By Megan Herboth
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF volleyball used terrific play from its senior class to earn a 3-1 (25-17, 25-19, 23-25, 25-16) win over Memphis and close out the regular season at The Venue on Friday afternoon.
There is no way I can justify what (the seniors) mean to me, to the program, to the school, UCF head coach Todd Dagenais said. All I can say is that they get the pay-off. That's what I'm happy about. They get the banner; they get the ring; they get the recognition.
UCF (25-7, 18-2 AAC) opened the match with intensity, with an early 5-0 run. Senior DeLaina Sarden forced Memphis to use a quick timeout as her kill gave the Knights a 5-0 lead. UCF continued to push out of the huddle, as a kill from sophomore Jale Hervey pushed the Knights to a 10-1 advantage. Memphis used its second timeout of the set as a block from Sarden and sophomore Kia Bright extended UCF's lead to eight, 17-9. The Tigers made a late three-point run, but sophomore Taylor Gallart finished the set with a kill to secure a 25-17 victory for the Knights.
The Knights repeated the strong opening in the second set as a pair of Sarden kills and Memphis attack errors gave UCF a 5-0 lead early. The Tigers closed the UCF lead to three, but a kill from Hervey and a block from seniors Ashley Gialenios and Kaye-Alese Green surged the UCF lead back to five and forced a Memphis timeout. The Knights kept the Tigers at an arm's length for the set and senior Loren Cory set up UCF's set point with a kill. A pair of kills from Memphis' Kate Gibson delayed the Knights, but Cory delivered the set point. Her kill gave UCF a 25-19 set two win and a 2-0 lead in the match.
Memphis reversed the roles in the third set, as the Tigers opened the set with a pair of point to take an early lead. UCF regained the lead with a pair of Sarden kills, but Memphis responded with a pair of kills to retake the lead. The teams tied the score 10 times and traded leads on four occasions in the set. A Memphis service error tied the set at 23-23, but the Tigers bounced back with a kill and a block to take the third set, 25-23.
Sarden put the Knights back on the path, opening the fourth set with a kill in UCF's favor. Kills from Hervey, Green and Bright, along with a block from Gialenios and Green were part of the 11-6 opening run from the Knights that forced Memphis into a timeout. Out of the huddle, a combined block from Sarden and Cory opened a 5-3 run for UCF. Hervey and Green teamed up for a block that gave UCF a 16-9 advantage and prompted the second timeout of the set for the Tigers. UCF kept its foot on the pedal and Cory closed out the day with her fifth kill to secure the UCF victory.
UCF hit .292 in the match, with a scorching .385 in the fourth set. The team had 13 total blocks on the day. The Knights had 55 digs on the day.
To hit over .300 in three sets, our offense did what it was supposed to do, Dagenais said. Blocking 13 balls, our block did what it was supposed to do. Defensively, I thought we were strong.
Jale Hervey led a trio of Knights in double figure kills, finishing with 16 kills and a .239 hitting percentage. Kia Bright posted her 10th double-double match of the season, finishing with 12 digs and 14 kills on 22 swings for a .591 hitting percentage. DeLaina Sarden hit .556 with 11 kills on 18 swings and had six blocks for UCF. Kaye-Alese Green posted a match-best seven blocks, including a pair of solo blocks for the Knights.
Senior Jade Hayes finished with a match-best 17 digs, bringing her career total to 1,000. She became the tenth player in UCF history to achieve the 1,000 dig milestone.
UCF clinched the automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament as The American champions. The Knights will learn their postseason opponent and location on the NCAA Selection Show, which will begin at 8:30 p.m. Sunday night.
UCF Volleyball is presented by Radisson- UCF Area. For more information on how to purchase tickets, visit UCFKnights.com or call 407-UCF-1000.