Nov. 11, 2011
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By Andrew Jennette
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - Coming into Friday's match against Marshall, the UCF volleyball team decided to erase its record and instead focus on closing out its season one game at a time in order to keep their NCAA tournament hopes alive. The Knights (17-10, 9-7) did just that, and held off a furious rally and defeated Marshall 3-2 (27-25, 25-21, 20-25, 21-25, 15-12) at The Venue.
UCF's win over the Thundering Herd was the first home win over Marshall since 2008.
Head coach Todd Dagenais was pleased with his team's resiliency in the face of adversity.
"This was another one of these epic battles between UCF and Marshall," Dagenais said after the victory. "It has been this way since I've been here and will probably always be this way. We prepared to go five games. I was really excited about our ability to compose ourselves after dropping two straight sets. The last time we played at Marshall we lost 3-0, but two of the games were decided by two points. Every time we play Marshall it's close. They are extremely well coached."
UCF jumped out to an early lead, winning the first set 27-25, in large part to a balanced effort from the Knights' offense. Junior Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia) and sophomore Angelia Crump (Atlanta, Ga.) both posted six kills in the first frame. The Knights overall recorded a .576 attack percentage in the first set.
UCF picked up right where they left off in the second set, capturing the frame 25-21, thanks to some stellar all-around defense. The Knights only allowed Marshall to connect on .190 percent of its attacks in the second set. Senior Rachel Vukson (Oakville, Ontario) had a strong all-around effort in the second set with 13 assists, 4 digs, and 2 block assists. For the second time in two games, the Knights set their season-high in blocks, recording 18 in tonight's contest.
Marshall bounced back in the third set and captured the frame 25-20. The Herd were led in the third set by senior Cameron Yoho (Sisterville, W.Va.) who tallied five kills and two solo blocks. The Knights were led by freshman DeLaina Sarden (Lawrenceville, Ga.) who posted five kills on six attempts.
In the fourth set, UCF held a 21-18 lead until Marshall roared back with seven consecutive points to win the set 25-21. The seven consecutive points were the most consecutive points by either side on the night. Junior libero Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas) led the Knights defense with seven of her team-high 23 digs. This was Murphy's ninth 20+ dig effort of the season.
"When you're up two sets to zero, the one thing in the back of your mind is what adjustments is the other team going to make?" Dagenais continued. "They sat down and looked at their charts and found some different ways they wanted to attack us in the third and fourth sets. We didn't readjust to them fast enough really until the fifth set."
In the deciding fifth set, the Knights jumped out to 8-3 and 12-8 advantages before having their lead cut all the way down to 14-12. Crump's team-high 23rd and final kill was the deciding point in the contest. Dagenais was pleased with his team's offense during the final frame.
"As much as this was a defensive battle, we came up with 10 kills in the fifth game and won that set with our offense," Dagenais stressed. "We didn't hit for a great percentage, but we won that set with 10 kills and I couldn't be more excited with how our team reacted in a pressure situation."
UCF will return to the court Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m. when it hosts East Carolina in the final home game of the season. The Knights will honor their lone senior in Vukson as well as their senior student director of volleyball operations Katie Duggan.