Knights Fall Short Against Louisville

GAINESVILLE, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF volleyball team battled Louisville but came up short, 3-0, in the opening match of the Bubly Invitational in Exactech Arena.

UCF (2-2) matched the Louisville (4-0) squad point-for-point in the early going and held advantages on the scoreboard in both the first and second sets. The Cards, who are receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25, pulled away in the third set for the victory.

The Knights jumped out to a 4-1 lead in the opening set and maintained the advantage in the early going. Once Louisville evened the score at 13, the Cards made their run. Louisville pulled away for the 25-18 victory.

The Black and Gold fell behind in the early going but chipped away at the lead until they were able to push out in front, 15-14, and force Louisville into a timeout. The Cards reclaimed the advantage out of the huddles and pushed out to a 23-19 edge. UCF responded with an ace from Amber Olson and a kill from McKenna Melville to make it a 23-22 contest, but the Cards were able to clinch the set victory.

UCF tallied the first two points of the set, but Louisville responded with 10 of the next 12 points. The Knights put together a string of points to pull within eight, 18-10, but the Cards locked down the match victory down the stretch.

• Melville led the way with nine kills. She added an ace and six digs in the match.
Kristina Fisher tallied eight kills with just one error for a .350 hitting percentage.
• Jordan Pingel finished with a team-high 12 digs.
Erin Olson tallied a team-high 15 assists with five digs, while Amber Olson finished with 13 assists and an ace.

On the match…
The box score’s not going to show it, but we’re getting better. I kept reminding the team that it’s about getting a little bit better each and every week. We did some really nice things against a really physical team. I’ve thought that Louisville is a Top 20 team, and I thought they played as such. I thought, ultimately, that their physicality and their experience were the difference as each set went on. I was extremely happy with how we competed. I thought that our effort and our energy was really strong. It was an opportunity to get better and I thought we got better. This weekend, for us, is about getting a feel for what it’s like to play Sweet 16, Elite Eight and Final Four matches, and get better while doing it. I’m very proud of how the team has handled playing that type of match today.

On the team’s mentality after the match…
The team knows that they are capable of doing things. It’s just a matter of sustaining that effort. They’re starting to learn and understand what it means to sustain a high level of effort. Our first few matches of the year, we sustained a really good effort. We know we can do this, but our players haven’t had to go out and do it against these types of teams.

On including the middle hitters more…
It’s always been the game plan. We thought we set the outsides way too much. We wanted to get the right sides and middles much more involved. We knew teams were going to key on the outsides. We didn’t get as much production out of the right side as we wanted, but that was the strength of Louisville’s block. We were able to get the ball more to the middle. The more and more we can get successful in the middle, the more we’ll grow as a team.

On how to prepare the team for Saturday’s match against No. 7 USC…
We’ll say the same thing we always do. We’ll watch film; we’ll point out the things that we see; we’ll point out the keys that we want to go after. There’s not any kind of magical speech. It’s really about going out and preparing for the next match on the schedule, which just happens to be USC. We’re going to prepare for them the same way we prepare for everyone else.

On his message to the team…
Each match is about growing up and getting better, win or lose. We said the same things after the big wins over Florida Gulf Coast and FAU. It’s just about getting better, getting better, getting better. Not worrying about what the scoreboard says – just improving.

The Knights continue action at the Bubly Invitational on Saturday with a 7:30 p.m. match against No. 7 Southern California. The match will stream on ESPN3.

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