2010 UCF Volleyball: A Season of Firsts

Feb. 9, 2011

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By Sarah Tarasewicz

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Since third-year head coach Todd Dagenais took over the UCF volleyball team in 2008, the Knights have eclipsed milestones, experienced numerous firsts and captured the hearts of it fans. But, in no season before have those milestones and firsts been as evident as they were in 2010, as the Black and Gold posted a 16-16 overall record, its best since 2003, and a program-best 9-11 Conference USA clip on the year.

Here is a look at the UCF's additional accomplishments this season:
? Posted its best record since 2003 with a 16-16 overall mark
? Tallied a program-best nine wins in C-USA action
? Opened the season with seven-straight wins, the best start for the squad since 1983 and since playing in the Division I ranks
? Played its most conference matches in program-history after carrying a 20-match league schedule
? Its nine solo blocks at SMU on Oct. 29 was the fourth-highest total in program-history
? Tied for fourth and ninth on the all-time register after posting 29 block assists vs. Tulane and 26 block assists at Memphis, respectively
? The team's 17.5 total blocks vs. the Green Wave on Nov. 5 ranked ninth all-time
? Totaled 82 total block solos on the year, matching the fourth-best total for a single-season

? Kristin Fisher became only the third Knight in program-history to garner a spot on the All-C-USA Second Team
? Nichole Riedel was the first UCF volleyball player to earn a spot on the C-USA All-Freshman Team
? The duo was the first to be named to All-C-USA teams in the same season
? Kristin Fisher and Rachel Vukson became the first duo to earn C-USA Player of the Week honors in the same week, while Fisher was the first to earn Offensive Player of the Week honors, and Vukson became the third Knight to garner Setter of the Week accolades
? Tory McCutcheon and Kristin Fisher were the first duo to be named to the C-USA All-Academic Team in the same season, while they were only the second and third players all-time to be named to the squad
? Tory McCutcheon became the fourth player in program history to earn a spot on the ESPN Academic All-District III team when she was named to the second team for her work in the classroom and on the court
? Meredith Murphy brought her career dig total to 980, good for ninth on the program's all-time register
? Meredith Murphy's 489 digs in 2010 rank third on the single-season record chart, while her 4.14 digs per set rank second
? With 495 kills on the season, Kristin Fisher posted the 10th best kill total all-time, and also posted the most kills by a Knight in a single season since 2002
? Kristin Fisher also ranked seventh for attempts in a season and fourth for attempts per set in a season
? As of Nov. 27, Kristin Fisher ranked in the top 30 nationally in both kills per set and points per set
? Angelica Crump's 23 block solos in 2010 tie for ninth on the single-season register
? After posting 88 and 86 attempts at SMU and Southern Miss, respectively, Kristin Fisher now ranks No. 4 and No. 5 on the UCF individual match register
? Tory McCutcheon's .750 attack percentage at Houston on Oct. 1 tied for the seventh best attack percentage in program history
? After tallying five block solos vs. Rice on Oct. 3, Angelica Crump moved into a tie for second all-time on the program's individual match record chart, while Nichole Riedel's four block solos at SMU ranked in a tie for seventh
? Nichole Riedel also added her name to the individual match register after totaling eight block assists vs. Tulane on Nov. 5, tying for 10th on the chart

With all of the firsts the team recorded this season, the Knights are still only beginning to scratch the surface of the success that is on their horizon, as the squad's starting lineup in 2010 consisted of only one senior and one junior, while three sophomores and two freshmen rounded out the starting six and the libero position.

The team's biggest offensive threat throughout the season was senior Kristin Fisher (Clearwater, Fla.). The outside hitter was named to the All-C-USA Second Team after averaging 4.27 kills per set and totaling 548.5 points for the Black and Gold during her final campaign. She also became the first UCF volleyball player to earn C-USA's Offensive Player of the Week Award after putting together a pair of strong performances against UTEP in the final league series of the year.

"I was so pleased to see Kristin earn a spot on the all-conference team this year," Dagenais said. "I was so proud of what she was able to do over her three years with us. To go from a middle with not a lot of ball control to being our top outside hitter with very good ball control is an unbelievable metamorphosis. And you just don't see that happening every day. I hope that she really was an inspiration to her teammates and the future generations, because that is what she should be. She really is a true success story."

Fisher not only earned awards for her achievements on the court, but she was also honored for her outstanding work in the classroom and in the community as well. The health sciences major earned the fall C-USA Spirit of Service Award, while also garnering a spot on the C-USA All-Academic Team.

Joining Fisher on the C-USA All-Academic Team was sophomore Tory McCutcheon (Milton, Ont.). The middle blocker led the Knights in blocks per set (0.78) and hitting percentage (.332) and averaged 1.51 kills per set on the court, while also maintaining a 3.97 cumulative GPA as a biology major. McCutcheon was also honored by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) with a spot on the ESPN Academic All-District III Second Team at the conclusion of the season.

