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KnightCap: Volleyball Heads to NCAAs, Men’s Soccer Rolls

Tennis keeps winning

Nerissa Moravec Volleyball
Nerissa Moravec
Photo Courtesy: UCF Athletics

Another big weekend of UCF Knights sports brought home some big wins, including a conference championship. We review all the action here and name the Knights of the Week in your latest KnightCap:

Volleyball Will Face High Point in NCAA First Round

After winning The American for the third year in a row, the UCF Knights Volleyball team is back in the NCAA Tournament, and they will face the High Point Panthers in the first round of the dance in Omaha, Nebraska, on April 14th:

It’s a pretty favorable draw for the Knights, who would face Purdue in the second round, if they get past High Point.

The Knights clinched their third consecutive conference title on Saturday with a victory over Temple in the AAC Championship Match. You can catch a full recap of the tournament here:

In addition on Monday, UCF cleaned up in the conference postseason awards:

Head coach Todd Dagenais was named The American’s co-Coach of the Year alongside Bakeer Ganesharatnam of Temple:

McKenna Melville won conference Player of the Year. She’s the first UCF Knight since DeLaina Sarden in 2014 to do that:

Melville also made All-Conference First Team along with the impeccable Anne-Marie Watson. Nerissa Moravec, who was beyond outstanding for the Knights all year in the frontcourt, made the Second Team. - Jeff Sharon

UCF Men’s Soccer Knocks Off Rival SMU 2-1 on Senior Night

UCF Men’s Soccer overcame giving up a goal 3 minutes into the match with two second-half goals to register a 2-1 win over arch-rival SMU.

Lucca Dourado evened the match in the 64th minute with his first career goal as a Knight.

Gino Vivi would end up scoring the game-winner in the 75th minute.

The win was UCF’s fifth in a row and its second over SMU this season. This one was a little extra special as it came on Senior Knight, when players such as goalkeeper Yannik Oettl were honored.

With the victory, UCF is now in first place in the American with 18 points (6-3-0). The Knights are two points ahead of Tulsa, which lost at Temple on Saturday. A UCF win at Memphis on Friday along with a Tulsa loss at SMU on Tuesday would lock up the Knights’ third straight American Athletic Conference regular-season championship.

Up Next: At Memphis on Friday - Eric Lopez

No. 13 UCF Men’s Tennis Beats USF, Tulane in AAC Play

The 13th-ranked Knights continued their red-hot play by getting three more wins against ranked teams over the weekend. They concluded Sunday by beating No. 25 Tulane, 5-2, for their seventh consecutive match victory. It pushed their overall record to 15-3. Alan Rubio clinched the match with his three-set win over Ewan Moore. Gabe Decamps, the No. 4 men’s singles player in the nation, kept up his torrid pace by besting No. 29 Hamish Stewart in a third-set tiebreaker. Decamps is now 16-2 in singles this season.

One day before the Tulane win, UCF topped No 37 South Florida, 4-3. Each victory in this seven-match win streak has come against ranked opposition. That includes the Knights’ dramatic, come-from-behind 4-3 win over No. 14 Wake Forest on Wednesday. That was capped by Decamps’ three-set W in the day’s decisive match.

Up Next: April 11 vs. UNF - Eric Lopez

No. 16 UCF Women’s Tennis Splits in State of Oklahoma

No. 16 UCF Women’s Tennis team earned its fifth straight win on Saturday night, beating No. 41 Oklahoma State, 4-2, in Stillwater. It was the Knights’ fourth win over a ranked opponent in 2021 and its fifth Power 6 victory of the season. Nandini Sharma earned the clinching point on court six. After falling in the first set, Sharma bounced back to win a tough second stanza and cruised in the third set to defeat Daniella Medvedeva 1-6, 7-5, 6-0.

However, on Sunday, UCF’s win streak was snapped when it lost to No. 33 Oklahoma, 4-1, in Norman. The Knights are 12-4 on the year.

Up Next: Friday vs. South Florida - Eric Lopez

UCF Baseball Splits with South Florida

The UCF Knights’ pitchers deserved a better fate than a four-game split this past weekend against the South Florida Bulls. The offense just couldn’t do enough to provide it.

The Knights began the series with a 5-2 victory on Thursday night. Starting pitcher Colton Gordon wasn’t as dominant as some of his other recent outings, but he was still plenty good. He allowed two runs over six innings and struck out eight. David Litchfield got the final five outs to pick up the save. Gephry Pena was a star in the field and at the plate. His diving catch in the fifth inning saved at least one run. He then scored the tying run in the sixth and added a two-out, two-run single in the ninth.

