VolleyBowl X Thriller

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - In the 10th edition of VolleyBowl, the UCF volleyball team opened with a bang, taking the opening set against No. 21 Wichita State on Friday night in The Venue. The Knights (11-12, 4-7) pushed the American Athletic Conference leaders to the brink, but the Shockers (19-3, 11-0) rallied to take the match in five sets (23-25, 25-14, 17-25, 25-15, 15-10). The match was Wichita State's first five-set contest as a member of the AAC.

Kia Bright delivered an inspired performance on the attack with 17 kills and 11 digs. The redshirt senior took 60 swings on the night and committed just six errors. Sophomore Alli Sabol drilled 12 kills on 37 attempts in her fourth straight double-figure kill outing. Kristina Fisher hit .259 on the evening with 10 kills. Though UCF finished with a .161 attack percentage for the match, the Knights hit .382 and .310 in the first and third sets, respectively.

While the offense was pummeling the WSU back row with attacks, the UCF defense was on point. Libero Jordan Pingel led a quartet of Knights in double-figure digs. Jeanne Westney disrupted the Wichita State attack with five block assists, as the Knights racked up eight rejections. Taylor Wickey tallied the lone solo block for the Black and Gold. With the match tied at 1-1 coming out of the break, the Knights never allowed the Shockers to find their rhythm, as UCF held the Shockers to an .025 clip at the net. Of the 10 Knights that played in all five sets, eight recorded multiple digs.

* The Knights were all over the Shockers in the opening frame and never looked back after taking a 4-3 lead.
* Bright powered the offense with seven kills and a service ace.
* An 8-5 run that extended the lead to five for the Black and Gold in the middle of the game proved vital in the late stages.
* Wichita State shaved the Knights' advantage down to one at 23-22, but a rejection by Wickey and a kill by Anne-Marie Watson gave the hosts the first set.

* After the Shockers leveled the match with a second set win, UCF responded by going point for point in the third.
* Tied at 11-11, Sabol hammered a kill through the block to give the Knights the lead.
* The sophomore's drive spurred a 9-3 run, capped by a Westney, Bright rejection.
* After Wichita State cut the lead down to four, the Black and Gold fired back with five of the final six points.
* Fisher was perfect on the attack, going 4-for-4 in the third.
* UCF recorded four blocks in the set.

Head Coach Todd Dagenais after the match.
Opening statement...
"I've been here for 10 years. There have been teams that I've been proud of and teams that I've been really proud of. This team really looked at itself in a very real way. They addressed the things they needed to fix and went out there and played like they are capable of playing. It was really fun to watch. It's really fun to see them play so hard. I give Wichita State credit for going out on the road and getting 10 kills in the fifth set. It's hard to beat a team that has 10 kills in the final set.
"If you take Wichita State out of the equation, the leadership of our upperclassmen has kept us together. I've been with teams that would have fallen apart at this stage. I can't give them enough credit for keeping that locker room together, which has allowed us to go out and compete. I think we forced Wichita State not to play well tonight. For a team like us that's had its ups and downs and needed to grow up, the fact that we can still go out and put a product like that on the floor, I couldn't be more proud of how they played tonight."

On matchup changes coming out of the intermission...
"We anticipated a matchup that they might do, so we changed it at the last second. I told the team in the locker room that we were going to start in a rotation and flip it on them. I made a last second change to see if we could generate some offense in a particular area. It worked. The players went out there and executed well.

On the players' focus heading into the final nine games of the regular season...
"I heard the players talk that they wanted to take the pressure off of themselves. I think that's such an important component going forward to have fun playing volleyball. They can throw up as many wins between now and then, and whatever happens, happens. We'll be at the mercy of somebody with a big board. We want to be on that board and play on. I think this team really wants to win. A lot of teams would've folded playing a 19-3 team. Our players didn't fold. They threw their guts out there and made themselves vulnerable and fought."

On the maturity of the team to fight to five sets...
"I think our players have gone through a gambit of emotions. They're getting over that hump. It has a lot to do with our older players showing them the way. It also has to do with the natural progression of freshmen to get over the hump. Some freshmen might fold it up, but ours won't do that. It's a tribute to what's happening in the locker room."

On the putting the team in a position to win...
"Kristina did a nice job in the front row to hit .260. Mary Kate Painter did a nice job to help us out off the bench. It's not fair to make Kia take 60 swings in a match. We didn't plan for that, but it ended up being that way. She chugged along unselfishly and did the best she could with some of those swings. It's pretty special when you can be 10-percent on a lot of swings. Many of those weren't quality swings when playing out of system. She did a great job of keeping us in rallies and giving us a chance to win late.

"I certainly like where we are as we go forward. This one isn't going to define us. It's what we do in the final nine matches."

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