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UCF Volleyball Knocks off #25 Pepperdine, Faces 13-Seed UCLA in NCAA 2nd Round Saturday

UCF aims for first-ever trip to the Sweet 16

Amber Olson UCF Volleyball
Amber Olson
Photo: Noah Goldberg

The UCF Knights Volleyball team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the second time in the last three seasons with a four-set win over the #25-ranked Pepperdine Waves at Pauley Pavilion in Los Angeles on Friday.

The Knights will face the host UCLA Bruins at 10 p.m. ET on Saturday night with a spot in the Sweet 16 on the line.

Get your coffee ready for a late night tilt on the west coast. Here’s what you need to know:

Game Day Guide

When: Saturday, December 4th, 10 p.m. ET

Where: Pauley Pavilion, on the campus of UCLA


How to Watch

Stream: ESPN+ (UCLA in-house telecast)

About Last Night

UCF jumped out to a 2-0 set lead before Pepperdine forced a fourth, but McKenna Melville put an end to all of that by taking over in the fourth. She finished with 25 kills and 18 digs.

She also hit a milestone by recording her 600th kill of the season, becoming the first Knight to do that since Leyre Santaella Sante back in the 2000 season. Even more remarkable is the fact that Melville is the first Knight to do this in the Rally Scoring Era.

Melville, Claudia Dillon and Anne-Marie Watson all hit over .300 while recording at least eight kills. Amber Olson also added 44 assists, and freshman Heidi Bonde performed admirably in place of Tali Marmen, with 9 kills on .318, including the clincher:

UCF did not serve particularly well in this match, committing 14 service errors to Pepperdine’s 7, but they made up for it with a 10-4 advantage in blocks.

Who’s next?

The 13-seed and host UCLA Bruins, who struggled with Fairfield last night on the home floor. Even though it goes down as a sweep, the Bruins needed extra points to finish off the Stags in two of the three sets:

The Bruins were primed to win the Pac-12 heading into the final match of the season, but lost freshman outside hitter Charitie Luper for the season prior to their tilt with USC. The Bruins lost in five, costing them the Pac-12 title.

Last night was their second match without Luper, who averaged 3.75 kills per set, behind only Mac May, who is averaging 4.82 and dropped 21 on Fairfield last night.

The Bruins hit just .255 for the match and got out-blocked, 11-7.

Still, UCLA finished the season 24-5, including a pristine 11-0 in Pauley Pavilion, and finished the regular season 13th in RPI and 14th in the AVCA Coaches’ Poll. For comparison, Pepperdine was 37th in RPI and 25th in the AVCA.

So you’re telling me there’s a chance?

Sure, there’s always a chance. But this is going to be even tougher than yesterday, playing an established program on their home floor 3,000 miles from home.

What’s at stake is history for UCF: The Knights have not made it to the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament in program history. They’ve come close a couple of times, but usually it’s Florida who stands in their way:

UCF Volleyball in the NCAA Tournament since 2000

Season Record Qualified Final RPI Location First Round Second Round
Season Record Qualified Final RPI Location First Round Second Round
2001 19-7 Won A-Sun 94 Gainesville L to FIU, 3-0 -
2002 22-13 Won A-Sun 112 Gainesville L to 5 Florida, 3-0 -
2003 23-7 Won A-Sun 72 Gainesville W vs. Cincinnati, 3-2 L to 3 Florida, 3-0
2014 25-8 Won AAC 35 Gainesville L to Miami, 3-2 -
2018 27-4 Won AAC 11 Orlando L to FGCU, 3-2 -
2019 25-8 Won AAC 24 Gainesville W vs. Florida St., 3-2 L to 10 Florida, 3-0
2020* 16-2 Won AAC 9 Omaha** L to High Point, 3-2 -
2021 26-6 Won AAC 22 Los Angeles ? ?
* - COVID season played in Spring of 2021, ** - Entire NCAA Tournament played in Omaha

This time is different, as the Knights are in Los Angeles against a Bruin team that looked a bit vulnerable last night against a team with an RPI of 117.

However, as we know, there are few things as dangerous as a wounded bear.

First serve is set for 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

P.S. A little something extra to watch:

The winner of UCF-UCLA faces the winner of 4-seed Wisconsin against Florida Gulf Coast. Consider the Badgers on Upset Alert, because this is a senior-laden FGCU team that has caused everyone problems the last few years, including UCF in 2019, and Texas Tech last night:

Those two face up tonight at 7 p.m., again on ESPN+, right before UCF-UCLA.