ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF volleyball team extended its winning streak to 17 matches on Sunday afternoon in The Venue. Behind a hot hitting offense, the No. 25 Knights (20-3, 11-0) maintained perfection at home and in the American Athletic Conference with a 3-1 win over SMU (255-17, 25-16, 21-25, 25-14).
UCF found its rhythm early on offense. Hitting .278 for the match, the Black and Gold finished above .250 in three of the four sets, including a pair above .420. Aside from a tough third set, the Knights trailed just once in the match, the opening point of the first.
Two days after setting a career high in kills, McKenna Melville topped her career best with 28 kills to lead the Knights. The rookie took 62 swings and committed just seven errors. Middle Nerissa Moravec finished with double-digit kills for the third time this season at a match-high .381 clip.
While the offense cruised with at least 13 kills in all four sets, the defense kept SMU for creating any momentum offensively. Four Knights hit double figures in digs. Per usual, Jordan Pingel led the way with a 23-save performance, her 11th time with at least 20 digs this season. Melville recorded her 16th double-double of the year with 16 stops, while Erin Olson picked up her 11th double-double on a 32-assist, 15-dig outing.
The Knights touched double-figure blocks on Sunday for the ninth time this campaign, finishing with 13 against the Mustangs. Moravec posted eight assisted rejections, Kathryn Wesolich notched five and Anne-Marie Watson chipped in with a quartet of blocks.
Tied 1-1- in the opener, the Knights rolled off three in a row, a Melville kill, an SMU error and a block from Melville and Moravec. The Black and Gold went on to finish the frame with six of the final seven points. Melville was flawless on 13 swings with seven kills, as UCF hit .429.
UCF started even quicker, opening a three-point advantage at 7-4. The Knights were firmly in control of the frame with a 20-10 lead. SMU managed to close the gap down to six, but that was as close as the Knights would allow them to get. The offense cooled down to a .250 clip at the net. Melville, Moravec and Fisher accounted for 11 of UCF’s 13 kills.
Neither side was able to break free in the opening stages. The Knights were denied their eighth sweep of the year, when the Mustangs pulled away with a 6-1 run when the game was tied at 12-12. UCF committed 11 of their 19 errors in the match in the third.
It was apparent from the outset of the final frame that UCF did not want to go to a fifth set. The Knights scored the first five points of the frame, including trio of scores from Melville. The Mustangs climbed as close as two points at 11-9, but the Black and Gold strung together a 10-2 run to put the set out of reach. Melville was unstoppable with 10 kills at an unfathomable .556 hitting. Pingel recorded 12 digs in the final frame. Offensively, UCF totaled 20 kills, on error and a .422 attack percentage.
NOTES TO KNOW
>> The Knights posted their 20th win of the season, their sixth of the Todd Dagenais era.
>> UCF is now two matches ahead of Cincinnati for the lead in The American, after the Bearcats fell 3-1 to Tulane on Sunday.
>> During their 17-match winning streak, the Knights are averaging 11.1 blocks per match.