By Megan Herboth
NEW ORLEANS, La. (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF volleyball team made it a team effort to bounce back from dropping the first set and claim a 3-1 (18-25, 25-21, 25-16, 25-21) win over Tulane at Devlin Fieldhouse on Friday night.
We really counted on our bench tonight, UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said It's not something that we've done a lot this year. We really needed our bench to come through for us tonight and they did a fantastic job.
With the win, UCF improves to 22-7 overall, the most wins since 2003. At 15-2 in American Athletic Conference action, the Knights tightened their grip on sole possession of first place in the conference standings.
Every win down the stretch is important, Dagenais said. It was really important to go 1-0 today and that's what we did.
The teams battled for the lead early, trading points on errors and kills. The Green Wave took a 13-9 lead on a kill from Sarah Ray that prompted UCF to use a timeout. Tulane continued to build its lead out of the huddle and forced a second UCF timeout as the Knights trailed 17-10. A kill from senior Loren Cory, followed by a pair of Tulane miscues cut into the Green Wave lead, but a UCF service error gave Tulane the 25-18 opening set win.
The second set started in the same fashion as the first, as the teams traded leads early until sophomore Kia Bright followed a pair of kills with a solo block to give UCF a 10-6 lead and force a Tulane timeout. The Knights pushed their lead out of the huddle, with another Bright kill and an ace from senior Marie Reiterova. Back-to-back kills from senior DeLaina Sarden extended the lead to seven, 15-8, and forced the second Green Wave timeout of the set. Tulane closed the gap with a late run to pull within two, 22-20, but a kill from sophomore Jale Hervey, followed by a Tulane attack error gave the Knights a 25-21 second set win.
Sticking to the script for the start of the third set, UCF and Tulane found themselves again trading leads until Tulane pushed out to a 9-6 advantage. Bright started an 8-1 run with a kill and UCF took a 14-10 lead on a DeLaina Sarden block out of a Tulane timeout. The Green Wave was able to pull within three on the next play, but UCF closed the set with a 7-2 run. A Sarden kill gave the Knights a 25-16 set win and a 2-1 lead in the match.
Tulane jumped out to an early 2-0 lead in the fourth set, but the Knights battled back, tying the set at 9-9 on a kill from senior Kaye-Alese Green. Kills from Bright and senior Ashley Gialenios gave UCF a 13-10 advantage and prompted a Tulane timeout. After the Green Wave made it a one-point set on a Sarah Strasner kill, Gialenios came up with a big kill to turn the momentum back in favor of the Knights and forced the second Tulane timeout of the set. Tea Juric gave the Green Wave a boost with a pair of kills late in the set, but a block from Sarden and Cory set the Knights up for match point. Hervey delivered with a kill to secure the 25-21 set win and the 3-1 match victory.
Kia Bright played a strong all-around match, leading the Knights with 14 kills, 15 digs and five blocks while hitting .283 on the night. Ashley Gialenios came off the bench to post four kills and five digs for the Knights.
One of the biggest keys to the game tonight was Ashley Gialenios, Dagenais said. (She) has always been our players with one of the highest volleyball IQs. I can't even begin to describe how important that was. Ashley has been one of the most unselfish seniors that we've ever had. Kia Bright had one of her best all-around games. That was really important for us; it led our offense.
DeLaina Sarden and Jale Hervey each posted 11 kills for the Knights and Sarden tallied a match-high six kills. Loren Cory finished with seven kills, while Kaye-Alese Green recorded six kills and three blocks. Senior Jade Hayes led UCF with 20 digs, while junior Dana Faught posted a double-double with 25 assists and 13 digs.
The Knights close out the final road trip of the regular season at Houston on Sunday. UCF can clinch at least a share of the conference title with a win over the Cougars.
UCF Volleyball is presented by Radisson- UCF Area. For more information on how to purchase tickets, visit UCFKnights.com or call 407-UCF-1000.