The Knights (9-11, 3-5 in the AAC) lost to Tulsa (10-10, 5-3 in the AAC), 3-1, to drop their second straight American Athletic Conference game at home.
Despite good performances from senior Abbie Fleener and junior Jale Hervey, UCF's offense and defense looked out of sync. The Knights started out strong, hitting .333 in the first set and tallying 16 digs, but then lost momentum. They were only able to muster 29 points and 26 digs in the final two sets combined.
"The first set, we followed our game plan terrifically. We were able to take that into the second set,” head coach Todd Dagenais said. “I don’t know what’s happening in between the second and third sets, but we are not taking the floor with the same intensity in that third set. That’s on me.
“For some reason, we are not able to execute during the critical points of the match and that is on me. It’s my job to make sure that they can. It is my job to make sure they are trained to do it. This one falls on me.”
The first set was won by the Knights, 25-18, as they came out firing on all cylinders. Fleener tallied six of UCF's 14 kills.
The second set was taken by the Golden Hurricane, 25-23. Junior Taylor Gallart posted three kills and one dig, but it wasn't enough as Tulsa's Ashely Hooper tallied five kills and one dig.
Tulsa dominated the third set, 25-12, and the fourth set, 25-17. The Knights had 15 team kills in both sets compared to Tulsa's 32.
"Sometimes, our team gets a little too complacent once we start getting our runs, and we become a little less committed to winning each point from there,” senior Dana Faught said. “It becomes a little less urgent to us, and that’s been something we’ve been working on since the beginning of the season. We know that’s one of our struggles, and so we recognize it and it is definitely something we need to keep working on.”
Offensively, coming into the match UCF's .220 hitting percentage in conference action ranked fourth and fell below that mark against Tulsa. Despite hitting .333 in the first set, the Knights hit .195 for the match.
Defensively, Tulsa ranked third in the conference with 16.75 digs per set. UCF was able to out-dig Tulsa, 42-40.
"I think it was the tale of two matches. If our hitting percentage stayed from the first two sets, it would have been one of our best outputs of the year and we would have probably won in four,” Dagenais said. “They came back and hit .360 in the second, .448 in the third, .342 in the fourth. You’re not going to win many matches if you’re block doesn’t slow them down and you’re defense can’t pick up shots.”
The Knights look to regain momentum as they host USF on Wednesday for their third-straight home game before a four-game road trip.
Jimmy Calhoun is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.