UCF Volleyball Places Second at Collegiate Beach Volleyball Challenge

April 20, 2009

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SIESTA KEY, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF volleyball team placed three teams in the upper-half of the final standings and narrowly missed winning the overall Team Cup at the Fiesta on Siesta Collegiate Beach Volleyball Challenge Saturday in Siesta Key, Fla. The duo of Erin Campbell (Kansas City, Mo.) and Andrea Youngblood (Castle Rock, Colo.) finished ninth overall to lead the Knights in the event.

The pair swept teams from Stetson, USF and the Savannah College of Art and Design in pool play, not dropping a set, to earn the overall No. 3 seed into the Gold Division Playoffs, which consisted of the top-16 teams in the tournament. Campbell and Youngblood fell in the first round of the playoffs to Fesl/Puente of Notre Dame, 21-13, but went on to finish the tournament in ninth place.

Also putting together an impressive showing at the tournament for the Black and Gold was the team of Kristin Fisher (Clearwater, Fla.) and Sara Rex (Oldsmar, Fla.). Despite being the lowest seed in their pool, the pair won four sets in three matches to tie for the top spot in pool play and would eventually earn a No. 26-seed and a bid into the Silver Division Playoffs.

The pair won four-straight matches to claim the Silver Division Championship crown after Fisher and Rex picked up wins in matches against UNF, FAU and Notre Dame, before dispatching Belcher/Needham from Webber to take home first-place honors in the division and a 17th-place finish in the tournament.

UCF partners Erin Callahan (Alpharetta, Ga.) and Kristen Petrasic (Carrollton, Texas) also started the day with the lowest seed in their pool, but finished third in pool play, winning three sets in three matches, and qualified for the Silver Division Playoffs with the overall No. 30 seed. The pair upset Jacksonville's Yeager/Kent in a thrilling, 29-27, match in the first round, but bowed out when they were defeated by Scicca/Silva from Notre Dame in the Silver Division quarterfinals. The duo would finish the competition in 21st place.

As the bottom seed in a tough pool that produced the overall tournament gold medalist Gurgel/Havilickova from USF, the Black and Gold partnership of Katie Riley (Merritt Island, Fla.) and Katie Duggan (Margate, Fla.) struggled in pool play. Following the opening round of action, the pair earned the No. 47 seed and a spot in the Bronze Division Playoffs. The duo ignited to win their next three matches against pairs from USF, Webber and UNF to fight their way into the Bronze Division finals against USF. Riley and Duggan were unable to hold off a late rally from O'Conner/Palmer in the championship match, and settled for the second-place medals in the bronze division and 34th place overall.

"I was very proud of our team and their success despite the low-initial seeding," head coach Todd Dagenais said. "It is very difficult to come back and place highly when you are the bottom seed in your first pool. It was a tribute to our preparation when we were able to finish a pair in the Gold Division and two more in the Silver Division when the `seeding' said we should have had three teams in the Bronze Division."

The Collegiate Beach Volleyball Challenge featured squads from 12 different Universities from around the country, which included four teams from UCF, that were vying for the Team Cup. Among the dozen teams competing in the event, the Knights earned a second-place finish in points, just behind USF who took home the crown.

Dagenais tabbed his volunteer assistant coach, Arturo Rivera, as the head coach for the weekend of beach volleyball competition. With his background in beach volleyball competition and his history with the Knights, Dagenais thought it was only fitting to give Rivera an opportunity to flex his coaching muscles.

"Arturo has been a very loyal member of my coaching staff and is an extremely experienced beach-volleyball professional," Dagenais said. "I wanted to give him an opportunity to really make a difference in our beach training and competition."

Rivera was impressed with the way his squad was able to take their game from indoors to the beach without much difficulty.

"Our goal in training was to improve ball control in the natural environmental factors and to get the players prepared for unexpected elements that might affect their game." Rivera said of the intense week long preparation that led up to the Collegiate Beach Challenge. "I felt they could compete with anyone they played against as long as they assessed a game plan and executed it."

One of a handful of universities around the nation supporting a national proposal to make beach volleyball a NCAA sport, UCF's success in the sand this weekend is only a glimpse of what could be in the future for the Knights.

"This was an excellent beginning to what we hope will become a nationally competitive beach volleyball program at UCF," Dagenais said. "UCF has the weather and the facilities to be a national pioneer in the collegiate NCAA beach volleyball movement."

Final approval for beach volleyball in the NCAA is not likely to pass until 2011, at the earliest. NCAA volleyball programs will settle for playing in unofficial beach events like the Collegiate Beach Challenge until final approval takes place. NCAA volleyball teams are allowed four spring competitions, where UCF elected to only play three of those competitions indoors, saving one date for an outdoor competition.

With the initial success of the unofficial UCF beach volleyball program, Dagenais is already looking into participating in one additional beach volleyball tournament in 2010.

"If the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) is able to convince university presidents and athletic directors of the viability of beach volleyball as a collegiate sport, I want to make sure UCF is in position to be a National Championship contender from day one," Dagenais said.

The conclusion of the Collegiate Beach Volleyball Challenge also marks the end the 2008-09 volleyball season for UCF.

"Looking back, we really did accomplish a lot over the past year, Dagenais said. "Now we are in a position to truly develop a volleyball "program" at UCF, not just have a volleyball team. I look forward to improving our ranking in the indoor game, and taking the steps to further develop our beach game."

The Knights posted a 15-17 overall record last fall, its best mark since 2003, and matched its best Conference USA record, going 6-10 in the fifth-toughest volleyball conference in the nation.

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