The 2023-24 UCF Knights Athletics season is underway, and in honor of UCF’s accession into the Big 12 Conference, we will present our version of 12 for 12. For the next 12 days, we will tackle what we think are the 12 biggest questions facing UCF Athletics in the coming year across all sports.
Our next question focuses on the team that had the most success in The American:
4. What is life after Todd Dagenais and McKenna Melville going to look like for UCF Volleyball?
Jeff: One thing that UCF Volleyball did a fine job of was shoring up recruiting with Big 12-level talent in advance of the move. You could win the AAC with undersized but athletic players, which — please don’t tell her I said this — McKenna Melville was, even at 6-1.
In the Big 12, your outside hitters pretty much have to be 6-3 or taller to compete, and 6-3 volleyball talent doesn’t just grow on trees. Fortunately, Jenny Maurer, who was the chief recruiter under Todd Dagenais, is the head coach now and knows the precise geographic coordinates of where those trees may exist.
That’s how UCF was able to get some of the talent we’ve seen shine early in the year, like Avah Armour, Abby Hansen, and Lauren Clark. Even if this year isn’t the best, the foundation is laid for consistent success.
Bryson: Athletes like McKenna Melville come around once in a long time. Losing both her, setter Amber Olsen, and a long-tenured head coach means that a lot of change is happening at the top of this UCF Volleyball team.
However, the promotion of Jenny Maurer and the returns of the middle blockers and Liberos provide a foundation for the team to build off of going into this debut season in the Big 12.
I think we’re going to see kills much more evenly split between the players (something we saw in their season-opener against Navy where four Knights got nine kills or more), with middle blockers Abby Hansen and Claudia Dillon factoring in more offensively. However, I also think we’re going to see some growing pains with the team needing to mesh with a new setter in redshirt freshman Abby Schomers.
It will be painful, especially with the major jump in competitive quality from the AAC to the Big 12, but it’s not a complete rebuild.
Andrew: UCF did its best to mitigate Todd Dagenais’ departure by elevating assistant Jenny Maurer to head coach. The volleyball team needs to add size and they did that in this last class. Creating the least amount of ripples in the coaching change helps keep the roster intact.
McKenna Melville is a generational player. You can’t replace her dominance, so the team will need to play smart since they can no longer rely on her high kill rate. The program, despite setting records for season ticket sales, will take some steps back, but that is to be expected when losing a player of Melville’s caliber.