By Megan Herboth
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF volleyball team is taking one match at at time as it closes out the road portion of the regular season this weekend. The Knights travel to Tulane on Friday before closing out the trip with a matchup against Houston on Sunday.
Though UCF (21-7, 14-2 AAC) holds sole possession of first place in the American Athletic Conference with just four matches remaining, the Knights remain focused on trying to win one match at a time.
The most important thing for us as a team right now is for us to try to continue our philosophy of trying to go 1-0, UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said. It's no secret that it's a big weekend for us, but really we have to keep it boiled down to just one match at a time.
UCF is ranked 29th overall in the NCAA RPI, the best ranking among The American teams and ahead of a combined 39 teams from the SEC, ACC, Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12.Last weekend the Knights played a pair of five set matches against Tulsa and SMU. After dropping a battle against the Hurricane, UCF came back to win a thriller against the Mustangs.
UCF extended its lead in the all-time series with a straight set win over Tulane at The Venue. The Knights head to Devlin Fieldhouse to face the Green Wave for the second time this season. Tulane stands at 5-23 overall, with a 3-13 mark in The American.
Tulane is still a team that is scary to me because of the unknown, Dagenais said. They've changed their lineups since the last time we played them. It's going to be one of those matches where we have to go in and play and adjust as time goes on.
Tea Juric and Sarah Ray lead Tulane with 3.08 and 3.03 kills per set, respectively, and Ray has served up a team-best 23 aces this season. Ally Frank posts 8.38 assists per set for the Green Wave, while Miah Diirell averages 4.04 digs per set. Sarah Strasner leads the team with 102 blocks on the season, 15 of which are solo denials.
The Knights close out the road portion of the conference season at Houston on Sunday. UCF defeated the Cougars in straight sets at The Venue in the first matchup. Houston stands at 14-14 overall this season, with a 6-10 mark in The American.
When you have a player that can dominate like Kadi Kullerkann can, it makes (Houston) dangerous, Dagenais said. It's going to be another thing were I'm just going to ask the team to adjust to what they see in front of them.
Kadi Kullerkann leads the Cougars with 5.04 kills per set and is hitting .287 on the season. Keandra McCardell averages 10.38 assists per set. Natalie Keck tallies 5.04 digs per set and has served up a team-best 23 aces for Houston. Kaiti Waters leads the Cougars with 82 blocks, including 10 solo.
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 .290 as a team this season.
UCF also holds the top spot in assists (13.72) and kills (14.49). The Knights rank fourth in blocks per set (2.11).
Senior middle blocker DeLaina Sarden's .452 hitting percentage is the best among conference players. Senior Kaye-Alese Green's .425 hitting percentage ranks second in the league. Sophomore Jale Hervey ranks fifth in kills per set (3.50) and points (3.92). Senior Marie Reiterova ranks ninth with 6.58 assists per set, while senior Jade Hayes ranks ninth with 4.03 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 .452 and .425 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 ten in hitting percentage.
By the Numbers
UCF ranks fourth in the nation with 13.72 assists per set and the Knights' team hitting percentage of .290 ranks sixth. The Knights rank seventh in Division I with 14.49 kills per set.
Individually, senior DeLaina Sarden jumped into the top five as her .452 hitting percentage is the fourth-best in the nation. Senior Kaye-Alese Green ranks seventh with a .425 hitting percentage.
Sarden's .380 career hitting percentage ranks third among active players, while her 437 total blocks rank 23rd. Her 1,149 career kills ranks 80th and her 425 sets ranks 158th 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.