Plundering the Pirates

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - In its first five-set match since opening weekend, the UCF volleyball team outlasted ECU in a thrilling American Athletic Conference opener in The Venue on Friday night. (16-25, 25-12, 25-15, 15-25, 15-12).

The win not only extended the current streak for the Knights (8-5, 1-0) to five matches, but also made UCF 5-0 in AAC openers.

Kia Bright was phenomenal with a season-high 21 kills, as the Black and Gold hit .296, its fifth game of the season above .250. Taylor Wickey, Kristina Fisher and Anne-Marie Watson joined Bright in double-figure kills.

Setters Erin Olson and Miranda Watkins spread the wealth with 59 combined assists, split 31 and 28, respectively. Four players - Bright, Olson, Fisher and Jordan Pingel - also reached double-digits in digs, led by Bright's 18.

After sweeping Virginia twice last weekend, the Knights were hoping for a quick start in the opening set, but the Pirates (8-5, 0-1) had other plans. The visitors quickly erased an early UCF lead, going on an 8-3 run after a Fisher kill made it 9-7 in favor of ECU. The Black and Gold gifted the Pirates 10 points on errors in the first.

As quickly as the air was let out of the building in the opener, the Knights breathed new life into the match with a dominating second set. Bright struck early with four of her seven kills in the frame to put UCF up 11-2. Offensively, the Knights were untouchable, hitting .423, while stifling ECU to a -.071 clip.

The third was much of the same as the second, though the Pirates stayed with the Black and Gold in the early stages. Up 12-11, UCF scored 13 of the following 17 points. Again, the Pirates defense had no response to the powerful Black and Gold attack, which finished at .486 for the set.

ECU went on a roll in the fourth, connecting on 17 kills on 29 swings for a .483 mark at the net. UCF hit into four blocks and could not stay with the Pirates' 11-5 run to close the game.

The fifth set went back and forth through the switch. Back-to-back kills by Bright and Alli Sabol, plus an ECU error, put the Black and Gold ahead 12-10. Sabol put an end to the match with a pair of powerful swings down the line.

* The five-match winning streak is the longest since the Knights opened their AAC slate last year.
* UCF has been untouchable during the streak, hitting .309 compared to opponents' .153.
* Bright and Fisher have featured prominently in the attack with 3.28 and 3.17 kills per set, respectively.


Head coach Todd Dagenais after the match.
On the match...
"I thought this was a strange match. ECU brought it in the first set. I think it caught our team off guard. We were hoping that they would make mistakes and they weren't. In turn, we were making the errors. We gave them 10 points in the first set. We didn't play well. With the same matchups in the second set, I thought we played great. I thought our offense was as good as it's been all year, hitting above .400. Third set, we did the same thing.

In the fourth, they changed the matchups, which was a really good move on their part. I was a little bit disappointed in how we were blocking them. We've got to get better and work on that. I thought our defense really picked it up. What's weird about that fourth set is that I thought we played well offensively, but they played well offensively too. It was an old fashioned shootout, where there wasn't much defense because both sides were pounding the ball on offense. The fifth set turned cage fighters throwing punches until time ran out, and we were ahead when that happened. It was a heck of a war."

On how the five-set matches at the start of the season prepared the team for tonight...
"We've been through these type of matches before this season. We lost to Duke and beat Northern Colorado. Being through the battle and getting into a fifth set, the team had a certain mindset of being there before. They knew how to act tonight, that's what I saw out of this team. They were calm and focused on the fifth set. They didn't feel bad that they were in game five. They were ready to play."

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