|NCAA 1st Round: UCF vs No .25 Pepperdine
Friday, Dec. 3| 7:30 PM ET
LIVE STATS | WATCH
ORLANDO, Fla. – For the fourth year in a row, the UCF volleyball team (26-6, 19-1) will compete in the NCAA Tournament and the Knights are prepped to take on Pepperdine in the first round at 7:30 p.m. ET on Friday, December 3, from the Pauley Pavilion on the campus of UCLA in Los Angeles, California.
The first-round matchup will have live stats and can be streamed via ESPN+.
If UCF defeats Pepperdine in the first round, the Knights will move on to face the winner of No. 13 UCLA and Fairfield at 10:00 p.m. ET on Saturday, December 4.
"We are really excited to be in a different region in the United States and see how we stack up against each other and against fantastic volleyball programs," head coach Todd Dagenais said, "We cannot wait to play a team like Pepperdine. It's going to be fun."
The Knights closed out the regular season with a sweep over Tulane and a reverse sweep over Houston while on the road to extend to a 15-game win streak. UCF also posted 17 sweeps during its 32-match season. The Knights finished with a 19-1 conference record, which is its most single season conference wins since joining the American.
UCF won its fourth-straight American Athletic Conference title and fifth overall as the Knights won the regular season championship in 2018 after a perfect 18-0 record in conference play and winning The American volleyball tournament in each of the past two seasons. UCF was also the regular season conference champion in 2014, making it its fifth overall.
UCF was well represented in this year's conference awards. McKenna Melville was named the Player of the Year for the second year in a row as she leads the nation in points and kills. Amber Olson was named the Setter of the Year, becoming the first Knight to do so in the AAC.
Melville, Olson, Anne-Mare Watson and Claudia Dillon were all named to the All-Conference First Team while Nerissa Moravec was garnered All-Conference Second Team.
And lastly, head coach Todd Dagenais was named the 2021 Coach of the Year, his fourth in the American.
BACK IN THE BIG DANCE
This marks the Knights' fourth-straight NCAA berth and 12th in program history, including their fifth under Coach Dagenais.
For the first time since 1997, UCF will not play in the state of Florida in the first round of the NCAA tournament. UCF has made it to the second round three times in program history, first in 1997 with a sweep over Clemson, in 2003 with a five-set win over Cincinnati, and most recently, in 2019 with a five-set win over in-state foe, Florida State.
The Knights have faced six teams in the 2021 NCAA Tournament and collected an 8-8 record against them.
No. 25 Pepperdine (22-5, 14-4) earned an at-large bid to the NCAA tournament as the No. 11-seed BYU won the automatic bid. The Waves are on a four-game winning streak and are undefeated when at neutral sites.
Rachel Ahrens and Isabel Zelaya have led Pepperdine all season and both earned first team honors. Ahrens is highly ranked nationally and leads the West Coast Conference in kills per set (4.79), kills (484), and aces per set (0.50). Zelaya leads the WCC with 10.76 assists per set and 1,089 total assists and is also ranked nationally.
This will be the first meeting between the two teams since 1996.
Pepperdine is one of the most storied men's and women's volleyball universities in the country and it's going to be really exciting to play against them. They have a similar style to ours and I think both teams' serving and passing is going to be extremely important. Both teams have the ability to hit for massive offensive numbers when they're in system, so it's going to really be about the serve, pass, and block game.
[On the team energy]
The team is acclimating to everything, and I think there is an excitement and hunger to play. They're having fun together, but I know Friday cannot come fast enough for them. They are anxious to get on the court and compete. The scoreboard is going to say what it is going to say, we just have to compete and if we do that well, things will go in our favor.
[On being in the NCAA Tournament]
We're at the point in the development of the program that winning a conference championship and going to the NCAA Tournament is still a big deal, but now it's about what are we going to do with the opportunity. So being here isn't going to be as much of a distraction as it has been in the past. We've done that. We've been here a few times now and know what to expect. We've practiced this 32 times already and Friday is just going to be the 33rd time.
[On practicing at USA Volleyball Training Center]
It's exciting for the coaching staff to be reunited with the coaching staff of USA Volleyball and we have known the staff for many years. It was exciting being in the gym the year after they won the gold medal in the summer Olympics. There's an energy in there that fantastic things happen in that place. The team met with Karch Kiraly and he imparted some words upon them about their journey to Tokyo and actually sat off to the side and watched practiced. I know that made the team really excited.
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