By Megan Herboth
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - UCF Volleyball is back at The Venue on Friday afternoon, hosting a pair of top teams in the American Athletic Conference.
UCF (20-6, 13-1 AAC) opens the weekend on Friday with an afternoon matchup against Tulsa, slated for a 3 p.m. start. Garage F will be open for fans attending the volleyball match. UCF students are eligible to receive 3,000 Knightmare Reward points and all fans can enjoy Free Frosty Fryday.
On Sunday, the Knights face SMU in a 1:30 matchup at The Venue.
The Knights hold a two-match lead in The American standings heading in to the final six matches of the regular season. UCF is ranked 35th overall in the NCAA RPI, the best ranking among The American teams and ahead of a combined 36 teams from the SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12.
"We are in control," UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said. "That's a comfortable thing for us. Our focus now is being hungry. We're not trying to outlast the season; we're trying to conquer the season."
Last weekend the Knights saw their win streak extend to 13 matches with a 3-1 win at UConn. On Sunday, UCF dropped its first conference match of the season as Temple handed the Knights a 3-1 loss in Philadelphia.
Tulsa leads the all-time series 9-4, but UCF made up ground with a 3-1 win in Sept. Tulsa is 17-8 overall, with a 9-5 mark in The American. The Hurricane sit in fourth place in the conference standings and have the third best-RPI in the conference, 61st overall.
"Tulsa (has) been a second-half team," Dagenais said. "They have some dominant outside hitters, but they're not limited to their outside hitters. It's going to be a good challenge for us to try to find ways to slow down their outside hitters and not let anybody else beat us."
Erica Bohannon leads the Hurricane with 3.96 kills per set, 1.67 digs per set and 14 solo blocks. Bailey Clampitt averages 10.34 assists per set and has served up 32 aces on the season. Brooke Berryhill leads Tulsa with 4.86 digs per set. Ashley Hooper and Nicole Newton lead the Hurricane with 77 and 75 blocks, respectively.
In the first conference match of the season, UCF snapped SMU's 11-match win streak to start a 13-match win streak of their own. The Mustangs enter the weekend with another win streak, this time standing at five consecutive victories. SMU is 21-5 overall, 10-4 in The American. The Mustangs have the second-best RPI among conference teams, sitting 44th overall.
"Sunday is about execution," Dagenais said. "It's about which team is going to be able to execute better. Neither team matches up well. Some of our strengths are their weaknesses; some of their strengths are our weaknesses."
Caroline Young leads SMU with a 3.08 kills per set and 2.01 digs per set. She has served up a team-best 26 aces and has 55 blocks. Janelle Giordano has denied a team-high 122 attacks, averaging 1.24 blocks per set. Avery Acker dishes out 11.58 assists per set while Morgan Heise averages 4.99 digs per set.
The American Leaders
In addition to sitting at the top of the conference standings, UCF leads the American Athletic Conference in three categories, including hitting percentage. The Knights are hitting .291 as a team this season.
UCF also holds the top spot in assists (13.73) and kills (14.52). The Knights rank fifth in blocks per set (2.09).
Senior middle blocker DeLaina Sarden's .446 hitting percentage is the best among conference players. Senior Kaye-Alese Green's .410 hitting percentage ranks third in the league. Sophomore Jale Hervey ranks fourth in kills per set (3.56) and points (3.99). Senior Marie Reiterova ranks ninth with 6.47 assists per set, while senior Jade Hayes ranks ninth with 4.02 digs per set.
A pair of Knights have hitting percentages above .400 this season. Senior middle blockers DeLaina Sarden and Kaye-Alese Green lead the Knights with .446 and .410 hitting percentages, respectively.
UCF is one of just three teams with two players hitting above .400. Stanford and Wyoming also have a pair of over .400 hitters. UCF is one of just two schools with two players who rank in the top 14 in hitting percentage.
By the Numbers
UCF ranks fifth in the nation with 13.78 assists per set and a team hitting percentage of .291. The Knights rank seventh in Division I with 14.52 kills per set.
Individually, senior DeLaina Sarden jumped into the top five as her .446 hitting percentage is the fourth-best in the nation. Senior Kaye-Alese Green ranks 14th with a .410 hitting percentage.
Sarden's .377 career hitting percentage ranks fourth among active players. Her 1,108 career kills ranks 84th and her 415 sets ranks 162nd among active players.
UCF Volleyball is presented by Radisson- UCF Area. For more information on how to purchase tickets, visit UCFKnights.com or call 407-UCF-1000.