ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) – The UCF volleyball team came through with its biggest win of the season on Sunday as it topped Conference USA-leader Tulsa, 3-1 (25-22, 19-25, 26-24, 28-26), in front of a raucous crowd of 296 at The Venue. UCF earned its first conference home victory of the season and first victory over Tulsa since 2008.
The Knights (6-12, 3-3) won using energy and determination despite being out-killed, 68-50, and out-dug, 73-59, by the Golden Hurricane (13-8, 6-1). Tulsa came into the match with a 43-2 record in C-USA contests since the start of the 2010 season.
“I think the most important thing about today’s win is that it shows our players that playing with passion, effort and energy really pays off in games,” acting head coach Michelle Chatman said. “We talked about being great in every moment and this win really justifies that because we know we can compete with the best in our conference if we play like we’re capable of playing. I think this win can really springboard us and if we can continue to play with the kind of focus we used tonight.”
“This was a phenomenal team effort overall, Chatman continued. “We started with Kayla (Keller) at the beginning of the match because of her defensive capabilities, but Ashley (Gialenios) came in and played tremendous offensively and really carried us in the third and fourth sets. Angelica (Crump) stepped up and made big plays going swing-for-swing with (Tyler) Henderson in that fourth set.”
Gialenios, who did not play in the first two sets, came in and made an immediate impact offensively with 14 kills on a .444 attack percentage in the final two sets. Crump came up huge with a team-high 16 kills. DeLaina Sarden denied a season-high nine shots, three of them solo blocks.
UCF took the first set in large part to solid defense against the two-time reigning C-USA Player of the Year, Henderson. The front line held her in check to just four kills on nine chances (.111). The trio of Sarden, Crump and Loren Cory combined for 10 of the Knights’ 11 kills while aiding the team to a .308 hitting percentage. Freshman Dana Faught hoisted seven assists in the frame while five Knights registered a dig.
After dropping the second set, 25-19, UCF held an early 11-6 lead in the third set, as well as another at 23-17. Tulsa would go on a 6-0 run to tie the frame at 23-all, but UCF dug deep and received timely kills from Sarden and Crump to help take the stanza, 26-24. Gialenios took advantage of her first piece of action in the third, chipping in with seven crucial kills while hitting for .462.
In the fourth, UCF faced an early 7-2 deficit, but never gave in, eventually tying the frame at 17-all. From there, a slugfest emerged between Henderson and Crump as both outside hitters had nine kills in the final frame and seemingly went point-for-point down the stretch. However, it was Gialenios who put the final touches on the Knights’ victory with the final three kills.
The Knights head back on the road for two conference matches next weekend as they travel to Memphis on Friday and UAB on Sunday.