Knights Set to Begin NCAA Tournament

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Thursday, Dec. 5 | 4:30 PM
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ORLANDO, Fla. - The UCF Volleyball team (24-7, 14-2) is set to take on the Florida State Seminoles (19-9, 9-3) in the first round of the NCAA Tournament Thursday at 4:30 p.m. The match will be held at Exactech Arena at the Stephen C. O'Connell Center in Gainesville, Fla. and will be streamed live via ESPN3. Fans can stream the broadcast here.

With Florida, Florida State, and Alabama State being the other three teams in Gainesville this week, the first-round pool for UCF is almost the same as last year's, with the only difference being Alabama State replacing FGCU. If the Knights defeat the Seminoles, they will then advance to play in the second round Friday at 7:00 p.m., against the winner of the match between No. 12 Florida and Alabama State.
When UCF secured its third American Athletic Conference title in late November, it secured a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the tenth time in program history. After making the tournament last year, it is the first time the Knights have made back-to-back appearances in the tournament since 2001-2003, and the first time under Dagenais.

"I think we have faced a lot of challenges this year. We have faced a lot of challenges on the other side of the net and a lot of challenges on our side of the net," said UCF Volleyball Head Coach Todd Dagenais. "We are prepared because of all of the challenges that we have faced. Of course, Florida State is a great challenge. They are a tough ACC team…. It is going to be a significant challenge for us, but I feel like it is a challenge we are prepared for."

Thursday will be the Knights tenth foray into the NCAA Tournament. UCF reached the big dance last season, losing to FGCU, 3-2 in the first round. Before that, in 2014, after winning the American Athletic Conference title. In eight previous trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Black and Gold have reached the second round twice, coming in 1997 and in 2003. The Knights reached the AIAW National Championship Tournament in four consecutive seasons between 1977 and 80, winning the 1978 National Championship.

In the latest RPI, UCF is up to 24 and they are back to receiving votes in the American Volleyball Coaches Association Coaches Poll. The Knights are 11-5 this season against AVCA top-100 teams and 4-4 against AVCA top-50 teams.

The Knights have posted a 24-7 overall record to this point in 2019 and, after reaching a season-high 10 match winning streak back in early November, they are back to having won five straight matches. The Black and Gold have won 17 of their last of their last 19 matches and 14 of their 24 victories have occurred in straight sets.

With the conference title victory two weekends ago, Dagenais amassed 236 career wins with the Knights to tie Lucy McDaniel as the winningest head coach in UCF Volleyball program history. If the Knights defeat FSU on Thursday, Dagenais will hold the lone spot at the top all to himself.

Three Knights earned recognition at the end of the regular season in the form of three All-Conference First Team athletes.

Outside Hitters McKenna Melville and Kristina Fisher as well as Right-Side Hitter Anne-Marie Watson each received the honor of being named First Team All-Conference for their efforts throughout the 2019 season. The award marked Melville and Fisher's second as the duo was also named First Team after last season's historic run. Watson earned the recognition for the first time in her career after she was named Second Team All-Conference last year.

In addition to earning All-Conference First Team honors, Melville powered the Knights to their third overall and second straight American Athletic Conference title, posting 27 kills and 12 digs, and adding in four blocks in the conference championship victory. Melville finished the tournament with 59 kills, 37 digs and seven blocks to earn championship Most Outstanding Player honors. Watson kicked in 11 kills, a .375 hitting percentage and nine blocks in the title match to join fellow all-conference first-teamer Kristina Fisher (12 kills, 13 digs) on the American Athletic Conference Championship All-Tournament Team.

Tickets for the NCAA First & Second Rounds will go on sale Monday online (follow this link for purchasing) and at the Gator Ticket Office, located between Gates 1 & 2 of Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.

Reserved Seating – $10
Adult General Admission – $8
Child General Admission (12 & U) – $5

First Round Matches | Thursday, Dec. 5
Match 1 (UCF vs. Florida State) – 4:30 p.m.
Match 2 (Alabama State vs. Florida) – 7 p.m.

Second Round Match
Friday, Dec. 6, 7 p.m. (Winners of Match 1 & Match 2)
The Knights will look to take on the Seminoles to begin their run in the NCAA Tournament. The matchup will mark the first time the two have met in the NCAA Tournament, with first serve scheduled for 4:30 p.m. ET on Thursday. UCF is 7-28 all-time against FSU, with their last meeting resulting in a 3-0 UCF loss in 2016. The Seminoles have posted a 19-9, 9-3 record to this point in 2019 and were ranked as high as No. 22 in the AVCA Coaches Poll earlier this season. Their best performance of the season came in the form of a 3-0 sweep over then No. 3 Minnesota. The Seminoles made it to the NCAA Tournament last season, but fell to Florida in the first round in Orlando.

If the Knights defeat FSU, they will then move on to the second round of the tournament, where they will face the winner of Florida and Alabama State. UCF is 10-15 all-time against the Gators, with their last meeting resulting in a 3-1 UCF loss against a then ranked No. 4 Florida team. The Knights have faced UF twice in the NCAA Tournament, in 2002 and 2003, dropping both matches by a score of 3-0. Florida is 25-4, 16-2 on the season, including wins over then No. 25 Louisville, No. 23 FSU and No. 24 Missouri. The Gators were ranked as high as No. 7 in the country in the AVCA Coaches Poll earlier this season and captured their 24th SEC Championship with a 3-2 win over Texas A&M last weekend. They made it all the way to the Sweet 16 last season after defeating FSU and FGCU in the first and second rounds, respectively.

Alabama State
The other possible matchup for the Knights should they advance to the second round would be Alabama State. The Hornets earned their way into the NCAA Tournament with a 3-0 win over Prairie View A&M on Nov. 24 to collect their fourth consecutive Southwestern Athletic Conference volleyball championship. UCF has faced Alabama State twice in its history, sweeping them both times, with the last victory coming during last season's historic run. Overall, the Hornets have posted a 17-21, 11-7 record to this point in 2019.

[On the team's confidence after winning the conference title]
"I don't think our confidence has a whole lot to do with winning the conference. I think it has to do with the way we are playing. The way we are practicing. The way we are communicating. That is really what develops true confidence. Accomplishments don't always breed confidence. Knowing that you have the ability, under any circumstance, to go out and execute the fundamentals, that is what breeds confidence."
[On being prepared to face FSU]
"I think we have faced a lot of challenges this year. We have faced a lot of challenges on the other side of the net and a lot of challenges on our side of the net. We are prepared because of all of the challenges that we have faced. Of course, Florida State is a great challenge. They are a tough ACC team…. It is going to be a significant challenge for us, but I feel like it is a challenge we are prepared for."

[On FSU's strength and weakness]
"They have a lot of strengths… I think they have got middles that can score on you. They have great right sides. They run a 6-2 just like we do, so you can't really key in and hone in on any single one hitter. You can't overload on anybody… they are a tough team to play and they know what it takes to compete because they played in such a tough conference this year."
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