By Megan Herboth
GAINESVILLE, Fla. - After hitting .306 to win the opening set, the UCF volleyball team cooled off and seventh-ranked Florida claimed the next three set victories to win the match 3-1 (28-30, 25-16, 25-21, 25-17) on Sunday afternoon in the O'Connell Center. UCF (7-5) concluded the non-conference season with the loss
"I thought we executed our game at an extremely high level early on," UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said. "That was a challenge to do on Florida's court. We just have to work on being able to sustain that."
The Knights came out on a mission, taking a 15-11 lead on a 4-1 run after going toe-to-toe with the Gators in the opening. UCF played error-free for most of the set and capitalized on Florida errors to add some cushion to the lead. Late back-to-back Knight attack errors pulled the teams even at 24 and they traded points for the next eight plays. UCF took a 29-28 lead on a Gator error and scored the set point on a kill from sophomore Kia Bright.
In a role reversal, UCF opened the second set with an attack error and Florida tapped down a kill to take an early 2-0 lead. Once in front, the Gators never looked back and never allowed the Knights to challenge. UCF bounced back in the third set as the teams tied the score 12 times and traded leads on five occasions. Junior Abbie Fleener pulled the Knights within a point, 22-21, but Florida scored the final three points to take a 2-1 lead in the match.
Coach Dagenais used an early timeout to get his team focused in the fourth set, but each time UCF tallied a point, Florida responded with two. The Knights slowed the Gators down at the end as sophomore Jale Hervey knocked down a kill and seniors Kaye-Alese Green and Loren Cory teamed up for a block, but Florida secured the match victory on the next play.
"I thought our effort and our intensity were right on par with what we need to achieve our season goals," Dagenais said. "I thought our execution lacked at times, and that's something that needs to be addressed as we head into conference play this week."
Hervey led the Knights with 15 kills and nine digs, hitting .367 for the match. Senior DeLaina Sarden tallied 11 kills and four blocks, while Bright finished with 10 kills. Fleener hit .316 in the match, finishing with eight kills. Senior Jade Hayes recorded a team-high 10 digs, and Green denied four attacks. Senior Marie Reiterova posted 26 assists, while junior Dana Faught finished with 19.
UCF begins conference action next weekend. The Knights face SMU in Dallas on Sept. 26 before traveling to Tulsa on Sept. 28.
UCF Volleyball is presented by Radisson- UCF Area. For more information on how to purchase tickets, visit UCFKnights.com or call 407-UCF-1000.