By Megan Herboth
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com)- UCF Volleyball is having one of its best seasons in program history, though no one would know it from talking to the team.
"We enter each match 0-0," senior DeLaina Sarden said. "It's not a 20-match season. It's one match at a time. We have to put each win behind us and get ready for the next team."
UCF has been receiving votes in the AVCA Coach Poll for six consecutive weeks and is ranked 27th this week, each of which are a program-best.
Though he is proud of what his team has done so far, head coach Todd Dagenais noted that the accomplishments will not begin to sink in until December. The Knights still have goals to check off.
The Knights opened the season with six consecutive wins, the most in a row since 2010. Five of those six were straight set victories. UCF snapped a four-match drought by opening the American Athletic Conference season with 12 straight wins.
Standing at 12-0 in The American, the Knights are on their longest win streak since 1997. UCF is one of just five teams that is both undefeated in conference play and ranked in the top 30 in the NCAA RPI.
The Knights have reached the 12-win mark in conference play for the third time in the past four seasons and have matched their most conference wins with eight matches remaining.
"I think we've worked hard," junior Abbie Fleener said. "These weren't easy wins. It wasn't handed to us; these were hard-fought."
Explaining the win streak statistically seems logical.
UCF posted hitting percentages above .400 four times this season in a six-match span in conference play. The Knights are limiting league opponents to a .161 hitting percentage.
Two Knights are hitting above .400 this season, making UCF one of three teams with that accomplishment, and two additional players are hovering around the .300 hitting percentage mark. Sarden has a .431 hitting percentage, which ranks fifth in the nation, while senior Kaye-Alese Green's .412 hitting percentage ranks 16th among Division I players. Fleener is hitting .309, while sophomore Jale Hervey is averaging 3.64 kills per set on a .297 hitting percentage.
The six seniors are not allowing the team to rely on statistics.
"It's the seniors that are keeping everybody calm, cool and collected," Dagenais said. "They're performing when they can and letting somebody else perform when they can't. They are really being unselfish."
The players emulate that unselfishness, crediting each other for each win. Postmatch interviews consist of hitters acknowledging setters, back row players contributing digs to the blockers, and outside hitters recognizing middle blockers for being decoys. When opponents make big rallies, the team bands together to push back and collect the win.
"We've had chemistry since day one," Hervey said. "It's always been there. We're playing for each other."
UCF, presented by Radisson-UCF Area, looks to extend its win streak this weekend, traveling to UConn for a 7 p.m. match against the Huskies on Friday and taking on Temple in Philadelphia at 1 p.m. on Sunday.