UCF, Melville Selected as Preseason Favorites

AAC Release

ORLANDO, Fla. – Three-time American Athletic Conference Champion UCF has been selected to win the league once again in 2021 as the conference released its Preseason Volleyball Coaches' Poll on Wednesday. The preseason rankings were voted on by the conference's 11 head coaches.
In addition to being selected as preseason favorites, UCF senior McKenna Melville was unanimously selected yet again as the Preseason Player of the Year in the conference. Melville, along with teammate Anne-Marie Watson, were both named to the Preseason All-Conference Team.
The Knights are projected to claim the top spot in the conference again this year, receiving 10 out of 11 first-place votes to claim the top spot in the poll over Houston who received one first-place vote.
This marks the fourth time the Knights have been voted as the favorite to win the conference as they were tabbed preseason favorites in 2015, 2019, and 2020.
"It's great that the other coaches in the conference right now feel that we might be the best team in the conference, but we have to go out on the floor and earn it," Head Coach Todd Dagenais said, "We don't look at it as defending anything, but trying to win this year. We try to win one year at a time. We are a hungry team, and we act like we are fighting from the bottom up."


Melville has established herself as one of the greatest players in UCF history. Starting all 18 matches and 65 sets for the Knights in 2020-21, The senior had another historic season. She led the team with 296 kills and hit .272 on a team-high 772 attacks. The Eagan, Minn. native led the conference and was 12th in the nation with 4.55 kills per set while also leading the conference and 13th in the nation with 5.12 points per set.
Melville posted nine double-doubles in the 2020-21 season, including a 21-20 performance in the first round of the NCAA Tournament against High Point.
Defensively, the outside hitter notched 193 digs (2.97 per set), good for second on the team, and added 34 blocks, including seven solos.
Melville was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-America Second Team, AVCA Southeast All-Region, AVCA All-America Honorable Mention, and Third Team All-America.  She was named the 2020 AAC Player of the Year, the 2020 AAC Tournament Most Outstanding Player and All-Tournament team, and unanimously named to AAC First Team All-Conference.
"There is not a more well-rounded player in the league in terms of hitting for percentage, hitting for average, passing, blocking numbers, and serving numbers," Dagenias said, "She is the most complete player in the league. It's an honor that she has worked hard for and absolutely deserves. I think it's also a good honor for her to be recognized for because she gets the conference recognition by the way she plays."

To cap off the preseason recognition, UCF had two players named to the preseason All-Conference team in Melville and Anne-Marie Watson.
Watson, who enters her fifth year with the Knights in 2021, has continued to make an impact on the right side for the black and gold. The Oviedo, Fla. product not only proved to be an offensive weapon for UCF, posting the second highest kills on the team with 145 kills, but she was also a force on the defensive side of the ball. Watson was third on the team with 65 blocks (1.00 per set), including three solos, and added 33 digs on the season.

Watson posted a season-high 13 kills in the AAC Championship 3-1 win over Temple and a season-high six blocks in 3-0 sweep over Cincinnati. She is the Knight's record holder for most block assists in a single season after she posted 151 of them in 2019.
She was named AAC Player of the Week on 3/29 and was named to the All-AAC first team and to the 2020 AAC Championship All-Tournament Team.
Below is a breakdown of The American preseason awards:

2021 American Athletic Conference
Volleyball Preseason Coaches' Poll

American Predicted Order of Finish
(Teams cannot vote for themselves)

Team (1st Place Votes)Points
 1.   UCF (10)         100
 2.   Houston (1) 80
 3.   SMU 66
 4.   Tulane 64
 5.   Cincinnati 61
 6.   Temple 58
 7.   South Florida 34
 8.   Wichita State 33
 9.   Tulsa 24
 10. East Carolina 18
       Memphis        18

Preseason Player of the Year
McKenna Melville, Sr., OH, UCF*
Preseason All-Conference Team
McKenna Melville, Sr., OH, UCF*
Anne-Marie Watson, R-Sr., RS, UCF*
Bri Wood, Sr., RS, East Carolina
Annie Cooke, So., S, Houston
Kortlyn Henderson, Sr., OH, Houston
Abbie Jackson, Jr., OH, Houston*
Marta Cvitkovic, So., OH, South Florida*
Falanika Danielson, So., S, Temple
Gem Grimshaw, Sr., OH, Temple
Kayla Dinkins, Sr., MH, Tulane
Lexie Douglas, R-Sr., OH, Tulane*
Sophia Rohling, So., RS, Wichita State
*denotes unanimous selection