ORLANDO – The 14-1, 8-0 UCF volleyball team will go for its third straight conference title over the weekend as the Knights are in Cincinnati, Ohio ready to compete in the second annual American Athletic Conference Championship.
UCF will take on Tulane Friday afternoon at 2:00 p.m. in Fifth Third Area, the home of Cincinnati volleyball.
"We are going to put a great volleyball team on the floor that are going to play for each other and play for this school," said head coach Todd Dagenais. "They are going to go out there and give the best they've got."
If UCF defeats Tulane in the semifinal match, the Knights will move on to play the winner of Houston and Temple in the championship match Saturday at 3:00 p.m. ET.
Semifinals - Friday, April 2
No. 2 Tulane (West) vs. No. 1 UCF (East) – 2 p.m. ET/1 p.m. CT (ESPN+)
No. 2 Temple (East) vs. No. 1 Houston (West) – 5 p.m. ET/4 p.m. CT (ESPN+)
Final - Saturday, April 3
Semifinal winners – 3 p.m. ET/2 p.m. CT (ESPN+)
With the weekend sweep over South Florida, UCF secured a perfect, 8-0 record in conference play. The Knights also swept Cincinnati, ECU and Temple along the way.
The Knights outscored AAC opponents 24-1 in the regular season and dating back to 2017, UCF has won 49 of its last 51 matches in The American.
It is UCF's first undefeated conference season since 2018, when UCF won 24 straight and finished the regular season with a 27-3 record.
LOOKING TO THREEPEAT
The Black and Gold are headed to the American Athletic Conference Volleyball Championship looking for their third straight conference title as they were crowned regular season conference champions in 2018 after posting a perfect, 18-0 record in conference play and last season, UCF won the inaugural AAC Championship Tournament to go back-to-back. The Knights defended home court, emerging as the tournament's No. 3 seed with a four-set win over No. 6 Tulsa, a sweep of No. 2 SMU and a five-set comeback win against No. 1 Cincinnati at The Venue in Orlando, Florida.
This year, the Knights are primed to repeat as they have rolled through conference competition to this point, going 8-0 against AAC opponents and 14-1 overall on the season, only falling to RV Florida State in five sets.
The Knights are leading the American Athletic Conference in a number of categories this season as UCF currently paces the league in blocks (2.93 per set), win-loss percentage (.933), opponent hitting percentage (.151), service aces (103) and more.
UCF has proven itself to be on of the best blocking teams in the nation as they sit seventh in the country with 2.93 blocks per set. With her 1.45 blocks per set, Nerissa Moravec ranks 15th in the nation and first in the conference.
Meanwhile, on the offensive side of the ball, McKenna Melville paces all AAC players in points per set with 5.12, good for 13th in the country. Her 4.49 kills per set also lead the conference and are also good for 13th in the nation.
PLAYERS OF THE WEEK
UCF has had four conference Player of the Week awards in 2020-21 as Anne-Marie Watson and McKenna Melville were named the league's offensive player of the week on March 29 and Feb. 1, respectively, while middle blocker Nerissa Morvaec has twice been named the conference defensive player of the week as she received the award on Feb. 8 and March 15.
Moravec earned her first Player of the Week award after notching 13 block assists to go along with 12 kills in a weekend sweep over Tulane. She received the award again after she set the UCF match record for total blocks and block assists in a three-set match in the rally-scoring era with 11 block assists against Cincinnati on March 13. Between two three-set victories over the Bearcats, Moravec averaged 2.17 blocks 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.
Finally, Anne-Marie Watson was most recently named Player of the Week after guiding UCF to a season-ending sweep against rival South Florida to complete an undefeated 8-0 campaign in the East Division of The American. She averaged 4.17 points per set (fifth in the conference), a .385 hitting percentage (fourth in the conference) and chipped in 1.33 blocks per set (fourth in the conference) for the Knights during the series. Watson hit .364 with five block assists in three sets against the Bulls on March 26 and hit at a .412 clip with three block assists in the finale against the Bulls on March 27.
THE GREEN WAVE
The Knights made quick work of Tulane earlier in the season as the two squads did battle in Orlando, with UCF coming out on top twice, both in 3-1 wins.
In their last time out, Tulane swept AAC West Division opponent Tulsa to wrap up regular season competition, defeating the Golden Hurricane 3-1 on Friday before sweeping them on Saturday.
The Green Wave have put together a 5-1 record in their last six matches, winning three straight heading into the AAC tournament. In the 2019 AAC Volleyball Championship, Tulane defeated No. 4 Houston in a five-set thriller in the first round before falling to No. 1 Cincinnati in three sets in the second round.
Leading the Green Wave on both ends of the court this season is junior middle hitter Kayla Dinkins. In 71 sets of action in her third season Uptown, Dinkins has totaled 83.0 blocks to average 1.17 per set, ranking third in the conference. The Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, native has also recorded 165 kills to average 2.32 per set. After recording nine blocks (1.29 per set) and 21 kills (3.00 per set) in the team's 2-0 weekend over Tulsa, Dinkins was named to the final AAC weekly honor roll for the second time this season.
The freshmen have stepped up big for Tulane this season, as middle hitter Anna Davis and outside hitter Mackenzie Martin have helped to lead the way for the Olive and Blue offensively. Davis has totaled 147 kills (2.07 per set) in her first year with the Green Wave, recording a career-high 15 kills on 18 attacks with no errors to hit .833 (the second-best attack percentage in program history) in Tulane's win over USF and being named the AAC Offensive Player of the Week. In Tulane's win over Tulsa on Saturday, Martin totaled 19 kills while hitting .386, also adding 10 digs in her seventh double-double this season. The Port Orange, Florida, native has recorded 171 kills (2.71 per set) and 188 digs (2.98 per set) in her first season on the roster.
The Green Wave were picked to finish second in the West Division in the American Athletic Conference Preseason Coaches' Poll. Dinkins and Douglas were both named to the Preseason All-Conference Team.
For the second straight season, Tulane is a semifinalist in the American Volleyball Championship after putting together a 7-3 mark in the West Division in the regular season. The Green Wave came back from a 2-1 deficit as the No. 5 seed in last season's first round to defeat No. 4 Houston in five sets. Tulane previously captured the 2008 Conference USA title.
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