ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The UCF volleyball team extended its winning streak to 11 matches in a row and kept its perfect record in American Athletic Conference play on Sunday afternoon against Wichita State in The Venue. Powered by double-doubles from Erin Olson and McKenna Melville, the Knights (13-3, 5-0) downed the reigning league champions 3-1 (20-25, 25-22, 25-23, 25-18) in a tightly contested battle.
After a back-and-forth defensive battle with Tulsa on Friday night, UCF needed another stellar defensive performance to knock off another team near the top of the conference standings. Per usual, senior Jordan Pingel notched 23 digs to lead the way defensively, followed by 16 from Melville and 15 from Olson. The defense kept an opponent below .200 hitting for the 11th time out of 17 matches this season.
Wichita State struggled to find its rhythm on offense, thanks in large part to the UCF block. The Knights recorded 14 rejections, including five solos, on the afternoon, one shy of the season high. Seven different players were a part of the block party, led by Nerissa Moravec’s six. Kathryn Wesolich and Briana Garcia both turned away four attacks, while Alli Sabol and Anne-Marie Watson finished with three rejections apiece.
On the attack, Watson and Garcia provided some much-needed balance on the right side. Watson turned in 15 kills on 40 swings, one short of her career high. Garcia finished with seven kills at a .300 clip. Melville and Kristina Fisher continued to churn out kills like normal. Melville hit .300 on 40 swings with 14 kills, while Fisher drove home 12 scores.
The Erin and Amber Olson kept the Wichita State block off balance all afternoon with great movement from the setting position. Erin recorded 23 assists to Amber’s 17. The Knights’ attack got better with every set, finishing with a .248 clip.
The Knights could not get their attack up to speed in the opener. Wichita State held an early advantage that the Black and Gold could never completely overcome. The offense hit a match-low .128 to the Shockers’ .220 clip. Sabol recorded all three of her blocks in the opening frame.
Again, UCF found itself on the wrong side of an early gap, but the Knights rallied back from four down to create a 20-20 tie late in the frame, one of 11 ties and five score changes during the set. From there, Melville scored twice on attacks and the Shockers committed a pair of errors, before Fisher leveled the match with a powerful cross-court drive. Watson’s pounded six kills to the paint. Pingel recorded eight digs.
The Knights jumped out to an early advantage in the opening stages, but the Shockers kept the frame close. Tied 8-8, UCF rolled off a 6-1 run to take control of the game, only for the Shockers to bounce back and tie it 21-21. Watson set up game point with a drive down the line, before Erin Olson’s wayward during the ensuing point went over the next and found the floor give the Knights a 2-1 lead in the match. Garcia and Melville were flawless with eight combined kills from 16 attacks.
UCF saved its best for last with a match-high .382 attack percentage. Up 9-8, the Black and Gold scored six of the next seven points. The advantage grew to as many as seven, before Garcia closed out the match with a drive through the block. The Knights were perfect on the attack with 13 kills and no errors, split between five different players. The block was also impressive with seven swats, led by four from Garcia and Moravec.
Overall thoughts on the match…
We faced a great team in Wichita State. Normally, you face some attrition as a match wears on, but I thought we got better and better with each set. I am so impressed with our resolve. We came out flat, and Wichita State is a championship program that took advantage of that. We just had the resolve to make the plays to win the match. We still haven’t put together our best match yet, but we continue to take the next step every day.
On the performance this weekend…
What a weekend for us. We went against two of the best defensive teams in the conference and get a pair of wins. It’s huge in the conference race, because we have the tiebreaker against both teams. We defeated a pair of top-75 RPI teams. I was really proud of what we were able to accomplish this weekend.
On the balance of the attack…
We had to diversify out offense. McKenna can’t go through a season with 60 swings a night. After not a great game on Friday, I thought the right sides were really impressive, which took a lot of pressure off our outsides. Anne-Marie was huge for us in this match. We were able to spread the ball around to where they weren’t able to set a block effectively. Amber and Erin did a really nice job of distributing the ball.
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