By Megan Herboth
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - After capturing a wild fourth set, the UCF volleyball team carried the momentum to the fifth set on its way to a 3-2 (25-18, 16-25, 20-25, 27-25, 15-12) win over SMU in American Athletic Conference action at The Venue on Sunday afternoon.
"I thought we fought," UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said "I thought we battled and I'm really proud of that. We are still undefeated with the band here. For seven straight years we've never lost once with the band here."
Senior DeLaina Sarden opened the day with a pair of kills to give UCF (21-7, 14-2 AAC) a 2-0 lead. Sophomore Kia Bright extended the lead with an ace. Another Sarden kill pushed the Knight lead to six, 11-5, and forced SMU to use a timeout. The Mustangs cut the lead to five, 21-15, out of their second timeout of the set, but kills from senior Kaye-Alese Green and Bright gave the Knights a 3-1 run to claim a 25-18 opening set win.
The Mustangs reversed the script in the second set, as a UCF timeout did not delay SMU from taking a 9-4 lead. A three-point swing for the Knights pulled UCF within one on a block from Green and senior Loren Cory, but SMU held off a Black and Gold rally. The Mustangs closed out the set with a pair of blocks to even the match at 1-1 with a 25-16 set win.
In the third set, SMU pushed out to a 7-3 lead and forced UCF to use an early timeout. Junior Abbie Fleener's kill started a three point run for the Knights that cut the SMU lead to three, 19-16, and forced the Mustangs to use a timeout of their own. After an SMU service error pulled the Knights within two, 22-20, the Mustangs closed the set with a 3-0 run to capture a 25-20 set win and a 2-1 lead in the match.
Kills from Sarden, Fleener, Green and sophomore Jale Hervey led to a 6-2 UCF lead in the fourth set and forced SMU to use a timeout in the early going. The Mustangs used a kill from Abbey Bybel to take a 13-12 lead. An SMU ace prompted a UCF timeout with the Knights trailing 12-15, but a Fleener kill out of the huddle closed the gap. UCF used a block from Sarden and Hervey to tie the score 17-17 and back-to-back kills from Hervey gave the Knights a 19-17 lead and force a timeout by SMU. The Mustangs came back to tie the set at 21 and take a lead on an ace the following play, but UCF battled to force extra points. A Bright kill knotted the score at 25-25 and got the crowd to its feet. A Sarden block on the following rally set the Knights up for set point where the SMU attack landed out of bounds, securing the UCF set win, 27-25.
For the second time this weekend, UCF found itself playing a decisive fifth set. The Knights fell behind early, as SMU jumped out to a 5-2 lead. After a Fleener kill made it 6-4 in favor of the Mustangs, UCF used blocks from Bright, Sarden and Cory on three consecutive plays to take a 7-6 lead and prompt a timeout from SMU. Trailing by one point, 11-10, UCF made a late push to close the set. Kills from Fleener and Bright, partnered with SMU miscues led to a 14-11 UCF lead. A kill from SMU's Caroline Young slowed the Knight roll, but junior Dana Faught set the ball up for Fleener to close the set, 15-12, and give UCF its 21st win of the season.
"What (SMU) thought maybe was a single block all of a sudden turned into a double block," Dagenais said. "Maybe what was a single block this time wasn't the following time. We really just tried to randomly mix it up on them. I'm proud of the way our players handled that randomness." UCF posted a season-best 15 team blocks. DeLaina Sarden recorded a match-high 10 blocks, while Loren Cory denied five attacks. SMU finished with seven team blocks.
Five Knights posted double-digit kills, led by DeLaina Sarden's 15. Sarden hit .370 for the match. Kia Bright posted a double-double, with a team-best 24 digs to go along with her 14 kills and four blocks. Jale Hervey and Abbie Fleener each tallied 12 kills, with Fleener hitting .478. Kaye-Alese Green hit .444 with 10 kills on 18 swings. Dana Faught posted a double-double, recording 13 digs and 24 assists. Senior Marie Reiterova tallied 33 assists, while senior Jade Hayes finished with 16 digs.
The Knights make their final road trip of the regular season next weekend, traveling to Tulane on Friday night and Houston on Sunday afternoon.
UCF Volleyball is presented by Radisson- UCF Area. For more information on how to purchase tickets, visit UCFKnights.com or call 407-UCF-1000.