By Megan Herboth
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - UCF Volleyball faces tough competition at the 26 West Longhorn Classic this weekend in Austin, Texas. The Knights will take on tournament host Texas, ranked second in the nation, early Saturday afternoon before going up against No. 21 Arizona on Saturday evening in Gregory Gym.
UCF (6-1) returns to action this weekend after finishing second at the Varney's Invitational, hosted by Kansas State, last weekend. The Knights extended their winning streak to six matches, the best start since 2010. Opening the weekend with a 3-1 victory over Middle Tennessee, UCF continued its habit of sweeps by downing Arkansas, 3-0. UCF suffered its first loss of the season at the hands of host K-State, falling to the Wildcats in three sets on Saturday.
Senior libero Jade Hayes earned her second all-tournament accolade this season as she led the Knights defensively with 41 digs. Senior middle blocker Kaye-Alese Green was also named to the all-tournament team, hitting .529 with 21 kills and nine blocks. Senior middle blocker DeLaina Sarden hit .429 on the weekend with 26 kills.
UCF holds a collective 21-7 record against this weekend's opponents.
The Knights will face the Florida A&M (0-6) in the 27th all-time meeting between the programs. UCF leads the series 21-5, but FAMU holds the most recent win, defeating UCF 3-2 in 2009. The Rattlers took a set from No. 4 Wisconsin before dropping the match at the CSU Invitational Tournament last weekend. Pamela Soriano leads FAMU with 70 kills, averaging 4.12 kills per set. Joanie Del Castillo has a team-high 63 digs and four aces, while Ginna Lopez-Chavez leads the team with 15 blocks, including three solo, this season.
Saturday's match between the Knights and No. 2 Texas (4-0) will be the third meeting between the programs. Texas leads the series 2-0, including a 3-2 win in the last meeting at the 2012 Time Warner Cable Texas Invitational. Texas brings an undefeated record into Gregory Gym after defeating No. 11 Florida, 3-1, over the weekend. Six Longhorns have tallied 20 or more kills this season, led by Pilar Victoria's 35. Texas also has six players with 10 or more digs, led by Cat McCoy's 50 digs. Molly McCage leads four players who have at least 10 blocks this season. McCage has 16 total blocks, including two solo.
Saturday's meeting will be the first ever between UCF and Arizona. The Wildcats, ranked 21st in the AVCA Coaches Poll, improved to 6-0 on the season after sweeping the Arizona Invitational last weekend. Six Wildcats have 20 or more kills this season, led by Madi Kingdon's 117 kills for a 6.16 kills per set average. Kingdon is also one of three players with 15 blocks this season, including a team-best seven solo blocks. Ronni Lewis leads five players with more than 30 digs, as she has 75 on the season.
UCF will have a pair of matches from the 26 West Longhorn Classic aired on Longhorn Network. Friday's match against Florida A&M and Saturday's matchup with No. 2 Texas will feature Paul Sunderland on play by play and Nell Fortner as the analyst.
This weekend's trip to Texas is a homecoming for Dana Faught. The junior setter is originally from Round Rock, Texas, which is about 20 miles outside of Austin.
UCF leads the nation with 14.50 assists per set and ranks second with 15.50 kills per set. The Knights rank ninth in hitting percentage, hitting .308 as a team.
Individually, senior Jade Hayes ranks 12th with 5.50 digs per set and 26th with 121 total digs this season. Senior DeLaina Sarden's .427 hitting percentage ranks 32nd among all Division I players. Her .364 career hitting percentage ranks sixth among active players. With 355 total blocks, Sarden is tied for 21st on the active player career leaderboard. Sophomore Jale Hervey's 4.82 points per set rank 31st in the nation.
The Knights return to The Venue at UCF for a matchup with Marquette on Sept. 20 at 3:00 p.m. before traveling to Gainesville for an in-state match at No. 10 Florida at 3:00 p.m. on Sept. 21.
UCF Volleyball is presented by Radisson- UCF Area. Season tickets are also available for $30, good for one general admission seat to all 2014 regular season home matches. Youth (ages 2-17 years) season tickets are on sale for $15. The GOLD Pass, which includes one general admission seat for all home men's soccer, women's soccer, volleyball, softball, women's basketball and track & field events, is available for $90. For more information on how to purchase tickets, visit UCFKnights.com or call 407-UCF-1000.