ORLANDO – The UCF volleyball team is set for the American Athletic Conference Championship match as the Knights will do battle with Temple on Saturday at 3:00 p.m. for the conference title.
"I think we have a pretty experienced team that have been in this situation before, which is always a positive," said head coach Todd Dagenais. "So, that stability on the court is going to be nice to lean on if things get crazy, which they always do in a tournament situation."
UCF is in search of its second straight American Volleyball Championship win (third overall counting 2018 regular-season title), while Temple will make its first league championship match appearance since finishing as the runner-up of the Atlantic 10 tournament in 2005.
If UCF defeats Temple in the championship match, the Knights will secure an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament for the third year in a row. UCF took down Florida State in the first round of the tournament last season before falling to Florida at their place. If UCF were to make it to the tournament again this season, it would mark their 11th appearance in the big dance.
Semifinals - Friday, April 2
No. 1 UCF (East) 3, No. 2 Tulane (West) 2 (19-25, 25-21, 26-24, 22-25, 15-9)
No. 2 Temple (East) 3, No. 1 Houston (West) 1 (18-15, 25-23, 25-14, 25-18)
Final - Saturday, April 3
No. 1 UCF (East) vs. No. 2 Temple (East) – 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.
[On playing for a third straight conference title]
"I think we have a pretty experienced team that have been in this situation before, which is always a positive, especially since we are sprinkling in some players who haven't been there before, so that stability on the court is going to be nice to lean on if things get crazy, which they always do in a tournament situation."
"You knew, once they put it all together, they were going to be a very dangerous team. The result of tonight's match did not shock me at all… they were coming in hungry and confident. I think we will be playing the hottest team in the conference tomorrow."
[On the strength of the AAC]
I think a lot of people had no respect for the conference this year, but I think this proves how good this conference is from top to bottom… I think the East division had three NCAA Tournament teams, and I thought the West division had two at least. This is a really tough, multi-bid conference, and tomorrow's match is really going to be a fun one."
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.