By Megan Herboth
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - After opening the American Athletic Conference season with a pair of big road wins, UCF Volleyball returns to The Venue to host a pair of American Athletic Conference matches. The Knights open the weekend with Temple on Friday and face UConn on Sunday.
UCF students are eligible to receive 4,000 Knightmare Reward points at Friday's match, slated for a 7 p.m. start. The first 500 students will also receive an exclusive "Fast Pass" voucher that allows early entry to the football team's home game against BYU next Thursday night.
"It's nice to be back home," UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said. "I like our confidence coming off the road wins and our staff continues to work hard to prepare the team for each match."
The Knights have a 9-5 overall record and a 2-0 record in The American. After kicking off the conference season with a historic weekend, UCF is receiving votes in the latest AVCA Coaches Poll. The Knights defeated both SMU and Tulsa on the road, marking the first time UCF has recorded road victories over both programs in the same season. The Knights followed a thrilling five-set victory over SMU on Friday night with a 3-1 win over Tulsa on Sunday.
UCF leads the American Athletic Conference in three categories, including hitting percentage. The Knights are hitting .272 as a team this season. UCF also holds the top spot in assists (13.62) and kills (14.40). The Knights rank fifth in blocks per set (2.05) and digs (15.66).
UCF hosts Temple (10-4, 1-1 AAC) on Friday for the 5th meeting in the series. The Knights hold a 3-1 advantage in the all-time matchups.
"Temple comes in with a strong [nonconference] record," Dagenais noted. "They can be really efficient at times and efficient teams find ways to win sets."
The Owls are led by Caroline Grattan, who averages 3.80 kills per set with 190 kills this season. Sandra Sydlik and Dara Peric have served up 18 and 17 aces, respectively, for the Owls this season. Alyssa Drachslin averages 4.77 digs per set with 248 digs overall. Kristen Overton is hitting .413 for the Owls and six of her 35 blocks have been solo shots.
Sunday's match-up features a pair of teams that stand at 2-0 in conference play. UCF hosts UConn (9-4) for the 4th meeting in the series. The Knights have won all three of the previous meetings, including both matchups last season.
"(UConn is) very competitive," Dagenais said. "I think they are a dark horse to be in contention to win the conference."
UConn is led by Immanuella Anagu, who is hitting .368 with 144 kills and seven of her 56 blocks have been solo shots. Three Huskies have served up 12 or more aces, led by Devon Maugle's 15. Brianna Datti averages 4.62 digs per set with 240 digs this season. Tosin Adeniyi also has seven solo blocks this season.
Senior DeLaina Sarden is rapidly approaching another milestone to add to her decorated career. The Lawrenceville, Ga., native is just eight kills away from her 1,000th career kill. She currently sits in tenth on the UCF Volleyball career leaderboard with 992 kills during her tenure as a Knight.
Sarden will become the 10th player in UCF Volleyball history with 1,000 kills. She is the third middle blocker in UCF history to reach the milestone and is the fourth player with this accomplishment under Coach Dagenais.
UCF Volleyball is presented by Radisson- UCF Area. For more information on how to purchase tickets, visit UCFKnights.com or call 407-UCF-1000.