCF Volleyball, which is presented by Radisson - UCF Area, will host Central Florida Volleyball Camps July 10-17 before opening the 2014 campaign with the Radisson UCF Invitational, Aug. 29-30 at The Venue at UCF.