By Megan Herboth
+ Gold Takes First Black and Gold Scrimmage
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) -As the UCF volleyball team concludes preseason training, returns to classes and prepares for the season opener on Aug. 29, head coach Todd Dagenais discussed five things that he learned about his team over the past two weeks.
1. Mighty Middles
"We're really good in the middle hitting position, Dagenais said.
Seniors DeLaina Sarden and Kaye-Alese Green were both named to the American Athletic Conference Preseason Team on Tuesday and have played key roles for the Knights during their careers. Coach Dagenais noted that he is comfortable putting the pair at the net because their pure athleticism will cause problems for opponents.
There have not been many teams that I've been on over the course of my career where I've had two middle hitters who have the ability and the range to be able to attack a variety of sets into a variety of directions, he said. "I think that's going to pose a challenge for our opponents because our middles will need to be accounted for.
2. Depth On The Outside
Depth in the outside hitting position is critical to your long-term success, Dagenais said. I think we've got four really nice outside hitters, each of which brings something a little bit different.
The variety of skills added by the outside hitters ranges from better blocking to heavier hitting. Having more options in the outside hitting rotation relieves some pressure on the position.
I will tell you having that outside depth has been amazing for us in practice because it really allows us to attack from a variety of positions, he said.
3. The Value of Rest
We actually put in more rest periods and shorter practices than we have since I've been here, Dagenais said.
Coach Dagenais emphasized the importance of having a team that is well-rested and has fresh legs, especially as the academic year gets underway this week. He wants to make this practice a mainstay all season.
It just may be one of those years where less may be more, Dagenais continued. I think you can never underestimate the power of breaks and shortening up practice at just the right time.
4. Chemistry is Key
The next thing I learned, especially with 16 players, is chemistry is everything, Dagenais stated.
He pointed out that any championship team, ranging from high school to professional teams, has that chemistry element. Defining chemistry as a healthy mutual respect for each other and moving toward a common goal, Dagenais said that this chemistry is what will keep the team moving forward during any low points of the season.
It's the chemistry that's going to get us to November when all is said and done, he said.
5. Controlling the Ball
If our ball control is good, we can be good, he assessed. If our ball control is exceptional, we can be champions.
The Knights have spent time in practice working on routine plays and handling balls that come over the net or off the block. Dagenais noted that both the team's offensive and defensive play will revolve around their ball control.
Ball control is going to be the skill that's going to determine if we have a shot at being a champion or not, Dagenais concluded.
UCF Volleyball, which is presented by Radisson - UCF Area, hosts the final Black and Gold Scrimmage Aug. 23 at 2:00 p.m. at The Venue at UCF. The Knights host the Radisson UCF Invitational to open the 2014 season Aug. 29-30 at The Venue.