Staying with the Shockers

WICHITA, Kan. (UCFKnights.com) - Facing its first ranked opponent of the year, the UCF volleyball team gave No. 25 Wichita State all it could handle, but the Knights (9-7, 2-2) dropped Sunday's road contest to the Shockers (12-3, 4-0) 3-1 (21-25, 25-20, 25-12, 25-15).

Entering the weekend, only seven teams had taken a set from the Shockers in 2017. Not only did UCF add to that group, but the Black and Gold became just the fourth team to win the opening set against the American Athletic Conference preseason favorites this year.

Kia Bright led the way offensively with 13 kills. Laché Harper notched a career-high eight kills on a team-best .439 clip at the net. Jordan Pingel finished one dig short of her season high, recording 23 in the match against the Shockers. Freshman Alex Fisher posted a career-high 22 assists to go along with Erin Olson's 23.

The Knights will hit the road again next week to face Tulsa and SMU.

It was an almost perfect start out of the gates. Kills by Westney, Kristina Fisher and Alli Sabol vaulted the Knights to a five-point lead at 9-4, which later extended to 15-9 behind a .439 hitting percentage in the opening stages. The Shockers rallied to trim the lead down to 18-17, before Harper swung momentum firmly in favor of UCF with three straight kills. The Black and Gold hit .225 in the opening set and sent six balls back over the net from Wichita State attacks.

The Knights kept pace with the Shockers early in the second. Tied at 10-10, Wichita State took the lead, but the Black and Gold did not allow the deficit to grow to more than two. Bright powered back-to-back kills through the WSU block to even the set at 18-18. The hosts closed the game on a 7-2 run, but the Knights made them earn it by committing two errors in that stretch.

UCF could not keep pace with Wichita State's 13-6 lead coming out of the break. The Knights fell on the wrong side of a 6-0 run that put the game out of reach. After the Black and Gold tied up the fourth up at 5-5, the Shockers went on a 15-7 run to seal the match. The hosts hit .370 in the third and a match-high .375 in the fourth.

* The Knights finished with six blocks.
* Jeanne Westney and Anne-Marie Watson were a formidable pairing at the net, combining for 10 block assists.
* UCF was just the sixth team to record seven or more blocks on the Shockers this season.

Head coach Todd Dagenais after the match.
On the match...
"I thought we came into this match with a lot of confidence, which is something I hadn't seen for quite some time. We were really focused on our side of the net. Wichita State does a lot of things on offense that forces you to get lost. We watched the right keys and just out-executed them in the first set. We were more efficient and did a nice job of taking the match to them.

"The second set was back and forth. We made some inexperienced error late that cost us the set. There were some questionable calls that could have gone either way. Our inexperience gave them a break to get ahead of us. Coming out in the third, we didn't play poorly. We were trying to win, but not executing well. There was a 10-point stretch where we were out of sync, and it gave them enough of a cushion.

"I was anxious to see how we would do in the fourth set down 2-1. I thought we played hard. We were trying to execute to win. Our errors came when from trying to make things happen against a very good team."

On facing Wichita State for the first time...
"There is no doubt that they're the best conference team we've played in my 10 years at UCF. I thought we fought tooth and nail against a team made up of a majority of upperclassmen. When I looked over at our side to see freshmen and sophomores on the court, it made me very proud of them for how hard they competed."

On the block's performance...
"We made some great reads and lined up correctly. Brian Doyon, who coordinated our defense, put players in the exact positions to be successful. Wichita State is an experience team with so many different looks. As the match went on, they were able to get more quality digs and set up a faster offense. When we were able to load up the block, our players disrupted their attack well."

On the youth of the team getting experience...
"Our younger players are getting a learning experience. They are able to see what it takes to be an elite-level, conference championship volleyball team. They are starting to understand what we need to do to be a top team."

On Jordan Pingel and Alex Fisher...
"Jordan was outstanding this weekend with 22 and 23 digs. She settled down defensively, and I can't wait to see that carry over to all phases of her game. It was nice to see her defense come along and do so well. We had no intention of running a 6-2 today, but we felt like we needed to use that offense. Alex did very well when she was called into set. She's going to get better. It's always important to get that first match under your belt, so you're not nervous the next time you go out there."

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