UCF Volleyball Weekly Notebook

Sept. 27, 2011

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By Eric DeSalvo

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Off to its best start in Conference USA since it first joined in 2005, the UCF volleyball team has landed victories over UTEP and SMU in straight-set fashion to start the conference slate. Despite the loss to Tulsa last Sunday afternoon, the Knights have shown they are consistently one of the top-tier teams in the league.

Jumping into the thick of their conference schedule, the Knights will hit the road for the first time in nearly a month when they travel to East Carolina and Marshall this weekend.

Quotes from the Weekend
Freshman Delaina Sarden on breakout performance against Tulsa
"It was amazing," Sarden said, "I can't really describe it. I've been waiting for a big break, and just to go out there and do so well against a really good team made me feel like all the hard work I've been putting into practice is paying off. My teammates were really supportive in that aspect as well."

Junior Meredith Murphy on the second-set comeback against SMU
"A lot of it was just being aggressive," Murphy said. "We were kind of in a lull there, but we just kept going. We got a bunch of kills from Kayla (Keller) there in the end which really put us over the top."

Head coach Todd Dagenais on his team's next step
"I think what we take out of this is that we are one of the top three or four teams in the conference," Dagenais said. "We have the confidence built up to know that we are at that point. Now it's time to go for it. Now it's time to lay it on the line every night and try to become a conference champion."

You Make Me Breakout
Starting for the second-straight match this past weekend, freshman middle blocker Delaina Sarden (Lawrenceville, Ga.) had a breakout performance against Tulsa. The 6-foot-1 rookie notched a career-best 12 kills against the Golden Hurricane on 21 attempts (.333). Sarden's strong play in the middle was especially evident in the first set when she spiked five kills, including the final two to give UCF the first set, 25-21. Serving in a match for just the fifth time this seson, Sarden was able to record her first service ace on her career, and also chipped in with a block assist.

By The Numbers
As one of Conference USA's most improved teams, UCF ranks near the top in all of the league's statistical categories. The Knights are No. 1 in assists, averaging 13.53 per set, and kills (14.40 per set). The Knights are also No. 2 in opponent hitting percentage, allowing the opposition to connect on only .149 of its attempts, and have allowed a league-low 507 kills on the season. Individually, Rachel Vukson is the league's top setter, averaging 12.34 assists-per-set in 2011.

National Presence
Another week and another showing in the national polls for the Knights. UCF is still receiving votes in the AVCA polls and unofficially rank No. 36. Individually, the Knights rank among the nation's best as Rachel Vukson (Oakville, Ontario) and Angelica Crump (Atlanta, Ga.) find themselves in elite company. Averaging 12.34 assists-per-set, Vukson ranks No. 1 in the nation among setters. The recipient of many Vukson assists has been Crump who leads the team in kills (206) and ranks 21st in the nation in kills-per-set (4.38).

Can You Dig It?
Junior Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas), moved up the record books once again this past weekend, vaulting ahead of former Knight, Renata Menchikova, for No. 3 on the all-time dig list after collecting 15 defensive-helpers against Tulsa. Sunday's effort, combined with the season-high 25 digs she had against SMU, gives the team leader in the category 1,200 for her career.

Wasting No Time
Starting the match off with a solid first set is important for any team, but the Knights have been especially potent in the first frame this year. UCF has only dropped the first set in two matches this year, and is currently riding an 11-match first-set win streak. The last time the Knights have strung together a first-set streak this long was in 2001 when rally scoring was first put in place. The longest such streak dates back to the 1978 season when UCF won the AIWA National Championship with a 55-0 record and won 48 first sets in a row.

Up Next for UCF
The first conference road trip will see the Knights travel up the East Coast to take on East Carolina Friday night at 7 p.m., and then head to Marshall for a Noon match on Sunday. UCF has been quite successful against the Pirates since Dagenais has taken over in 2008, recording a 4-2 record against the conference foe. Matches with the Thundering Herd haven't been as fruitful with the Knights only having one win against them since joining C-USA in 2005.

Season tickets for the 2011 season are available now for only $30, which includes 18 regular-season matches at The Venue at UCF and admission to three home tournaments. Also available for purchase this season is the UCF Gold Pass. For $75, the Gold Pass grants the avid Knights fan admission to all home volleyball, men's soccer, women's soccer, softball and track & field events.