"It has been our absolute mission to be the definition of student-athletes," Dagenais said. "And Tory earning a spot on the all-district team is a product of that mission and a product of her taking her academics extremely seriously. When you add those two things together, along with success on the court, and she will be in position to earn more of those honors in the coming years."

Redshirt freshman Nichole Riedel (Denver, Colo.) also made major contributions to the Knights' success on the court, and was honored by C-USA as UCF's first-ever all-freshman team selection. The middle blocker led the Knights in total blocks (85) and block assists (74), while ranking second in attack percentage (.311).

"Nichole came back this season following a season-ending injury last year and performed at a really, really nice level," Dagenais said. "And it is so amazing to think that was just the first of four years that we are going to have with her."

Another individual that had an immediate impact on the squad was junior Rachel Vukson (Oakville, Ont.), who transferred to UCF from Tulsa. The setter led the Knights to a .201 attack percentage on the season and averaged 10.01 assists per set. She also earned C-USA Setter of the Week honors in the Knights' series vs. UTEP.

"When we talk about the impact of the newcomers, I think you definitely have to start with Rachel," Dagenais said. "Our kill percentage, hitting percentage, hitting efficiency, kills per set, etc., are all at six-year highs and that starts with the person that is dealing the ball. She came in with a wealth of experience and once she knew she had the green light to control the game, she did just that and really took over the offense. I think that she had an immeasurable impact on our team this year."

One player that capitalized on Vukson's experience was outside hitter Angelica Crump (Atlanta, Ga.), who was seeing the floor for the first time in 2010. With Vukson's great leadership, Crump only got stronger as the year progressed and finished her rookie campaign with 229 kills to go along with a team-high 23 block solos.

"We knew that for us to achieve our long-term goals, Angelica had to get in as many matches as possible," Dagenais stated. "Sometimes she played like a freshman, and at other times she played like a senior All-American. We knew that the more matches she played, the more she would have All-American type matches. So we went with her as much as we humanly could, and I think it paid dividends and will continue to pay dividends for the future success of our program."

Fellow rookie Roxy Mendez (Orlando, Fla.) was a pleasant surprise for Dagenais and his coaching staff in the back court, as she played in 28 of the team's 32 matches and tallied 185 digs. Along with Mendez, sophomores Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas) and Dani Harrison (Tallahassee, Fla.) also provided solid defense and superb passing for the Black and Gold. Murphy paced the squad with 489 digs as the Knights' libero, a mark that ranks third on the program single-season register, while Harrison contributed 283 digs on the year.

"Roxy found her role playing in the right back this season," Dagenais said. "She really excelled in that role, because she stabilized our passing, stabilized our defense and brought a lot of energy to the floor.

"Dani really came into her own this year," Dagenais said. "Her passing numbers were fantastic and she was running neck-and-neck all year long with Meredith for the libero position. But Meredith just continues to be reliable. She is an elite-caliber libero both in offensive serve receive and defensively."

Another sophomore starter on the Knights' roster was Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia), who was the team's right side threat. Vilde ranked second on the team with 246 kills and 302.0 points, while leading the Knights with 32 service aces.

"Evija continues to learn the collegiate game and I think that offensively she has her best two years still ahead of her," Dagenais said. "I also think that she is pushing to become more of an all-around player beginning next season."

Another player that was learning the collegiate game was freshman Marie Reiterova (Luxembourg, Luxembourg). The setter suffered an early-season injury, which sidelined her for large parts of the season, but Dagenais has high hopes for her future with the squad.

"As Marie gains more experience and gets more used to NCAA volleyball, she will get more and more playing time," Dagenais said. "She is the future of our setting and she has the athletic ability to really be dominating at the net, not just as a setter, but as a blocker, a hitter and a server."

Besides Fisher, both Sara Rex (Oldsmar, Fla.) and Brittanie Wallace (Austin, Texas) also played their final season in 2010. Rex finished her career averaging 0.67 blocks per set to go along with a .291 career attack percentage, 164 kills and 226 points for the Black and Gold. Wallace concluded her UCF career with career-highs in kills, kills per set, attack percentage, digs, blocks and points in 2010.

"Brittanie provided a lot of important roles for us on the court, but what she did off of the court was unbelievable," Dagenais said. "She really kept the team organized and always kept the team positive. Sara was really the beginning prototype for the type of players we wanted to recruit. She was always open-minded and did whatever we needed her to do to help the team. Kristin, Brittanie and Sara will be greatly missed and we wish them all the best in their future endeavors."

Dagenais redshirted three players during the 2010 season in Kaye-Alese Green (Jacksonville, Fla.), Katie Tatum (Roxboro, N.C.) and Allison Rinderknecht (St. Augustine, Fla.), but credits them for not only preparing themselves for the future, but preparing the team for matches throughout the season.

With all the positives that came out of the 2010 volleyball season, Dagenais, his staff, the Knights and the fans can all expect even better things in the years to come. The squad returns five starters and its libero, and will also bring in some high-level prep talent for the coming season.

Here's looking at another season of firsts in 2011.