The UCF Knights are the 2018 American Athletic Conference champions.
#22 UCF (24-3, 15-0 AAC) swept the ECU Pirates at The Venue at CFE Arena on Sunday for their 21st consecutive win, clinching at least a share of the AAC regular season title, and by virtue of sweeping the season series with second-place Cincinnati, the Knights earned the conference’s automatic bid to the 2018 NCAA Volleyball Tournament.
The Knights’ young core again contributed heavily to the victory on offense. Freshman Briana Garcia led the team with 12 kills, and freshman McKenna Melville added 9 kills and 11 digs. Sophomore Kristina Fisher also hit double-figures with 10 kills, as did her fellow sophomore Anne-Marie Watson, who tallied eight.
But when the Knights got their trophy after the match, it was the lone senior and the team’s steady coach-on-the-floor, libero Jordan Pingel, who was the first player who raised it:
Pingel reflected on what she and her team were able to do in her final season on Twitter:
11 months ago I was sitting on the couch, post hip surgery, making 15 copies of this notecard... a daily reminder of what our eyes and hearts were set on. This team is the definition of turning a dream into a reality. Conference champs and we aren’t done yet! @UCF_Volleyball pic.twitter.com/DHyfn5BFVA— Jordan Pingel (@JordanPingel4) November 11, 2018
For the Knights, it’s the ninth conference title in the NCAA Division I era and their second under Todd Dagenais. He and Pingel shared their thoughts post-match:
We were rocking some new unis when we met with the media this afternoon.— UCF Volleyball (@UCF_Volleyball) November 11, 2018
Check 'em out pic.twitter.com/2iumBIpvMY
Not done yet
Even though they’ve clinched the AAC title, the season is not over for UCF, considering that there is no conference tournament. The Knights have three matches remaining: two on the road next weekend (Friday at RPI #143 SMU and Sunday at RPI #148 Houston), before wrapping the regular season at home on Senior Knight against South Florida (RPI #99) in the War on I-4 match on Wednesday, November 21st (the day before Thanksgiving).
The NCAA Selection Show is Sunday, November 25th at 8:30 p.m. on ESPNU. That when the Knights will find out if they host the first and second rounds at The Venue. Right now, UCF’s RPI is 11th, 10 spots ahead of Florida, who beat UCF head-to-head but is the only Sunshine State team with any possibility of hosting. It’s possible UCF may host even if their 21-match winning streak comes to an end between now and then, but it would help for them to win out and leave as little doubt as possible.
One more win would tie the program’s longest winning streak in NCAA Division I play at 22, which was set in 1997.
The NCAA Tournament starts Thursday, November 29th.