By Megan Herboth
+ Senior Sessions: Kaye-Alese Green
+ Senior Sessions: Marie Reiterova
+ Senior Sessions: Jade Hayes
+ Senior Sessions: Loren Cory
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - As the UCF volleyball team completed its first week of practice on Wednesday, senior middle blocker DeLaina Sarden had some thoughts about the Knights' 2014 season.
The thing that I'm taking into my senior season is just to never give up, Sarden said. This is really the year that we plan on making things happen and putting UCF Volleyball on the map.
The Lawrenceville, Ga., native has been a key contributor since stepping on campus, leading the team in solo blocks while being named the C-USA Freshman of the Year. During her sophomore year, she led the team with a .352 attack percentage and 127 total blocks. Last season, she was a unanimous All-American Athletic Conference First Team selection after recording a team-high 395 kills with a .409 attack percentage and 30 solo blocks. Her talent has also been recognized on a national level, as she has been named AVCA All-America honorable mention the last two seasons. Her decorated career has been a pleasant surprise.
It's really a big confidence booster, she said. When I first committed to UCF, I really didn't know if I was that good of a player. I'm really thankful for it.
Sarden said that Houston has been her favorite opponent as the Cougars always have great program. This season, one of her goals is to win in their gym. In the 13-match series with the Cougars, all three of UCF's victories have come during Sarden's career, and two of those have come at The Venue. She pointed out that the crowds, whether cheering for or against you, can have an impact on the team's performance.
It gives you energy, Sarden said. You're pumped up and excited. No matter what the outcome is, it makes you play that much harder. It's a great thing to walk in to.
UCF Volleyball, which is presented by Radisson-UCF Area, opens the season at The Venue with the Radisson UCF Invitational on Aug. 29 and 30.