By Megan Herboth
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF volleyball team opens its second straight week of road matches at Memphis on Friday evening. The Knights close out a stretch of four straight contests away from home in Cincinnati on Sunday.
"Our team has become so accustomed to the routine of playing on the road that they're not even phased by it anymore," UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said. "(This weekend's) road trip is going to be the toughest for us, but we've become road warriors. I'm confident we'll go out and perform."
The Knights improved to 13-5 overall and an unblemished 6-0 in The American with a sweep of East Carolina over the weekend. UCF set an American Athletic Conference match record in the straight set win as the Knights' .444 hitting percentage in the victory is the top mark by an AAC team in a conference match.
UCF travels to Memphis on Friday to face a Tiger squad that stands at 15-5 on the season and 5-1 in The American. The Knights lead the all-time series, 14-12, and won both matchups against the Tigers last season. Memphis sits one spot behind the Knights in the conference standings, holding the second spot in the American Athletic Conference.
"There's no doubt in my mind that this is the best overall Memphis team that we've seen since I've been here," Dagenais said. "We're looking forward to this match. Memphis plays really well at home. They find ways to win points and we're going to have to step up and respond to that."
Lauren Wright leads Memphis with a .336 hitting percentage, with 2.90 kills per set and has 54 blocks. Alexis Wesley leads Memphis with 95 blocks, 15 of which are solo, and is hitting .319 with 2.12 kills per set. Aleksandra Petronijevic averages 5.54 digs per set, while Veronica Zimmerman averages 10.74 assists per set.
UCF wraps up the four-match stretch of road matches at Cincinnati on Sunday. The Knights hold a 4-1 edge all-time, sweeping the matches last season. The Bearcats hold an overall record of 12-6 and sit in third place in The American with a 4-2 record.
"(Cincinnati) is not really one of those matches that you want to play on Sunday," Dagenais said. "They can give anybody fits with the way that they run their offense. They are dangerous; they play hungry."
Me'Ashah Nicholson leads Cincinnati with 2.27 kills/set while hitting .302. She has 14 aces on the season and 11 of her 71 blocks have been solo denials. Emma Robeson averages 3.61 kills/set and has 36 blocks this season. Caitlin Ogletree averages 9.35 assists/set and has served up a team-high 18 aces, while Jamie Netisingha averages 4.78 digs/set for the Bearcats.
Atop The American
UCF leads the American Athletic Conference in three categories, including hitting percentage. The Knights are hitting .287 as a team this season.
UCF also holds the top spot in assists (13.89) and kills (14.70). The Knights rank fourth in digs (15.78) and sixth in blocks per set (2.09).
Senior middle blocker DeLaina Sarden kept the Offensive Player of the Week title in UCF Volleyball's possession, as her .656 hitting percentage in wins over USF and East Carolina gave the Knights their second straight American Athletic Conference weekly individual honor.
Rising in the Ranks
The Knights moved up one spot in the second NCAA RPI Ranking, released on Monday. UCF moved up to 27th overall and are the top team from The American.
The Black and Gold are also ranked 27th in the Rich Kern RKPI and are the top team in the Midwest region.
UCF is receiving votes for the third straight week in
By the Numbers
UCF ranks third in the nation with 13.89 assists per set. The Knights' 14.70 kills per set ranks fifth in Division I this season, while their .287 hitting percentage ranks 13th. Individually, senior Kaye-Alese Green ranks 13th with a .418 hitting percentage. Senior DeLaina Sarden's .408 hitting percentage ranks 20th in the nation.
Sarden's .367 career hitting percentage ranks seventh among active players. With 395 total blocks, Sarden ranks 22nd on the active player career leaderboard and her 1,032 career kills ranks 77th.
UCF Volleyball is presented by Radisson- UCF Area. For more information on how to purchase tickets, visit UCFKnights.com or call 407-UCF-1000.