Halted by Houston

HOUSTON, Texas ( - Despite hitting over .200 in three sets, the UCF volleyball team was not able to top Houston on the road, falling 3-1 (22-25, 25-20, 28-26, 25-17).

Kia Bright led the way offensively with 15 kills, seven coming in the final set. Anne-Marie Watson and Alli Sabol both dropped 10 kills. Erin Olson recorded 26 assists and Miranda Watkins added 23.

Jordan Pingel led the way on the defensive end with 22 digs. Jeanne Westney and Watson powered the block with six and four, respectively, as the Knights sent eight balls back over the net.

Of the 10 Knights that played in all four sets, six were sophomores or younger.

After trading points early in the first, the Knights (10-11, 3-6) took a six-point lead at 15-9. Houston (7-10, 3-6) cut the lead down to two at 20-18, but a Kristina Fisher, Taylor Wickey block and a Bright kill created enough of a gap for UCF to claim the opener. Watson started strong with four kills, as the Black and Gold hit .214 to Houston's .102.

The second set mirrored the first. The Knights held a 17-12 advantage, but the hosts responded with a 13-3 run to close the game. Offensively, the Black and Gold kept it clean with 14 kills and two errors on 36 swings to notch a match-high .333 clip at the net.

The two sides flipped the script in the third. The Knights overcame a five-point deficit in order to level the scores at 22-22. UCF staved off a pair of set points before Houston won the set on a block. Westney tallied both of her block solos in the game.

In the final frame, the Black and Gold had to battle back after falling behind 9-2. Bright recorded three straight points on a kill and two aces to shave the deficit to three. The Cougars had to rely on a .364 hitting percentage to keep UCF at bat. Bright was responsible for nine of the Knights' 17 points in the fourth.

UCF will face Tulane on the road on Sunday at 1 p.m. The match will be streamed live on the American Digital Network.

Head Coach Todd Dagenais after the match.
Overall thoughts on the match...
"As deep as we are in the season, we're still a team that's trying to find itself, and trying to find ways to win. We do a great job of getting ahead, but we're still learning how to finish things off. The tough thing to watch is knowing how badly they want to win, and how hard they're trying to make that happen. Being unsuccessful at times is very frustrating for them, because I know they want it so badly.

"I'm so impressed with their effort to be a great team that the athletic department is proud of. That's something they take a lot of pride in. This loss will not define us, and it will not destroy our character or our morale. We're going to collect ourselves and get to New Orleans. We'll continue trying to be the team we want to be."

On Kia Bright's final set...
"I think she saw the urgency of where we were and knew what needed to happen. I think she played without fear in the fourth set. If she continues to do that, she can even out a match like that. She puts all of us in a terrific position at the end of the match."

On what Mary Kate Painter brought to the floor...
"She got a start for us tonight. I thought she was fantastic, both defensively and in serve receive. She's been working so hard on our scout side to improve her game and get used to the speed of college volleyball. I thought she went into the match tonight and played terrific. I thought her serving was great. Defensively, she was on point. She brought a lot of energy to the floor."

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