Senior Knight Sweep

ORLANDO, Fla. ( - For UCF Volleyball seniors Miranda Watkins, Kia Bright and Taylor Wickey, Wednesday night provided one final chance to play in The Venue. While the trio celebrated Senior Knight, the Knights (18-13, 11-8) took the opening round of the War on I-4 with a gritty sweep of USF (27-25, 25-20, 25-23) to earn three points in the yearlong series. The win also extended the Black and Gold's unbeaten streak to five matches.

USF (12-17, 7-12) did not make it easy for the Knights. UCF rallied from behind in the first and third sets in a match that featured 14 ties and nine lead changes. In the opener, the Bulls managed to open a six-point advantage at 18-12, but the hosts responded by scoring nine of the next 12 points to tie the score at 21-21. Bright and Kristina Fisher combined for the final six points of the game to put UCF ahead. The then Knights jumped out to a 6-2 lead in the second, one that they would never relinquish. The Black and Gold found themselves behind by five in the third, but bounced back to even the set at 18-18. Wickey put the Knights back in front with a combo block with Anne-Marie Watson, before Bright sealed the match with a powerful cross-court blast.

The UCF offense finished the night with a .294 clip, hitting over .270 in all three frames. Bright was simply dominant in her final match in The Venue, racking up 19 kills for a .348 hitting percentage. Fisher followed with 15 scores and a .371 clip. Wickey and Jeanne Westney combined to hit .444 with 10 kills in the middle. Watkins and Erin Olson kept the offense in sync with 37 assists.

* The senior trio made a large impact in their final regular-season contest in The Venue.
* Bright posted her 21st double-double of the year, adding a match-high 16 digs to her match-high kills tally.
* Watkins finished with 18 dimes and seven digs.
* Wickey was flawless on nine swings for five kills. The Omaha, Neb., native chipped in five blocks, including a solo.

* Despite allowing USF to hit .234, the Knights found a way to overcome three straight sets of 16 kills.
* UCF carded 17 scoring swings in the first and third frames.
* The Black and Gold kept it cleaner, committing five fewer errors in the second set.
* The Knights also finished with just one service error, a new season low.

Head Coach Todd Dagenais after the match.
Opening statement...
"I know why they call it the War on I-4. You look at the stats, and this match was incredibly close. Neither team would be willing to say that they played exceptionally well. Two of those sets are very indicative of what Saturday's match is going to be. There's a lot of emotion in playing your rival. It's about who can settle down and execute. I thought USF did a great job of execution. There were just a few times when we executed better. This entire match came down to two or three points. It's unbelievable to think that this was all decided on a swing or an error, but that's what happened."

"I'm glad that we won and got points in the War on I-4. I'm glad that we made it to our 18th win of the year. I think we have things that we need to work on and film that we need to watch. We're going to have to find a way to stop some of their players on Saturday. I thought USF did a great job, and we responded well to it."

On rallying in the first and third sets...
"It certainly wasn't the match that we wanted. We did have to play from behind. USF came out and executed well. They put up 16 kills in all three sets, and that's a stat that will normally result in a win. We need to find a way to stop that on Saturday. We found a way to come from behind a play our game and execute."

On the senior class...
"I don't think you can replace them. The spots will get filled, but someone will have to come in a fill a role. They were around during a transition time for our program. I think they all laid a great foundation for these young players and future Knights."

On Miranda Watkins...
"Miranda has a tremendous postgrad opportunity that she cannot pass up. She always found ways to be on the floor. She's a tough player. She likes to be in control. I have so much respect for how hard she works and how unselfish she is."

On Taylor Wickey...
"Wickey spent the first two years behind two All-Americans. She was able to learn from them and grow. She's had tremendous seasons after she stepped into the starting lineup. Where we're going to miss her is in her maturity. She kept our team together through everything. She really is a rock for this program."

On Kia Bright...
"Kia is a national-class player. She overcame a devastating injury and went through an incredible change. She's going out of here with an incredible legacy as a great teammate and an unmatched desire to win. She's an incredible asset to this team, let alone her physical abilities."

The Knights and the Bulls will square off again on Saturday in Tampa at 7 p.m. for the regular-season finale. Three more points are on the line for the War on I-4.

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