Nov. 13, 2009
By Sarah Tarasewicz
HATTIESBURG, Miss. (UCFAthletics.com) - The UCF volleyball team put up a good fight, but would eventually fall to Conference USA-leader Southern Miss, 3-1 (23-25, 25-22, 14-25, 20-25), Friday night at Reed Green Coliseum in its final league contest of the season.
The loss dropped the Knights' record to 11-18 on the season and 3-13 in conference play, while the Golden Eagles clinched the C-USA regular-season title with the victory, improving to 26-4 overall and 14-2 in league action.
"Congratulations to Southern Miss on winning its first C-USA Championship," head coach Todd Dagenais said. "They may not be the team that looks like they can physically dominate you, but what you cannot do is match their hustle and their heart. That is what makes a championship contender a champion."
UCF had three players tally double-digit kills in the contest, with senior Erin Campbell (Kansas City, Mo.) leading the way with 17 kills, while sophomore Kristin Fisher (Clearwater, Fla.) totaled 16 and freshman Evija Vilde (Riga, Latvia) added 11.
"I thought that Evija Vilde finally found a lot of offensive rhythm tonight," Dagenais said. "She was hitting nearly .700 through the first two sets, but Southern Miss did a really nice job of keying on her late."
Campbell was also one of three players to record double-digit digs against the Golden Eagles with 15, while also posting a career-high five assists, for her 13th double-double of the year. Freshman Meredith Murphy (Austin, Texas) had a match-best 24 digs and junior Kristen Petrasic (Carrollton, Fla.) registered 15.
The Knights looked like they would open the match with a first-set victory, leading Southern Miss 22-17 late, but seven errors from the visiting squad in the last nine points of the set let the home team come from behind to steal the win.
"It was very frustrating for us to hold another lead and see it evaporate on errors," Dagenais said. "We have to get used to being in the lead if we want to be a championship team. If we are good enough to get a lead, we are good enough to win a set. The days of being happy with just being competitive are long gone and just being competitive is no longer acceptable as the standard."
The Black and Gold would bounce back to hit .413 with 22 kills and only three attack errors to win the second set and even the match, 1-1. UCF and Southern Miss remained neck-and-neck though the majority of the game, before the Black and Gold took control with a 5-1 run, capped off by a Fisher block solo, to take a four-point lead. The advantage would stay with the Knights as a kill from Tory McCutcheon (Milton, Ontario) would close out the set.
"We really had to function at a high level in the second set to win," Dagenais said. "To score 22 kills for 25 points total, that is a high level of volleyball. While we do not expect to sustain that for an entire match, we expect to sustain leads when we have them."
McCutcheon finished the match just two kills shy of a double-digit performance, concluding the match with eight kills and a .312 attack percentage.
"I thought Tory McCutcheon was outstanding tonight," Dagenais said. "She has been a huge bright spot for us these last four weeks of conference play and I am proud of how she has impacted this team, especially after thinking that she wasn't going to play at all this year."
After the second-set victory, the Black and Gold just could not find its rhythm again, dropping the final two sets to the home squad.
The Knights conclude the 2009 season on Wednesday, Nov. 25 when they make the short trip to Tampa for a showdown with in-state rival USF. The match is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m.
"I am thankful that there is only one match left in the season," Dagenais said. "Not because I want the season to end, but because I don't want the season to end. As long as this season is going we are striving to improve and we are striving to conquer these weaknesses. We are going to keep fighting everyday in practice, whether we have a game or not, until compliance says that we can't practice anymore."
For the latest news on the Knights, log on to www.UCFAthletics.com - the official site for UCF varsity sports. The site, which also contains ticket and Golden Knights Club donor information, is also the home of UCF's new online apparel store. Also visit www.UCFPhotos.com, the exclusive fan source for UCF action sports pictures.