2018 Schedule Released

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – Highlighted by 15 matches in The Venue, the UCF volleyball team announced its 2018 schedule on Thursday. The Knights' 30-match slate will feature six teams that reached the 2017 NCAA Tournament and two from the 2017 National Invitational Volleyball Championship.
"We decided to continue strategically scheduling opponents who are in an RPI zone of helping us finish the season with an RPI worthy of an NCAA Tournament bid," head coach Todd Dagenais said. "We wanted to schedule as many 20-win and 25-win teams as possible. We want to win as many of those as we can, and that could put us in the 35 to 45 RPI range."
The Knights enter the 2018 season with a small  contingent of experienced upperclassmen, led by senior Jordan Pingel, and a host of freshmen and sophomores. The non-conference slate features four tournaments. UCF will be on the road for the first two, before closing out non-conference action with the UCF Challenge and the VolleyKnights Invitational. The Black and Gold will take on six top-100 RPI clubs from last season over the opening four weeks, which will provide some much-needed experience for the young squad.
"There are two types of teams when you head into conference," Dagenais said. "You have a battle-tested team that has faced adversity, or you have a team that's unsure of itself because they didn't play anyone. We want to be that first team that has a lot of confidence heading into conference play. Our players will play tough teams on the road and have to defend our home floor in two tournaments."
Last season, the Knights punched their ticket to the postseason for the first time since 2014 with an at-large bid to the 2017 National Invitational Volleyball Championship. UCF advanced to the second round with its first postseason victory since 2003, a 3-0 sweep of UNC Greensboro. With nine returners from that squad, the Black and Gold is focused on notching its first back-to-back trips to the postseason in more than a decade.
"There's nothing like being awarded an opportunity to play in the postseason," Dagenais said. "What we did last season was like climbing a rung on a ladder. We reached it last year, but we aren't at the top of the ladder yet. It's made our returners think of how much higher they can climb. We're starting to see a group that is hungry to take that next step. They have been very receptive to everything we've thrown at them this spring and summer. They're going to be ready to go when hit the floor in August."
In Dagenais' 10th season at the helm of the program, the Knights went 20-14 with a 12-8 mark in The American. Pingel, as well as juniors Alli Sabol and Erin Olson, will guide a roster stacked with young talent. Anne-Marie Watson and Kristina Fisher will see their roles grow, as the Knights replace AVCA All-Region honoree Kia BrightTaylor Wickey and Miranda Watkins.

A class of six rookies, featuring Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year McKenna Melvilleand Under Armour All-America honorable mention Briana Garcia, played in seven matches for the Black and Gold during the tour of Puerto Rico and will have a significant impact on the 2018 campaign. 

