ORLANDO – As the Knights look to close out the regular season and defend their undefeated conference record, UCF will welcome rival South Florida to The Venue for two War on I-4 matches on Friday, March 26 and Saturday, March 27. Both matches are set to start at 7:00 p.m.
"I think [South Florida] is finding confidence and I think that makes them a very dangerous team to play against," said head coach Todd Dagenais. "We are looking forward to going up against that challenge."
If UCF wins both, the Knights will secure an undefeated conference record for the first time since 2018, when UCF won 24 straight and finished the regular season with a 27-3 record.
"The sign of an immature team is to look back and see what they have done. The sign of a mature team is to look forward and see what they have yet to accomplish. This team is not a team that looks back on anything."
Both matches will be steamed live on ESPN+.
WAR ON I-4
For the first time this year, the Bulls will take the bus up I-4 as the Knights will play host to South Florida for the first time since 2019, when the Knights swept the Bulls, 3-0 in The Venue. UCF also beat South Florida, 3-1 at their place earlier in 2019.
UCF has not lost to USF since 2012, or 3,133 days ago.
The last time UCF lost to South Florida,
- Obama was still in his first term
- The Apple Watch hadn't been invented yet
- Instagram Stories weren't a thing
- Call Me Maybe topped the charts
- The first Avengers movie just came out
- Disney had not purchased Star Wars yet
- The Knights were a part of Conference USA
- The iPhone 5 was state-of-the-art
The War on I-4 has been all Knights since the two programs joined the American Athletic Conference back in 2013. Not only has UCF never lost to USF since joining The American, but they have won by a combined score of 42-8. A victory would push their streak over USF to 15 straight wins.
The Knights are leading the American Athletic Conference in blocks, and it's not even close. At 2.92 blocks per set, UCF is sixth overall in the country.
With her 1.38 blocks per set, Nerissa Moravec ranks 22nd in the nation and first in the conference. She is currently just .3 attacks per set shy of meeting the NCAA minimum requirement to qualify for a national ranking in hitting percentage, but if she did qualify, she would be in the top 30 in the nation.
PERFECT IN CONFERENCE PLAY
UCF enters Friday night's match with a perfect, 6-0 record in league play, having swept Cincinnati, ECU and Temple along the way. If UCF's wins both against the Bulls, the Knights will secure an undefeated conference record for the first time since 2018, when UCF won 24 straight and finished the regular season with a 27-3 record.
The Knights are among the top 20 teams in the country with a .958 winning percentage as of March 24. UCF also ranked sixth in the country in blocks per set (2.92), 15th in aces per set (1.98) and 27th in opposing hitting percentage (.146) as of the March 24 NCAA statistics report. UCF currently ranks eighth in the latest NCAA RPI.
UCF has enjoyed two players being named conference players of the week. On Feb. 8 and more recently, March 15, Nerissa Moravec was tabbed as The American's defensive player of the week.
In game two against the Bearcats, Moravec set the UCF match record for total blocks and block assists in a three-set match in the rally-scoring era with 11. Between the two three-set victories, Moravec averaged 2.17 blocks per set. Following the weekend, Moravec is leading both the Knights and the conference in blocks (1.38 per set) and hitting percentage (.401). She is also fifth on the team in kills with 66 (2.19 per set).
On Feb. 1, McKenna Melville was named the league's offensive player of the week, marking the seventh of her career as she earned the distinction two times in 2019 and was a four-time recipient in her freshman season in 2018. Melville was unanimously tabbed the American Athletic Conference Preseason Player of the Year to begin the season in early January.
In 2020-21, Melville is again having a stellar season. Melville has remained among the top scorers in Division I volleyball this season while separating from the rest of The American. Melville ranked ninth in the latest NCAA standings with 5.34 points per set as of March 25. Melville was the conference preseason player of the year.
South Florida is an even 6-6 to this point in the season and 3-3 in conference play, good for third spot in the East division behind the Knights (12-1, 6-0) and Cincinnati (6-5, 4-2).
The Bulls are coming off a weekend that saw them split with 8-9 Tulane, a team UCF beat twice at home earlier in the season.
The Knights swept the Bulls, 3-0 in The Venue last season and also beat South Florida, 3-1 at their place. A win would give UCF 15 straight over the Bulls.
[On South Florida]
"South Florida has spent a good chunk of the year trying to figure out who they are. They have so many new people this year, but they have finally found the right lineup for them, and they are allowing their greatest athletes to go out and be successful for them. I think they are finding confidence and I think that makes them a very dangerous team to play against. We are looking forward to going up against that challenge."
[On the War on I-4]
"The War on I-4 means a lot to fans and it means a lot to the university, but we can't lose sight of what is most important for our program, which is continuing to move along and get better every week, regardless of who is on the other side of the net, and this week, that just so happens to be South Florida. They are the next two matches in front of us, and if we make anything more of it than that, we lose sight of what we are trying to do, which is be efficient, get better, and put ourselves in position to win whatever match we are playing. Our primary focus is on us."
[On looking to go undefeated in conference play]
"Going undefeated isn't go to change anything. [The team] couldn't tell you what our record is right now, which I like. I'm sure they know they haven't lost a match in conference yet, but they also know there is a 'yet' on the end of that sentence. The sign of an immature team is to look back and see what they have done. The sign of a mature team is to look forward and see what they have yet to accomplish. This team is not a team that looks back on anything."
FOLLOW THE KNIGHTS
Continue to follow UCF Volleyball on Facebook (/UCF.Volleyball), Twitter (@UCF_Volleyball) and Instagram (@UCF.Volleyball) for the latest on the UCF volleyball team.
GET THE APP
Never miss any UCF Knights news from your favorite team by downloading the free UCF Knights app right to your iOS or Android phone! The app provides personalized information for men's and women's teams, scores, schedules, loyalty programs and even breaking news. Download the app here.