Volleyball Comes Up Short in Shootout at Southern Miss


Oct. 23, 2011

Final Stats

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By Eric DeSalvo

HATTIESBURG, Miss. (UCFAthletics.com) - Fans at the Reed Green Coliseum were treated to an absolute gem Sunday afternoon as the UCF volleyball team and host Southern Miss went toe-to-toe in a five-set thriller that saw the Golden Eagles (11-12, 5-6) come away with the crucial Conference USA win, 23-25, 25-19, 25-19, 20-25, 21-19.

A total of six players on the floor registered double-digit kills, including three with 20-plus in the match. Although the Knights (13-9, 5-6) came up short in the end, head coach Todd Dagenais knows his squad left everything on the court.

"I thought this was probably one of the most intensely, emotionally, well-played matches that I've seen in a long time," Dagenais said after the thriller. "Both teams wanted it so bad. We gave that match everything that we had. We left it on the floor emotionally, athletically and just poured everything out of our souls to try and win the match. I think when it came down to it, Southern Miss having six seniors on the floor was worth one extra point in a two hour and 20 minute match."

In the opening set of the contest, both teams traded points up until 23-all when sophomore Angelica Crump (Atlanta, Ga.) spiked her second kill of the frame to take the one-point advantage. On the very next play, senior Rachel Vukson (Oakville, Ontario) and Tory McCutcheon (Milton, Ontario) combined on a block assist aid the Knights to an early 1-0 lead.

After dropping the second and third sets, the Knights faced a 17-19 deficit in the fourth before ripping off six-consecutive points, and eight of the final nine to take the frame, 25-20. UCF blocked their way to a set win, recording four total swats in the stanza. Junior Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia) registered five of her career-best 22 kills in the set, and Vukson dished out 13 of her 59 helpers. The duo both recorded double-doubles, with Vilde notching a career-high 23 digs.

UCF carried over the momentum from the fourth set into the fifth, jumping out to a quick 6-1 lead. But Southern Miss, led by Ashley Mell and Amelia Hendrickson, would not go away quietly.

The duo helped erase the five-point deficit, and led the Golden Eagles to a 14-12 advantage with two match points. A Crump kill and Mell attack error knotted the set at 14-all with the two teams trading points until kills by Mell and Halie Ecker iced the match for the home team.

Crump tied her career-high in kills with 24, including eight in the final stanza. USM's Mell racked up a match-high 26 daggers, with nine coming in the fifth set. In a contest that featured 141 total kills, Dagenais felt it was the defense that really made the difference.

"I've always considered Southern Miss the best defensive team in the league, and I thought we were able to match them every bit," Dagenais said. "When it came down to it, this game was decided by two or three runs. Southern Miss made those runs and deserves credit for them."

The Knights totaled a season-high 87 digs behind the efforts of Vilde (23), junior Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas) (20), Vukson (16) and junior Dani Harrison (Tallahassee, Fla.) (10).

"I'm really proud of our team for coming on the road and playing well," Dagenais added. "We really fought in a matter that is worthy of caring the UCF Knight name. We just fell short."

UCF will return to The Venue as it hosts Houston and Rice on Friday and Sunday of Homecoming Weekend.