By Megan Herboth
DALLAS, Texas - The UCF volleyball team opened the American Athletic Conference season with a thrilling 3-2 (30-32, 25-10, 25-19, 21-25, 16-14) win over SMU in Moody Coliseum on Friday evening.
UCF (8-5, 1-0 AAC) snapped the Mustang's 11-match win streak and picked up its first win in Moody Coliseum since a five-set victory in 2011.
This is certainly one of the greatest conference wins that we've had as a group, UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said. We knew the importance of going out and trying to steal one on the road. To go out and beat the (preseason) favorite on their court is a huge confidence boost for our players. We played well defensively, but we scored points too.
SMU scored the first four points of the evening, but the Knights battled back to tie the opening set at 10 on a kill by senior Kaye-Alese Green. UCF tied the set eight more times, and took a brief lead on a block by senior DeLaina Sarden and sophomore Jale Hervey. SMU was able to take the final two points and the opening set, 32-30.
The Knights used an early 7-0 run to jump out in front of the Mustangs in the second set. After taking a 13-3 lead, SMU used its second timeout but the Mustangs could not contain UCF's .381 hitting percentage. Sophomore Kia Bright slammed a kill and senior Marie Reiterova served up an ace to close out a 3-0 run that gave the Knights a 25-10 set victory.
UCF used a .414 hitting percentage in the third set to pull away from the Mustangs and take a 25-19 set victory and a 2-1 lead in the match. SMU responded by holding the Knights to a .043 hitting percentage in the fourth set to force a decisive fifth set.
The Mustangs took a 12-9 lead in the fifth, forcing UCF to use a second timeout. The Knights came out of the huddle to go on a 3-1 run and sophomore Shelby Foyer tied the set with her second ace of the night. Bright and junior Abbie Fleener sealed the UCF victory with back-to-back kills that gave the Knights the conference opening win.
The Knights hit .203 in the match with 67 kills while holding SMU to a .144 hitting percentage. UCF also tallied 13 team blocks.
We were low-error for three sets. We made ourselves really hard to beat, Dagenais said.
Bright led the Knights with a match-high 22 kills, 18 digs and four blocks while hitting .327. Fleener hit .323 in the match with 13 kills and a pair of blocks. Hervey tallied 11 kills and a team-high two solo blocks. Junior Dana Faught posted a season-high 31 assists to go along with 10 digs for the Knights, while Reiterova recorded 24 assists and 10 digs. Sarden denied a match-high eight attacks, while senior Jade Hayes tallied 17 digs.
UCF wraps up the first weekend of conference play at Tulsa, facing the Golden Hurricane at 2:30 p.m. ET on Sunday.
UCF Volleyball is presented by Radisson- UCF Area. For more information on how to purchase tickets, visit UCFKnights.com or call 407-UCF-1000.