ORLANDO – For the third year in a row, UCF Volleyball (16-1, 8-0) is on the hunt for a national title as the Knights are set to open the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Omaha, Nebraska on Wednesday, April 14 at 3:30 p.m. The black and gold will do battle with High Point (16-0, 16-0).
"We are having a tournament. We actually made it to the days where we are having a tournament, and 48 teams are going to be able to compete for the national championship, which is a relief in itself because there was no guarantee of that happening," said head coach Todd Dagenais.
"It's nice that we actually arrived at this day and it's even more nice that we are here to be a part of it."
If UCF defeats High Point, the Knights will move on to face No. 7 Purdue in the second round Thursday at 3:30 p.m. ET. Purdue was one of 16 teams to receive a first-round bye.
BACK IN THE BIG DANCE
The Knights are back dancing for the third straight year after securing their third consecutive American Athletic Conference title.
This year marks UCF's 11th appearance in the NCAA Tournament. Most recently, the Knights took down Florida State in five-set fashion in the first round of the 2019 NCAA Tournament before falling to Florida in the second round.
In 2018, UCF hosted to begin the tournament. It was the first time in program history that the Knights were selected to host. UCF would go on to fall to FGCU, 3-2 in the first round.
The Knights have previously won in the first round and advanced to the second round three times in program history (1997, 2003, 2019).
UNDEFEATED IN CONFERENCE PLAY… AGAIN!
With a weekend sweep over South Florida to end the regular season on March 27, UCF secured a perfect, 8-0 record in conference play. The Knights also swept Cincinnati, ECU and Temple along the way in 2020-21.
The Knights outscored AAC opponents 24-1 in the regular season and dating back to 2017, UCF has won 51 of its last 53 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.
For the third straight season UCF claimed the top spot in the American Athletic Conference volleyball realm, defeating Temple by a 3-1 score on April 3 in the 2020 American Volleyball Championship Match at Fifth Third Arena in Cincinnati. The Knights secured their second consecutive tournament crown, to go along with the 2018 regular-season title and automatic NCAA bid, with set scores of 25-20, 24-26, 25-13, 25-20 against the Owls.
The Knights were also crowned regular season conference champions in 2018 after posting a perfect, 18-0 record in conference play and in 2019, 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.
The Knights are the sole American Athletic Conference team remaining in play this late into the season. UCF currently leads the conference in a number of categories this season, pacing the league in blocks (2.85 per set), win-loss percentage (.941), aces per set (1.95), assists per set (12.67), hitting percentage (.264), kills per set (13.72) and more.
UCF has proven itself to be on of the best blocking teams in the nation as they sit eighth in the country with 2.85 blocks per set. With her 1.38 blocks per set, Nerissa Moravec ranks 21st 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 5.17, good for 10th in the country. Her 4.58 kills per set also lead the conference and are also good for 11th in the nation.
UCF logged the best showing of all teams in The American in the April 4 release of the NCAA RPI, sitting fifth in the ratings that were released following NCAA Championship selections. The Knights landed in the Bottom Right Regional in a pod with No. 7 seed Purdue (53rd RPI) and No. 10 seed Oregon (54th RPI) as possible opponents playing toward the regional final.
The American Athletic Conference announced its 2020-21 All-Conference regular season awards on April 5 and McKenna Melville was tabbed as the league's Player of the Year while three Knights in total were named to the All-Conference teams. Anne-Marie Watson and Melville were named All-Conference First Team while Nerissa Moravec garnered second team honors.
The honor marks Melville's third and Watson's second as the duo were also named First Team in 2019 after their historic run last season. Moravec earns the recognition for the first time in her career.
Melville and Houston's Abbie Jackson were the only unanimous all-conference selections after appearing on the first team on all 10 possible ballots in voting conducted by the league's 11 head coaches. Melville joined DeLaina Sarden (2014) as UCF winners of American Player of the Year following a banner season for the league champion Knights. She currently leads The American with 5.18 points per set and 4.58 kills per set, hitting at a .278 clip, with her points per set ranked 10th and kills per set average ranked 11th in the NCAA as of April 11. Melville's 712 total attacks also have set the pace in the conference.
Boasting a 16-0 record against only league opponents, High Point is one of just six teams in the nation that went undefeated in 2020-21.
The Panthers dropped just seven sets all season, winning 48 of 55 sets they played all year, including opening the season with sweeps in seven of their first eight matches.
On the court, the Panthers are anchored by libero Abby Bottomley and middle blocker Kaley Rammelsberg, who were both just named AVCA All-Region, with Bottomley on the Southeast All-Region First Team and Rammelsberg an honorable mention.
Bottemley finished the regular season 31st in the country with an average of 5.18 digs per set and 30th in aces per set with a mark of 0.49. This season, she became the second player in program history and sixth player in Big South history to record 2,000 digs in her career and enters the NCAA Tournament with 2,104 digs to her name - the second-most among active Division I players.
Meanwhile, Rammelsberg was last year's Freshman of the Year and earned First Team All-Conference honors this year after leading the conference with a .471 hitting percentage. She totaled 131 kills in 240 attacks this season while committing just 18 errors. Not only was she one of the best hitters in the conference, she was also one of the best hitters in the country this year, sitting third in the nation in hitting percentage behind a pair of middles from Florida State and is one of just 24 players to hit above .400. Rammelsberg hit .500 or better in six matches where she had at lead 10 attempts and led the Panthers in hitting percentage in seven matches this season.
The Knights are 2-0 all-time against High Point, with their last matchup coming in 2009, where UCF won 3-1.
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