Litchfield earned another save in Saturday’s finale, his third of the year. He pitched the final two innings after AJ Jones flummoxed the Bulls through seven innings of work. The senior starter didn’t allow his first hit until the seventh inning. Freshman phenom Alex Freeland had three of the team’s five hits in the 3-0 triumph.

But those wins bookended a doubleheader sweep by the Bulls on Friday, two games where USF generally silenced UCF’s bats for 18 innings.

The Knights had their chances in Game 1, but went 1-for-6 with runners in scoring position. USF won that game, 6-2, before starting pitcher Collin Sullivan shut down UCF in the second game to get the win in a 3-1 affair. Sullivan came within one out of throwing a complete game, allowed just three hits and one unearned run, and he struck out nine.

UCF’s offense hit .157 for the weekend and went 6-for-33 with runners in scoring position. The split in the first conference series put the Knights’ season record at 12-16.

Up next: UCF will visit the Cincinnati Bearcats for four games this weekend. The Bearcats (11-14) are still looking for their first conference victory after getting swept over the weekend in a four-game set by the No. 11 East Carolina Pirates.

The series opens with a doubleheader Friday before afternoon starts on Saturday and Sunday. - Brian Murphy

No. 21 UCF Softball Drops 3 of 4 at Tulsa

UCF fans know how their teams do not play well at Tulsa. That includes UCF Softball as the Knights dropped three out of four at Tulsa to fall to 25-9 overall and 5-3 in the AAC. UCF is now all-time 7-20 as visitors against the Golden Hurricane and have lost seven of their last eight games in Tulsa. As a result, UCF finds itself down two games in the AAC standings, behind Wichita State, South Florida and Tulsa.

The Knights will continue their nine-game road trip this weekend at East Carolina. The Pirates, like the Golden Hurricane, will be coming off their bye week when the series opens with a doubleheader on Friday.

Up Next: at East Carolina on Friday-Sunday - Eric Lopez

UCF Men’s Golf Has Strong Showing in Augusta

The UCF Men’s Golf team recorded an 858 (-6) to finish in a tie for sixth place at the Augusta Haskins Award Invitational in Augusta, Ga. The Knights tied with No. 6 Arizona State. No. 3 Oklahoma State won the invitational with a score of 827 (-37).

Johnny Travale shot a 71 (-1) on the final day to end up tied for sixth among individuals. He shot a 209 (-7).

Up next: AAC Championship beginning on April 23.

UCF Track and Field at South Florida Invitational

Rayniah Jones posted a time of 13.35 to win the 100 meters. In total, UCF won three events at the South Florida Invitational.

Up next: Miami Alumni Invite on Friday and Saturday

Rowing Picks Up 8 Wins at Sunshine State Invite

The UCF Rowing team closed out the Sunshine State Invite with four victories on Saturday following four wins on Friday. They were led on Saturday by The Varsity Eight, which finished in 7:31.67, more than 5 seconds ahead of second-place Clemson.

Up Next: Host Miami on April 16

Knights of the Week

McKenna Melville, Volleyball

Melville led UCF to its third straight AAC Championship this past weekend. She racked up 25 kills, 11 digs and hit .350 for her second double-double of the weekend and eighth of the season in Saturday’s title-clinching win over Temple.

Melville was named the tournament’s Most Outstanding Player, an honor she also earned in 2019. She joins UCF Athletics Hall of Famer Tyra Harper as the only Knights to win MOP honors twice. Harper did it in 1996-97.

Melville’s résumé now includes three AAC championships and three NCAA Tournament appearances in three seasons. She ranks 7th in program history in career kills with 1,348, 20 behind Kia Bright for sixth place. She is only 27 digs shy of becoming the sixth Knight ever to reach 1,000 kills and 1,000 digs in a career, joining Mirian Metzcus (1991-94), Tyra Harper (1994-97), Renata Menchikova (1995-97), Erin Campbell (2006-09) and Kia Bright (2014-17).

On Monday, Melville became the eighth player in program history to be named conference player of year.

Rayniah Jones, Track and Field

Two weeks after setting the UCF freshman record in the 100-meter hurdles, Jones improved her own mark in the event by one one-thousandth of a second, crossing the line with a winning time of 13.35 Saturday.

Jaleesa Leslie, Women’s Tennis

On Saturday, Leslie earned a straight-set victory over Oklahoma State’s Lenka Stara — 7-6 (7-2), 6-3 — to become the first Knight to reach 10 wins this season. Leslie’s singles victory on Sunday against Oklahoma accounted for UCF’s lone point of the match. Leslie is 11-3 in singles this season.

Johnny Travale, Men’s Golf

Travale finished tied for sixth place among individuals with a score of 209 (-7) last weekend. It was the third time this season that Travale had recorded UCF’s lowest score.