If there’s one thing UCF Volleyball has established, it’s consistency. Entering 2017, the Knights have won 18 matches or more in five of the last six seasons, to say nothing of their dominance in the classroom.
But consistency means reloading when others are rebuilding, and following the graduation of Jale Hervey and Taylor Gallart, the Knights have indeed reloaded for what may be an exciting two-to-three year run. Still, their murderer’s row of a schedule, combined with the addition of an excellent Wichita State club to the conference, means that this year will be a challenge.
Listen to a preview of the season with head coach Todd Dagenais on the Black & Gold Banneret Podcast here:
The coaches picked UCF to finish fifth in the preseason poll, but that’s due to a completely stacked league around them.
Newcomer Wichita State was picked first, followed by Cincinnati and Temple. This shouldn’t be a surprise, since the Shockers were a perennial power in the Missouri Valley Conference, having won three of the last four MVC titles, and having never finished worse than third in the regular season since 2002. SMU, the two-time defending conference champs, was picked fourth.
23-10, 13-7 AAC. A workmanlike year for the Knights finished with 20+ wins once again. This was no small feat – nine of the 11 teams in The American were .500 or better, and four finished with 20+ wins. Strangely, only Cincinnati got into the NCAA Tournament from a league that was 6th in conference RPI.
Who’s In Charge
Todd Dagenais. Dagenais enters his tenth year at UCF, making him the longest-tenured UCF Volleyball coach. At 165 career wins, he also stands 23 wins short of Laura Smith (188) for first all-time at UCF in victories. Lucy McDaniel, who won UCF’s lone national title back in 1978, has 182 wins, second behind Smith.
Who To Watch
#5 Kia Bright (Senior OH – Starke, Florida) – Two years removed from a devastating knee injury that derailed both her and the team’s 2015 season, Bright is back with a vengeance as the team’s leading returner in kills. The Preseason All-AAC First Team pick established herself as a top-flight two-way player last year, improving her defensive prowess to go with her explosive offensive skills. She will also be counted on for on-floor leadership.
#12 Taylor Wickey (Senior MB – Omaha, Nebraska) – The 6’4″ middle has been consistent as ever heading into this season, leading UCF in hit percentage (.353) and finishing second in blocks (126). If she were a baseball player, she’d be a singles and doubles hitter who led the league in average for 15 years.
#2 Erin Olson (Sophomore Setter – Cary, Illinois) – A transfer from Bradley, Olson may be the most talented setter UCF has had since Jenny Frank. As a freshman, she was 10th in the MVC in assists per set and third on her team in digs. In the Black & Gold Scrimmage, however, Olson put on a show offensively, with 43 assists and a couple of kills while displaying a power serve that UCF hopes to weaponize.
Who We’ll Miss
#1 Jale Hervey – Hervey’s charisma on the floor was unmatched, and her production will be hard to replace. She peaked at the end of last season, racking up 504 kills – the highest total in school history in the rally scoring era – on 1200+ attempts, and a team-high average of nearly five points per set.
Who’s on the Roster
- Two seniors (Bright and Wickey)
- Seven freshmen (two redshirts)
- Two sophomores saw considerable time last year (Jeannie Westney and Alli Sabol)
- Five Floridians
When the Big Matches Are
- September 1-2 vs. FAU, FGCU and Miami in Fort Myers
- Friday, September 15th vs. Virginia
- Sunday, September 17th vs. Ole Miss
- Sunday, September 24th vs. Cincinnati
- Friday, October 13th vs. UConn (Alumni Weekend)
- Friday, October 27th vs. Wichita State
- Wednesday, November 22nd vs USF (Senior Day)
- Saturday, November 25th at USF
The Last Time…
Last Conference Title: 2014. UCF still has two players on the roster from that team (Bright and Wickey again) which went 25-8 and 18-2 in The American en route to the Knights’ first NCAA appearance since 2003.
Last NCAA Appearance: 2014. The Knights lost to Miami in Gainesville in the first round. UCF last won an NCAA Tournament match in 2003, when they beat Cincinnati at the O’Connell Center in the first round.
What to Keep an Eye on
The schedule. UCF doesn’t play a home match until September 15th, which is the last weekend before conference play starts. UCF plays non-conference tournaments in Arkansas and Colorado, in addition to another at Fort Myers and one home tournament with Virginia and Ole Miss.