In the thick of hard-fought conference games, the UCF women's volleyball team seems to be getting things going. After already capturing at least 11 wins, the team believes it has all the makings of a playoff-caliber team this year.
"I believe in this team, I really do," women's volleyball head coach Todd Dagenais said. "There's a special resolve. I feel like we're going to be tough to beat."
The Knights had to refocus themselves, as they hit a wall at one point throughout the season. After starting the season off with six straight wins, the team lost five of its next six games before grabbing hold of its current six-game winning streak. The team also set a conference record when it took on East Carolina, recording a .444 hitting percentage.
"Maybe we're a little bit too jacked up at the start," Dagenais said. "Volleyball really isn't a ra-ra sport … it's really more about being in the right frame of mind. Sometimes aggressive is out of control, [we want them to be] in control of their body and in control of their movements."
Senior middle blocker DeLaina Sarden accomplished a career feat earlier this season, becoming just the 10th player in UCF history to record 1,000 kills. Just a little beyond the halfway point in the season, Sarden has already a .692 hitting percentage against Arkansas.
"I was trying not to even think about it because that's when things just don't start going right. I'm going to put my team in the position to win so when I get to the ball, I'm going to do the best I can to put the ball down," Sarden said.
Getting the kill in front of familiar faces made the feat significantly more meaningful.
"My mom came," Sarden said, "so it was much more special to be at home."
Sarden may be credited with athletic ability and tenacity by those who know her, but it's her maturity that has been the key factor to the discovery and harnessing of her talent, Dagenais said.
"You don't have enough memory on your iPhones for me to begin to tell you what she means to this program," Dagenias said jokingly. "We've designed an offense around her … She's willing to go out there and be the decoy every night and if they focus on her, she's going to allow others to get their kills, but if they aren't, she's going to put up 20 kills in a night."