The UCF volleyball team didn't waste any time getting off to a hot start this season.
The Knights opened their season at the Radisson UCF Invitational, where they went 4-0 and didn't lose even a single set on the way to winning the tournament. The Knights had four players named to the all-tournament team, as well: sophomore outside hitters Kia Bright and Jale Hervey, senior libero Jade Hayes and senior middle blocker DeLaina Sarden.
"I feel like we played as a unit, everybody did a great job doing their specific jobs," Hervey said. "I thought the chemistry was awesome. This team has so much chemistry and we're very lucky to have this much chemistry because you don't find that on many teams."
Though UCF didn't drop a set all weekend, there were still times when it was difficult for the Knights.
In the final game of the tournament, against FIU, UCF got off to a rough start. After dominating the first three games, the team immediately found itself facing a 10-5 deficit in the first set of game four.
However, a few serving miscues by FIU were all that UCF needed to get back on top and take the first set by a score of 25-23.
After breezing through a second set that they eventually won 25-13, the Knights were again tested in set three, but again showed their ability to close. They eventually won the third and final set 25-17 and walked away with a game and tournament victory.
"In the fourth match, in that first set against FIU, that was a little more of a test for us," said UCF head coach Todd Dagenais. "I thought we were remarkable at closing out sets all weekend long."
Hervey either led the team or tied for the lead in kills in every game of the tournament. On a team that is deep with outside hitters, Dagenais loved seeing the sophomore step up.
"Jale has the ability to take the team on her shoulders if she has to," Dagenais said. "You know what's nice? She doesn't have to."
Along with Hervey, who led the team, UCF had four players who had 18 or more kills and hit .290 or better over the weekend.
While UCF did dominate in the opening tournament, the schedule is going to get tougher as the season goes on. The offense and the serve-receive game were strong for the Knights, but other areas, such as their blocking, could still use some work. Dagenais doesn't see it as a problem.
"Everything that I didn't like, I know we're going to fix in practice on Monday and Tuesday," Dagenais said. "We don't even need three days to fix it, we just need two."
UCF is on the road the next two weekends. The team will first travel to Kent State for the K-State Invitational, and then it's on to Texas for the Texas Invitational.
While the opening weekend wasn't perfect, it was still four wins, no losses and no dropped sets. For now, that will have to do.
"I get frustrated with myself sometimes because I want perfection instead of excellence, and sometimes I have to settle for excellence and say 'you know what, that's a pretty good job,'" Dagenais said. "That's what I'm going to do here."