The Knights (8-8, 2-1 in the AAC) lost their second conference match of the season after falling to Houston (13-3, 3-1 in the AAC) in a 3-2 nail-biter Sunday afternoon.
Without head coach Todd Dagenais and All-American Kia Bright, the Knights showed intensity as they went back and forth with the Cougars in five hard-fought sets, including two extra sets.
Redshirt freshman Maddie Haggerty had a career-best game, leading the team with 17 kills and adding 12 digs and an assist.
"I thought we showed a lot of character. We worked really hard. [The] defense had another great showing tonight,” assistant coach Michelle Chatman said. “Overall, we can definitely improve on blocking and some of the out-of-system swings for sure. Other than that, we need to continue to stay together and support each other.”
The first set belonged to the Knights, 25-18, behind Haggerty’s four kills and four digs.
Houston came back to take the second set, 25-19. Junior Jale Hervey posted four of her 16 kills and one dig, but it wasn't enough to offset the offensive firepower of the Cougars.
UCF took the third set, 25-17, behind performances from junior Taylor Gallart and freshman Miranda Watkins, who combined for five kills, nine assists and six digs. Gallart finished with 12 kills while Watkins had 39 assists.
Houston stormed back and won the fourth set, 25-21, despite Hervey’s six kills and Watkins’s eight assists.
Houston topped UCF, 15-12, in the final set.
"Going into next week, we are just going to be working on the little things and working on ourselves," Watkins said.
Team continuity, leadership, energy and heart are not question marks for the Knights as they look to use all of the attributes when traveling to conference foes Cincinnati and Memphis.
"Our team, collectively, is pretty stable on the road. That's the team we've been and that's the culture here," senior Dana Faught said.
The Knights are back in action Oct. 9th in Cincinnati (9-6, 1-3 in AAC).
Jimmy Calhoun is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.