Saturday Split for the Knights

MIAMI, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF volleyball team wrapped up the opening weekend of the 2018 season on Saturday afternoon with a doubleheader at the Sunshine State Classic.

Splitting the two matches, the Knights (2-1) picked up their first sweep of the year against FAU (0-3), but dropped the nightcap to host Miami (2-1).

The Knights opened the day with their first sweep of the 2018 season with a 3-0 (25-16, 25-18, 25-20) victory over FAU. The UCF offense was unstoppable at the net with a .368 attack percentage, as a trio of players reached double figures in kills.

After the season opener that saw the Black and Gold focus their attack from the outside, UCF found a more balanced attack in the second game of the year. McKenna Melville, Kristina Fisher and Briana Garcia combined for 37 of the Knights’ 49 kills.

The Black and Gold finished the match with a trio of blocks, led by a pair of assists from Garcia. The block disrupted the FAU attack to hold the Owls under .185 in all three frames, finishing at .152. Jordan Pingel led the way in the back row with 16 digs. The Knights held every FAU attacker under seven kills.

Melville notched her second straight double-double with 16 kills and 13 digs. Amber Olson dropped 23 assists, while her sister Erin Olson finished with 17 times and a pair of service aces.

Ahead 9-8, the Knights went on a roll, scoring 10 of the next 13 points. The Black and Gold hit .359 in the frame, led by matching .429 clips from Garcia and Fisher. Pingel recorded 10 digs in the opening set, as the defense surrendered a match-low nine kills.

Neither side could create much of a gap in the second set. A kill by Nerissa Moravec and an ace by Amber Olson gave the Black and Gold an 11-8 advantage. The Owls managed to close within one point on three occasions before Fisher, Melville and Kathryn Wesolich rolled off three straight points for an insurmountable four-point lead at 18-14. Melville was on a roll with no errors on nine swings with five kills. UCF notched a match-high .438 clip at the net with 16 kills and just two errors.

Down 10-8, the Black and Gold used a 5-1 run, including a pair of kills from Melville, jump out to a 13-11 advantage. The Owls drew level at 14-14, but it was all UCF from there, scoring the next six points. Melville hammered down six kills, while four other tallied multiple scores. Erin Olson picked up both of her aces during the final 11-6 run.

On the match…
We were very concerned about the FAU attack. They have a very athletic team that has a lot of talent on the outsides. I was proud of how our defense came together to keep the kill rates down and force them into some errors. Our attack was much more balanced. We were able to spread out the swings to different players, which didn’t allow them to key on one of our weapons.

On taking on Miami…
It was another big win for us. FAU is another top team in C-USA. We have to turn our attention to Miami, which is another NCAA Tournament team. We get to play in a championship environment trying to win the Sunshine State Classic. That experience is something that is going to go a long way this season with our team.

Playing their second match of the day, the Knights continued rolling on offense with a .281 clip at the net from 42 kills on 96 swings. The majority of the offense went through Melville, who finished with 20 kills and a .444 attack percentage. The rookie became the first Knight to reach that mark in three sets since Jale Hervey totaled 20 kills against ECU on Oct. 29, 2016.

The Black and Gold found more success with its block in the nightcap with six rejections. Wesolich recorded a quartet of assists, while Anne-Marie Watson turned away three.

When the Hurricanes made it through the block, the Knights found it difficult to keep the ball up. The hosts finished the night with a .370 hitting percentage. UCF allowed six services, while connecting on just one.

The Knights held an early lead throughout the opening stages, but Miami never allowed the advantage to grow to more than four. The tide turned midway through the game when the hosts went on a 10-4 run to take a two-point advantage. UCF leveled the score at 17-17, but the Hurricanes closed the set on an 8-5 run. Melville found her rhythm early with six kills on 10 swings for a .500 clip.

After trading points, the Black and Gold fell on the wrong side of a 7-1 run. Back-to-back kills by Melville, followed by a block by Moravec and Alli Sabol, brought the Knights within two points, but the advantage was too much to overcome. Again, Melville was on a roll, finding the floor on 11 of 17 swings. Fisher posted a .571 clip to lead the way.

UCF could not find an answer to Miami’s attack in the final frame, as the hosts jumped out to a 10-5 lead. The Knights managed to cut it down to four on six occasions, but the gaps too much. Moravec joined Melville as the top attacker with a trio of scores in the final frame.

On the match…
I thought this was a good step in the right direction for where we were coming into the weekend. Miami came out with a lot of intensity and fire after losing in the earlier match. We had a hard time of matching their fire and energy. It really came down to the serve pass and error game. With our block and attack, we played a pretty even match, but it was those miscues that stopped us from getting the job done. We just missed a serve here or a play there at a critical time, which gave them a break.

On what this weekend means for the season…
This was a really good weekend. Our young players were able to get some much-needed match experience. We got better in every match. We won a pair of tough battles and continued to fight against Miami. It’s something we are gong to learn from, and we know we need to ramp it up at the end of a weekend. We have a bright future, but we have some things to fix. This team wants to get back in the gym and get better, which is what we’ll do when next week at practice.

On the balance of the attack…
Our offensive output was what we wanted. We hit above .200 in every set. McKenna took advantage of her opportunities. She had a great weekend and took good swings when we put the ball in her area. Miami did a great job of bottling up our other options, so we went to her more than we wanted to. Miami served us tough. Losing the serve pass game kept us out of system

The Knights will head to the Bulby Invitational in Gainesville to face nationally ranked Florida, USC and Louisville. 

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