The UCF Women’s volleyball team closed its invitational with a loss to the University of Georgia Bulldogs, 3-2, at The Venue on Saturday.
The loss came after the Knights won the first two games of the UCF Invitational against the Florida State University Seminoles and Florida Gulf Coast University Eagles on Friday.
“They fought," Knights Head Coach Todd Dagenais said in a press conference Saturday. "I think they gave it everything they had; they’re exhausted.”
Florida Gulf Coast University
The Eagles arrived in Orlando 6-0 but left with their first loss of the season at the hands of the Knights. The Knights managed a hitting percentage of .500 and seemed comfortable for a majority of the first set, winning 25-18.
The second set presented a different challenge, with the Eagles tying 12-12 with the Knights at one point. This didn’t last long, as UCF finished the set with a hitting percentage of .406 and a winning score of 25-18. The intensity had the Eagles gassed, and they weren't able to keep up in the third set as the Knights finished 25-15 to sweep the match.
Senior Tali Marmen recorded her first career double-double in the game, with 14 kills and 12 digs.
“This was a collective win,” Marmen said. “One of our goals for this game was to have everyone engaged and working together, whether that’s physically by executing, or mentally.”
Florida State University
The Knights won the first set of the game 25-20 after being tied 14-14. Tension thickened in the second set, with the score being 19-19 at one point, before the Seminoles dropped a 5-0 run to seal their 25-21 win.
UCF had a failed comeback in the third set, bringing the score to 24-23 after being down 1-8, but couldn’t finish the job as FSU scored three points to win it. The Knights battled back in the fourth set and won 15-13 in their fifth set to secure the win, marking their second victory of the day.
“It has been a banner day,” Dagenais said. “Beating a tough Florida Gulf Coast team who was undefeated and hadn’t even had a set taken off them, to then go out and beat Florida State, was the jewel on the crown.”
University of Georgia
The Bulldogs won the opening set of the game 25-20 after being down 8-3. Georgia picked up on the momentum from the set and led 9-3, but the Knights bounced back to eventually lead and win the second set 25-22.
The Knights opened the third set with an 11-8 lead before going on a 7-0 run that would help them secure their win of 25-20. The Knights went point-for-point in the fourth set, with the score being 21-20 at one point. They couldn’t beat the Bulldogs’ resolve, however, and lost the set 21-26.
The Knights had it tied up in the fifth set at 12 points, but a block from the Bulldogs' defense sealed the victory for Georgia, ending the Knights’ chance at an invitational sweep.
“We doubled their blocks, but they scored and I think that was the difference,” Dagenais said.
UCF seniors Mckenna Melville and Tali Marmen led the team in kills for the invitational, with 73 and 35 kills respectively. Despite the loss against Georgia, Melville achieved a career-high of 30 kills, surpassing her previous career-high of 27 kills against FSU.
“She’s so versatile: she can pass, she can play great defense, she can block," Dagenais said. "And obviously, she can attack and she’s a floor general; she leads the floor. (She's) just one of those people you’re glad is on your team.”
Dagenais said his biggest takeaway from the weekend was his team’s growth.
“We’re getting better," Dagenais said. "We continue to get better, and we want to be closer to the team that we’re gonna be in November as we open up conference play.”
The Knights will attend the Sunshine Classic and take on the University of Miami Hurricanes in the first game of the Classic in Boca Raton on Thursday. Dagenais said the team wants to go out there and be killers.
“We wanna go out and we wanna attack,” Dagenais said. “We know what we have, (and) we know what we’re capable of. We just get on the floor and make it happen."