2018 Opens at the Sunshine State Challenge

Friday | Aug. 24 | 4:30 PM
Live Stats

Saturday | Aug. 25 | 1:30 PM
Live Stats

UCF at Miami
Saturday | Aug. 25 | 7:30 PM
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ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) –
The 2018 season gets underway for the UCF volleyball team this weekend, as Black and Gold heads down to Miami for the second annual Sunshine State Classic. The Knights will square off in-state foes FGCU, FAU and Miami on opening weekend.

Head coach Todd Dagenais begins his 11th season at the helm of UCF in search of his first back-to-back postseason appearances. Dagenais enters the year with a youth-laden roster that features 12 freshmen and sophomores.

The start of preseason camp was not the first time the 2018 roster hit the court. The Knights went on a 10-day tour of Puerto Rico in late June and early July. UCF went 6-1 during the tour, including three matches against the Puerto Rico national team. In all, the summer tour provided the Black and Gold with more than an additional 20 practices prior to August.

Here are five things to look for this weekend:
1. Jo’s Final Year
Friday will mark the start of Jordan Pingel’s fourth year as the starting libero for the Black & Gold. The Colorado Springs, Colo., native is on track to set the school record for career digs. She needs just 335 to overtake Meredith Murphy and become the first player in UCF history to amass 2,000 digs in a career. In addition to already being one of the best defensive players in program history, Pingel enters her final year at UCF as the lone senior on the roster.

2. The Setting Sisters
After two years apart, Erin and Amber Olson are back on the same team. Erin, who transferred from Bradley after her freshman season, appeared in all 34 matches as one half of a setting partnership. She finished the year with 5.73 assists and 2.3 digs per set. After helping Cary-Grove to a third-place finish in the Illinois State Tournament in 2015 with Erin, Amber ran the Trojans’ offense for the last two seasons before arriving in Orlando. Both setters have earned high praise from Dagenais during the preseason for their competitive nature.

3. Building on a Postseason Appearance
In 2017, UCF reached the postseason for the first time since 2014 with an at-large bid to the National Invitational Volleyball Championship. The Knights won their first postseason match in more than a decade with a sweep of UNC Greensboro in the first round. The Black & Gold return eight players with postseason experience with their sights set on reaching the NCAA Tournament in 2018.

4. Fresh Faces
Opening weekend will be the first time for the seven newest Knights to compete for the Black & Gold in the regular season. The six rookies will look to make an immediate impact. Minnesota Gatorade Player of the Year McKenna Melville led the Knights with 14 kills in their 3-0 exhibition victory over Tampa last Saturday. Bri Garcia, an Under Armour All-America Honorable Mention selection, Bailey Wilson, Kathryn Wesolich, Paulina Perez and Amber Olson will have ample opportunities to have an influence this year.

5. The Opposition
• FGCU enters the 2018 season after going 22-10 last year, which ended in the championship game of the ASun Volleyball Tournament. The Knights hold a 3-1 advantage over the Eagles after a 3-1 victory in Fort Myers, Fla., last season.
• FAU finished last season with an 18-9 mark. The Owls were picked to finish third in C-USA this year. UCF extended its advantage against FAU to 31-9, following a sweep of the Owls in 2017.
• Miami reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament in 2017 and finished with a 22-6 record. The Black & Gold will take its 12-10 series lead into the weekend finale against the Hurricanes.

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