Dagenais Reaches 200th with Knights Win

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF volleyball team extended its winning streak to 12 matches on Friday night with a 3-1 victory over Temple. The Knights (15-3, 6-0) maintained its perfect record in the American Athletic Conference behind another stellar defensive performance.

With the win, head coach Todd Dagenais became just the second coach in program history to reach 200 victories in a career. He joins UCF Athletics Hall of Fame member and UCF Volleyball Ring of Honor inductee Lucy McDaniels.

UCF struggled to find its offensive rhythm in the opening three sets, overcoming late deficits in the first two frames. Libero Jordan Pingel inched closer to the all-time digs record with a match-high 25 stops. The senior rallied the back row to hold the Owls to .178 hitting for the match, marking the 13th time the Black and Gold has held an opponent under .200 hitting this season.

The block played a vital role in thwarting Temple attacks. In addition to multiple tipped balls, UCF rejected 13 attacks on the night. Kathryn Wesolich and Anne-Marie Watson formed a brick wall with six block assists apiece. Nerissa Moravec turned away five assisted, and Briana Garcia blocked a trio of balls.

Offensively, outsides Kristina Fisher and McKenna Melville were a formidable duo. Fisher led the way with 18 kills on 44 swings for a .364 clip. Melville followed close behind with 16 kills and a .250 hitting percentage. Both outsides also picked up a solo and an assisted block. Wesolich and Moravec provided enough of a threat in the middle with 14 combined kills to open up the perimeter for the outsides. Garcia fell one shy of double-figure kills while hitting .200. Erin Olson posted her seventh double-double of the year with 35 dimes and 13 digs.

The Knights were sluggish out of the gates, falling behind by four in the early stages. After a timeout down by three, UCF rallied to tie the frame at 22-22. Temple had set point, but the Black and Gold rallied from 24-23 with three straight points on kills from Watson, Melville and Moravec. The Knights tallied 18 kills with six different players picking up multiple scores.

Again, Temple bounced out to an early lead in the second set. The Knights responded with a 10-1 run to take an 11-6 lead. The lead was short-lived, as the Owls stormed back to tie the set up at 17-17. A kill by Moravec and a Temple error with the frame tied at 21-21 gave the Knights enough space to take a two-set lead into the break. Pingel was phenomenal in the back row with 14 digs, four of which came in one play. Mellville and Fisher combined for half of UCF’s 16 kills.

For the first time in the match, neither ball club took a substantial lead in the opening stages. Temple opened up a three-point lead at 15-12 that the Knights could not overcome. The Owls struck for a match-high .261 hitting percentage to UCF’s .209 clip.

The Black and Gold never trailed in the final frame. After Temple closed an early lead down to 10-9, UCF broke the game open with a 9-4 run. The Knights were flawless in the fourth with 15 kills on 28 attacks for a .536 clip at the net, led by six kills from Fisher, five from Garcia and four from Melville.

>> UCF is now on a 12-match winning streak, its longest since a 13-match stretch to open play in The American in 2014.
>> After another impressive defensive display on Friday, Pingel needs just 21 digs to set the program career record. The reigning American Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Week will become the first player in school history to reach 2,000 digs.
>> Friday’s victory gave the Black and Gold 999 all-time wins. With their next win, UCF will become the 24th team in NCAA Division I history to hit the 1,000-mark.

Overall thoughts on the match…
I give Temple a lot of credit. They brought it with a lot of energy and defense. We had to overcome a little bit of adversity at times. We didn’t play as well as we would have liked. It was nice to see the team go out and get a win when you didn’t play your best, and that’s what we did tonight.

On the balanced attack…
I give a lot of the credit for our left sides’ performances to the middles. Kathryn had one of her best matches tonight. Being able to go up the middle really opened up the outsides for us. We wanted to get our right sides going more, but we didn’t get that until the end. If we had it a little earlier, we would have played a little better. The left sides carried us. They did a great job all the way around.

On reaching 200 career wins…
I have so much respect for Lucy, Laura and all the coaches that built this program before me. 200, it doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. It matters a lot more to all the assistants that came through and put all the work into this. All the players, coaches and support staff that were loyal to the vision. My 200 is just a product of giving nature of so many people and what they did for the program.

UP NEXT The Knights will try to make it 13 in a row on Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. against UConn. Prior to the match UCF will have free donuts for the first 200 fans.

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