The Knights had plenty to celebrate in their record-breaking 2011 campaign that saw them win 20 matches for the first time since 2003 and notch a program-best 12 wins in Conference USA. We look at the No. 1 moment from 2011 as the 2012 Knights practice for the first time today in their pursuit of another memorable season.
Setting the Stage
It was early in the 2011 season and UCF was coming off of a 2-1 showing in its season-opening tournament at home with wins over South Alabama and North Florida. Traveling down to Fort Myers for the Homewood Suites Invitational, the Knights knew their first opponent in the two-day event would be the toughest they would face all year.
Southern California came into the match ranked No. 3 in the country and featured one of the most dominant front lines in the game, including three All-Americans and the eventual AVCA Player of the Year, Alex Jupiter. Besides the chance for UCF to top its first nationally ranked opponent since 2003, the chance for head coach Todd Dagenais to face his mentor in USC coach Mick Haley was another intriguing storyline to the match.
It was an 11:30 a.m. start inside Alico Arena with the Knights and Trojans trading points and runs all the way to 8-all. Once the set hit that point, UCF took over and never looked back. The Knights went on a 5-1 run to push the lead to 13-9 and followed that up with a 5-0 run with freshman Kayla Keller at the service line in her collegiate debut to put the first set out of reach for the Trojans. UCF ended up closing out the frame on a Keller kill to win, 25-16.
The second set saw the Knights carry over their momentum from the first stanza as they used an 8-1 run early in the frame to jump out to a 10-3 lead. Fueling the run was Angelica Crump as she smashed five kills in the eight points scored. She closed out the set with eight kills and the Knights jumped out to a 2-0 lead with a 25-20 victory in the stanza.
In the third, the Knights and Trojans would battle back and forth in the tightly contested stanza. UCF held five-point leads at 10-5 and 11-6, but USC wouldn't go away quietly. The two squads traded points from 13-all until 18-all when the Knights received two kills from Crump and one from Evija Vilde to take a 21-18 lead. They would hold on for the win as Nichole Riedel smacked the game-winning kill to preserve the historic sweep.
After it was all said and done, Crump and Vilde led the squad with 15 kills apiece while Keller burst onto the scene with 12 kills and 13 digs in her first match as a Knight. Setter Rachel Vukson controlled the offense all day and notched 42 assists and 10 digs on her way to earning Sports Imports/AVCA and CVU.com National Player of the Week.
Due to the tournament format, the Knights weren't able to fully soak in what they had accomplished, but Dagenais was well aware of the significant accomplishment.
"We have so much respect for Southern California and their volleyball program," Dagenais said after the match. "Here we are going into the match just trying to build something special so that one day we can put ourselves in the league such as a USC who has done it year in and year out. We still strive to be a program like them. Obviously it was a nice milestone for us. They are who we would like to be someday, so it was an honor to play them and we are thankful for that opportunity."
"This win is a total program effort," Dagenais added. "It's not just for the people that are here right now, but for those who were here prior to this year. There are three years of teams who paid the price for us to have an opportunity like this, and those are the people we want to include in this."