UCF Volleyball Drops Thrilling Five-Setter to FIU


Sept. 17, 2011

Final Stats

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By Eric DeSalvo

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - After having a 2-0 lead in the championship match of the Towne Place Suites/UCF Challenge, the UCF volleyball team was unable to close out FIU as the Panthers (8-3) claimed the final three sets (25-23, 27-25, 24-26, 21-25, 15-17) to earn the tournament title Saturday night. It was the first time the Knights (9-3) have been pushed to five sets all season.

Senior Rachel Vukson (Oakville, Ontario) and sophomore Angelica Crump (Atlanta, Ga.) were named to the all-tournament team along with MVP Jovana Bjelica (FIU), Marija Prsa (FIU), Sabrina Gonzalez (FIU) and Xitlati Herrera (UTEP).

"Obviously this is one of those matches that could potentially sting for awhile," head coach Todd Dagenais said about the loss to FIU. "It is the worst feeling in sports when you have a team against the ropes and all you have to do is deliver that knockout blow. We just couldn't put that together when we needed to.

"I give a lot of credit to FIU who were down 2-0 and battled all the way back. They made some fantastic plays when they needed to," Dagenais said. "We knew that we were far from a perfect team. We are a work in progress and have had some success early and it is very important that we are not held hostage by that success. It is twice as important that we are not held hostage by this match."

In the first of five ultra-competitive sets, the Knights held on for the win after the Panthers were able to pull within one point at 24-23. Freshman Kayla Keller (San Antonio, Texas) stepped up with a crucial kill to shut the door and finished the night with nine daggers and seven digs.

Set two was another nail biter for the Knights as they were extended past 25. The squad was able to close out the visitors from Miami on kills by Crump, junior Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia) and Keller. Crump tallied six daggers in the frame and Vukson chipped in with 13 assists on her way to her third-straight double-double with 52 total helpers and a career-high 18 digs.

After the halftime break, FIU was able to rally in both the third and fourth sets before taking the match the distance.

In the deciding frame, UCF held a 14-11 lead, but behind the strong serving and defense of FIU's Bjelica, the Panthers were able to overcome the three-point deficit for the 17-15 win.

Both Crump and Vilde ended the match with huge numbers from the outside. The 22 kills on 57 attempts tied career highs for Crump, and the 18 daggers by Vilde were a new lifetime-best.

The Knights totaled a season-high 79 digs, and were led by junior Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas), Vukson and sophomore Roxy Mendez (Caguas, Puerto Rico) who recorded 18, 18 and 13 defensive helpers, respectively.

UCF returns to conference play for the rest of the 2011 regular season when it takes on SMU Friday night at 7 p.m. and Tulsa Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. Both matches will take place at The Venue.