Knights Open Season With a 3-1 Win vs. FGCU

MIAMI, Fla. ( – The UCF volleyball team opened its 2018 campaign on Friday afternoon at the Sunshine State Classic in Miami with a 3-1 victory over FGCU. The Knights were led offensively by McKenna Melville and Anne-Marie Watson.

UCF (1-0) outpaced the Eagles (1-1) with a .204 hitting percentage offensively and 10 blocks on the defensive side of the net. Melville and Watson both reached double figures with 19 and 16 kills, respectively.

Setters Erin Olson and Amber Olson kept the UCF attack rolling with 47 combined assists to help the Black and Gold hit above .280 in a pair of games. Melville wasted little time notching her first career double-double in her opening match as a Knight with a team-high 16 digs. Libero Jordan Pingel chipped in with 14 stops as well.

The block sprang the Knights loose from a back-and-forth opener. Kathryn Wesolich and Watson teamed up for a pair of rejections with the score tied 8-8 to kickstart a four-point swing for the Black & Gold. Watson and Nerissa Moravec sent two more attacks back over to give the Knights a 10-point lead. The defense kept FGCU to an -.049 clip at the net.

Both clubs traded blows to open the second set through 7-7. The Knights fell on the wrong side of a 15-4 run. Despite six kills combined from Melville and Watson, UCF committed eight errors in the frame, while the Eagles notched a match-high .344 attack percentage in the set.  

UCF sprang out of the intermission on a 6-1 run, with kills from Melville, Watson and Wesolich, along with an ace from Bailey Wilson. The advantage was short-lived, as the Eagles managed to even the score at 8-8. The Knights then jumped on several miscues by FGCU to take a commanding lead that they would not relinquish. Again, Watson and Melville were a thorn in the Eagles’ defense with 11 kills.

Tied at 8-8, UCF scored seven of the next 11 points to take command of the final set. The Knights closed the match out on a 7-2 run, capped with a service ace from Bailey Wilson. Kristina Fisher stepped up in the final frame with a .571 attack percentage on seven swings, followed by a .556 clip from Melville on nine. The Black and Gold finished strong on a match-high .364 hitting percentage.

• Melville marked the second straight year a rookie tallied a double-double in the season opener, following Fisher’s 10-dig, 10-kill performance at Northern Colorado last year.
• Watson set a career-high in kills and matched her career high with seven blocks.
• Fisher finished with seven kills, and freshman Briana Garcia found the floor on six swings.
Wilson dropped in a pair of service aces to go along with seven digs.
Wesolich teamed up for five block assists on the afternoon.

On the match…
We’re going to look back at this and realize this one of those big wins for us when talking about a tournament resume. FGCU is going to be a top-50 RPI team with at least 25 wins. For us to come out and maintain composure against such a great defensive team was really impressive. We found ways to stay in games and outlasted them. Our blocking did a great job of slowing them down and forcing them to adjust their shots. Amber and Erin did a great job of running the offense from pin to pin. FGCU crowded the middle a lot, so we let the outsides take the majority of the swings. For their first real collegiate match, our freshmen showed a lot of composure and resilience. After starting tight in sets 1, 3 and 4, their attitude and energy helped us close out the match.

On Melville’s performance…
Mckenna took a lot of rips for us. That wasn’t the plan, and it won’t be how we run our offense normally, but that was how they were defending us. We’re going have a much more balanced offense. She did a great job, and 20 out of  her 55 swings came from the back row. Her defense was exceptional.

On Watson’s outing…
They had a hard time adjusting to her. After they made an adjustment, Anne-Marie made her own adjustment, which is something she would not have done last year. We put her in a position to get a lot of blocks, and she did just that with some great positioning and technique.

On the doubleheader tomorrow…
We have to get ready for a great FAU team. We know it will be a tight match. Every time we face them, they bring their “A” game. We have to be more balanced in both matches tomorrow, or teams will start to overload on us. But today, we executed in the clutch against a very good team that will be in the NCAA Tournament.

The Knights will close out the Sunshine State Classic with a doubleheader against FAU at 1:30 p.m. and host Miami at 7 p.m. The nightcap can be seen on ACC Network +.

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