On a night that UCF (9-10, 3-4 in AAC) wore pink in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness month, the Knights looked to end SMU's (16-3, 6-1 in AAC) five-match win streak but fell, 3-2, to the conference leaders
"There’s a couple of people whose families on our team are directly affected by Breast Cancer, it’s a fun month," senior Abbie Fleener said. “It is nice to support a good cause, there are bigger things than volleyball and I think that’s what it shows.”
Despite big matches by Fleener and junior Jale Hervey, who combined for 37 kills and nine digs, it was not enough to offset the Mustangs, who lead the league in hitting percentage, kills per set and blocks per set. SMU also entered the matchup with the best record in the AAC and is receiving votes in the AVCA Top 25.
“The better team won tonight. You look over on their side of the net and you’ve got the best setter in the conference, you have the best libero in the conference and you have the best middle blocker in the conference,” head coach Todd Dagenais said. “They are definitely the team to beat in the conference.”
The first set belonged to the Knights. They took the set 25-22 as Hervey posted nine of the team’s 18 total kills.
The second set was taken by the Mustangs, 25-18. SMU exposed the Knights defense as it was able to hit .577 to UCF's .174.
The Knights got revenge in the third set, beating SMU 25-22 behind a strong performance from Fleener, who tallied four kills and one dig.
SMU came back and took the fourth set in extra time, 28-26. Fleener posted five kills and two digs in the set but it was not enough to offset the team play by the Mustangs.
SMU took the fifth set 15-6.
“[SMU] is great all around” Hervey said after the game. “They are a great defensive team. I always admire their blocking. On the defensive side, SMU does a great job.”
Despite the loss, UCF brought awareness to something much bigger than the game of volleyball, using its collegiate platform to raise awareness for breast cancer.
“I love that our sport has jumped on board. Breast cancer is definitely something that has affected all of us. To have that honor, to celebrate survivors, to remember those we have lost and to find a way to raise awareness to get a cure for those down the road is nice that our sport gets behind it” Dagenais said.
The Knights look to bounce back at home on Sunday, Oct. 18 as they battle conference foe Tulsa (8-10, 3-3 in AAC).
Jimmy Calhoun is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.