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Heartbreak: UCF Volleyball’s NCAA Run Ends in Five-Setter to UCLA

Knights come up oh-so-close vs. 10-seed Bruins in LA

Noah Goldberg

The UCF Knights Volleyball team again saw their dreams of reaching the second weekend of the NCAA Tournament thwarted on the floor of a nationally-seeded team on Saturday.

This time, it was the 10-seed UCLA Bruins who ended UCF’s season, coming back from 2-1 down to knock off the Knights in five sets at historic Pauley Pavilion.

It’s the second time in the last three seasons and the third time since 2003 that UCF has reached the second round only to get beaten by the host team in the round of 32. But this time was different, as this match went the distance.

UCF jumped out to a 1-0 lead with a 27-25 first set before UCLA evened things in the second. The Knights then won the third set 25-19, in back of Claudia Dillon, who finished with 11 kills and 6 blocks.

UCF then had as much as a 13-8 lead in the fourth, until UCLA and Mac May ripped off seven points in a row to take the lead. UCF fought back to retake the lead at 17-16, but the Bruins closed it out to force a 5th.

May finished with an incredible 25 kills on 62 swings.

In the fifth, UCLA went hard after UCF’s freshman libero Katelyn Grimes, who finished wth 13 digs. UCLA won six straight points to take a 7-1 lead, with May scoring three, and McKenna Melville erring on three swings. From then it was pretty much over.

Anne-Marie Watson tallied 6 kills and 6 blocks, and Nerissa Moravec put up 6 kills and 9 blocks in their final matches as Knights.

Melville’s astounding season came to an end at the hands of the Bruins, who keyed on her the entire match, holding her to just 14 kills on 63 swings with 14 errors, resulting in a .000 hit percentage.

How good was UCLA’s defense on the nation’s leader in kills and points? It was the first time Melville had been held to zeroes in her entire career, spanning 429 sets.

UCF finished their 2021 season at 27-7 overall, and 19-1 in The American. 2021 marked four straight conference titles and five straight postseason appearances for the Knights. They also return Melville and setter Amber Olson for 2022, with Olson coming into next season 4th all-time in assists (2,756), and Melville poised to not only take the program’s all-time lead in kills (she has 1,986, just 165 behind Renata Menchikova), but possibly enter the top ten all-time in NCAA history, regardless of era, if she can eclipse 2,500.