Season tickets are available for the low price for $30, and just $15 for youth tickets. Don't miss a minute of the action and click here for more infomation.
By The Numbers 
• 15 home matches
• 6 matches against NCAA Tournament teams
• 3 matches against NIVC teams
• 3 matches against conference champions
• 1 match against the National Runner-Up
• 3 matches against NCAA Tournament national seeds
• 3 matches against the Top-25 RPI
• 5 matches against the Top-50 RPI
• 11 matches against the Top-100 RPI
• 9 home matches in The American
Sunshine State Challenge (Aug. 24-25 - Miami, Fla.) – vs. Miami, FAU, FGCU
The Knights will open the 2018 campaign in Miami for the annual Sunshine State Classic. The Black and Gold will square off with FGCU on Friday, Aug. 24, to start the season, before facing FAU and Miami the next day to round out the tournament.
"We wanted to continue with the Sunshine State Challenge," Dagenais added. "All three of the teams we'll face has a chance to win their conference. It's going to be four 20-win caliber programs going head-to-head for opening weekend."
• UCF holds a 31-9 all-time series lead over FAU, including a 3-1 victory last year.
• The Knights are 3-1 against FGCU after downing the Ospreys 3-1 at the Sunshine State Challenge last season.
• After falling 3-0 to Miami in 2017, the Black and Gold hold a 12-10 advantage over the Hurricanes in the all-time series.
Bulby Invitational (Aug. 31-Sept. 1 – Gainesville, Fla.) – vs. Louisville, Southern California, 
After an opening weekend against in-state rivals, the Black and Gold will face one of their toughest tournaments in recent memory. The Knights will take on Louisville, USC and Florida. All three clubs reached the NCAA Tournament, with the Gators and the Trojans serving as national seeds.
"We're putting ourselves in a position to play conference champion and teams that received a bid ot the NCAA Tournament in those first two weekends," Dagenais continued. "Those matches will have a second round of the NCAA Tournament feel to them. That's something that we want our team to experience. We have a bunch of freshmen and sophomores that need the opportunity to experience this level of competition."
• Florida holds a 14-10 advantage over the Black and Gold. The last match between the two sides came back in 2014, a 3-1 defeat in Gainesville, just the second match since 1992.
• UCF will go for its first win against Louisville, after falling in four previous matches.
•  The Knights defeated USC in their only match against the Trojans in history. Back on Sept. 2, 2011, the Knights swept No. 3 USC in The Venue. The Trojans were coming off a Final Four appearance in 2010 and would reach the Final Four at the end of the 2011 campaign. It is considered one of the greatest upsets in NCAA volleyball history. USC was Dagenais' final assistant coaching stop before taking the UCF position in 2008.
UCF Challenge (Sept. 7-8 – Orlando, Fla.) – vs. FIU, UIC, Wofford
UCF opens its home slate with the UCF Challenge against FIU, UIC and Wofford. The Black and Gold will take on will play a doubleheader against FIU and UIC on Sept. 7, and finish the weekend against Wofford on Saturday, Sept. 8.
• UCF and FIU will renew its longstanding rivalry that has been dormant for the last two seasons, which the Black and Gold lead 31-21.
• UIC edged the Knights in their only meeting back in 1993, 3-2.
• The Black and Gold and Wofford will meet for the first time in history.
VolleyKnights Invitational (Sept. 14-15 – Orlando, Fla.) – vs. Alabama St., FGCU, Yale
The Knights will stay at home for the following week in the VolleyKnights Invitational against Alabama State, FGCU and Yale. Alabama State reached the NCAA Tournament last season as the conference champion of the SWAC.
• The Knights will look to improve to 3-0 over Alabama State. The last match played between the two clubs came back in 2013.
• UCF downed Yale 3-0 in their only matchup in history in 1997.
War On I-4 ­­– at USF (Sept. 21), vs. USF (Nov. 21)
UCF will bookend its American Athletic Conference schedule with the War On I-4 matchup against USF. The Knights will start play in The American in Tampa on Sept. 21 and wrap it up exactly two months later in The Venue.
The Bulls' series lead has started to diminish over the last few years. The Black and Gold has trimmed its deficit to 45-34 after taking the last 15 sets from USF, including four sweeps, and winning the last 10 matches.
Key Conference Clashes
• The Knights will square off with 2017 conference champions Wichita State at home on Oct. 7. UCF was one of six teams to take at least two sets from the Shockers last season in a 3-2 defeat on Oct. 27, 2017.
• SMU will make its first appearance in The Venue since 2016 when the Knights host the Mustangs on Oct. 28. SMU holds a 13-5 series lead.
• After splitting with Temple last year, the Black and Gold will host the Owls on Oct. 12 and make the return trip to Philadelphia on Nov. 3. The all-time series is tied 6-6.
• UCF and Cincinnati are slated for a home-and-home series in conference play. The Knights travel to Ohio on Oct. 21, before the return match on Nov. 9.

Never miss any UCF Knights news from your favorite team by downloading the free UCF Knights app right to your iOS or Android phone! The app provides personalized information for men's and women's teams, scores, schedules, loyalty programs and even breaking news.

Follow UCF Volleyball on social media on Facebook (/UCF.Volleyball), Twitter (UCF_Volleyball) and Instagram (UCF.Volleyball).

By Ian MacDougall