In a dramatic five-set match between the last two unbeaten volleyball teams in The American, the UCF Knights knocked off the Cincinnati Bearcats for their 15th consecutive victory Sunday night, and are now firmly in the driver’s seat in the conference.
UCF is now 18-3, and 9-0 in The American. It’s UCF’s best start through 21 matches under head coach Todd Dagenais - even better than the Knights’ 16-5 start in 2014, the last time they won The American.
Following sweeping ECU in Greenville with plenty of UCF fans in the building because of the football team’s date with the Pirates the following evening, the win over Cincinnati was particularly significant for the Knights’ postseason hopes. The Bearcats were the third-best team in The American by RPI (#36), and were receiving more votes in the AVCA Coaches’ Poll than UCF by virtue of their 18-4 overall and 8-0 conference start.
Proud of my @UCF_Volleyball team conquering the most logistically complicated road trip and coming out with 2 season defining W's. 3 mths ago you tell me we are 18-3 with a chance at a VERY special season I'd have smiled and said "6 new starters" @UCFKnights Onto the 2nd Half !— Todd Dagenais (@ucfvbtodd) October 21, 2018
The Knights keyed on AAC Preseason Player of the Year and Team USA hopeful Jordan Thompson, who racked up 27 kills, but did so on 77 swings for a .157 percentage on the night. Thompson also tallied 15 errors, thanks to UCF setting a school record for team block assists with 41, including 12 each from Anne-Marie Watson and Kathryn Wesolich - both also school records.
The Knights await where they will land in the RPI after this win, with some projections having them moving up either into or on the doorstep of the top ten. If that holds up, UCF may have a shot at hosting the NCAA Tournament in December.
Yet, UCF remained unranked in the AVCA Coaches’ Poll heading into this weekend. Following this win, momentum is finally picking up for them to break into the Top 25.
UCF is now halfway through the conference slate and returns home - where they are 10-0 this season - for two matches this weekend: against Houston Friday night and SMU Sunday afternoon. There is no tournament in The American, so the regular season winner gets the league’s auto bid to the NCAA Tournament, which starts November 29th.