Five-Set Season Opener

GREELEY, Colo. (UCFKnights.com) - The UCF volleyball team opened its 2017 campaign with an enduring five-set victory over Northern Colorado on Friday night.

After falling behind 2-1, the Knights fought off late set rallies by the Bears in the fourth and fifth to move to 8-2 in season openers in the Todd Dagenais era. Redshirt-senior Kia Bright powered the way with 19 kills, the sixth most in her career.

The Knights (1-0) rolled out to a quick lead with a 25-19 score in the first, behind six kills from Alli Sabol and a team attack percentage of .294. Northern Colorado (0-1) fired back with wins in the second and third 25-22 and 25-20, respectively.

Needing a win to even the match on the fourth, UCF staved off elimination by winning 25-23.Bright scored the seven points in the game, including the final two.

A block by Taylor Wickey and Anne-Marie Watson sparked a quick 3-0 run for the Black and Gold in the fifth. Following a timeout, UNC managed to close what was a five-point deficit to a 14-14 score. A Bright solo block and a Jeanne Westney, Alli Sabol block gave the Knights the win.

* Friday was the first competitive action for freshmen Kristina Fisher and Anne-Marie Watson.
* Fisher notched a double-double of 10 kills and 10 digs.
* Watson posted team-highs in attack percentage and blocks at .330 and six, respectively, along with 10 kills.

* While UNC marginally outhit UCF .203 to .193, the Knights dominated the net with 11 blocks.
* Wickey added five blocks, the ninth highest total in her career.
* Westney chipped in with four.

* Setters Erin Olson and Miranda Watkins pulled double duty on Friday, with running the offense and facing the UNC attack.
* 29 of the Knights' 79 digs came from the setter position.
* Olson led the team with 15 digs in addition to 25 assists, while Watkins set up 29 kills and recorded 14 digs.
* Libero Jordan Pingel displayed her out of system skills with 19 sets and five assists.

* UCF has a quick turnaround for a pair of matches on Saturday against Duke and Colorado State.
* The Knights will play in two different locations, starting in Greeley at 1 p.m. (ET) versus the Blue Devils, before rounding out the road trip against the Rams in Fort Collins at 10 p.m. (ET).
* Duke edged Colorado State in a five-set contest on Friday.

On the opening match of the season...
"I'm very proud of the team. Opening the season on the road, travelling through two time zones and playing an experienced team that can win its conference championship, I'm excited to be walking away with a victory. It was a toss-up game and could gone either way. We've had our fair share of toss-up games, and it was nice for it to go our way.

"I would be remissed if I didn't mention the two freshmen playing in their first collegiate match. They played great. Kristina pulled through in games four and five. Anne-Marie has done what she's done the last three weeks. Leading the team in attack percentage and blocking six balls was impressive.

"It think there is still a lot in the tank for this team to play at a very high level tomorrow. It was a battle of two very close teams in a very tough road environment tonight, and our team had the mental toughness, grit and passion to get the win."

On the performance of Fisher and Watson...
"It was huge to have performances like that out of those two freshmen. We worried about how much we should use them and how much pressure we should put them in, but we discussed it as a coaching staff. We have the faith in them and their teammates have the trust in them to perform. Anne started in the front row and Kristina came in and started right away. It was good to get that match out of the way. They now have experience in a tense, down to the wire, fifth set overtime battle. They know they belong how there."

On Bright's versatility and the upperclassmen's outing...
"Kia did not have the offensive night she wanted. Where I'm proud of her is how unselfish she was. She was unbelievable on defense and in serve receive, which is a large reason of why we won. She also made everyone around her feel comfortable. She'll have better nights offensively, but if she plays like that defensively, we're going to be in a good position to win matches.

"Miranda Watkins and Erin Olson led us in digs tonight. Their game plan was to attack our setters, and our players handled it well. Our success had a lot to do with Jordan Pingel and her ability to set out of system."

UCF Volleyball hits the court for its 10th season under head coach Todd Dagenais. Don't miss a single minute of action at The Venue. Visit UCFKnights.com or call (407) 823-1000 for ticket information.

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