ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - There would be no fifth set for the UCF volleyball team as it took care of Rice, 3-1 (22-25, 25-22, 25-18, 25-17), Sunday afternoon inside The Venue at UCF. The Knights (15-9, 7-6) scored their first back-to-back wins over teams ranked in the RPI top-60 rankings for the first time under head coach Todd Dagenais (Houston 38, Rice 56).
Sunday afternoon also marked the first time UCF has ever swept Rice in a season series, and the first win over the Owls (13-11, 8-5) at home since 1999.
Dagenais's team has now won 10 matches at home for the first time under his watch, and most since 2003.
"What a historic weekend for our volleyball program and all the effort that these players put into it, and also the alumni who laid the foundation for us to be able to come out and knock off two top-60 teams," Dagenais said after the match.
"Rice and Houston-- there is no doubt about it that they are two teams that we haven't had a lot of success against," Dagenais added. "To be able to sweep the weekend is big for us. We still hold out the dream that we will be on the board come Selection Sunday. We had to win two this weekend to be able to do it and I am really proud of the effort of the entire team."
After the Knights dropped just their fifth opening set of the season, 25-22, the squad bounced back in the second to hold off Rice, 25-22. UCF was up 19-12 at one point, but the Owls put together a five-point run, eventually tying the frame at 22-all. The Black and Gold would rattle off three-straight points to win the stanza behind a Tory McCutcheon (Milton, Ontario) and Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia) block assist and two Angelica Crump (Atlanta, Ga.) kills.
The third set again belonged to the Knights as freshman DeLaina Sarden came up huge in the frame with five kills and four total blocks, including two solo swats. The freshman from Lawrenceville, Ga., finished the match with her second-straight double-digit kill effort (10) and six total blocks for the fourth-consecutive contest.
Up 2-1 in the match, the Knights finished off Rice 25-17 behind the stellar play of outside hitters Crump and Vilde. The duo combined for seven kills each, and 14 of the team's 19 daggers in the fourth. Crump finished the contest with a team-high 21 kills (.321) with Vilde nabbing 14 (.214). Senior setter Rachel Vukson (Oakville, Ontario) dished out a match-high 53 assists, including 14 in the final stanza.
On the afternoon, Sarden wasn't the only freshman to reach double-digit kills as fellow rookie Ashley Gialenios (John's Creek, Ga.) ripped off a career-high 10 of her own to hit .323. On the defensive end, junior Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas) tied her season-high in digs with 25, and fellow defensive specialist Dani Harrison (Tallahassee, Fla.) dug out a season-high 19 shots for her third-straight double-digit effort in the category.
The Knights will venture back onto the road as they head to Memphis, Tenn., to take on the Tigers in a double-header on Thursday and Friday.