With conference play getting underway with USF (9-4, 0-1 AAC) coming into town, the atmosphere at The Venue was lively on Wednesday night. With a big crowd and The Marching Knights looking on, UCF (10-3, 1-0 AAC) swept the Bulls by scores of 25-21, 25-12 and 25-21.
“I can’t tell you what happened,” Knights head coach Todd Dagenais said. “I wish I could come up here and I wish I had a really good explanation for what happened. I think the preparation helped close the gap a bit and I certainly think the atmosphere closed the gap a little bit.”
The Bulls were coming off of their best non-conference performance since 2008, but the Knights were too much for them to handle on Wednesday night. UCF opened up the first set with a 13-7 lead before the two teams fought to a 20-20 tie. The Knights then went on a run fueled by redshirt junior Kia Bright to win the first set 25-21. Bright finished the night with eight kills.
The second set wasn’t nearly as close. UCF clicked all the way around and cruised to a 25-12 win behind seniors Jale Hervey and Taylor Gallart. USF gained back some momentum in the third set, but a late run clinched the Knights’ fifth straight win. The UCF defense shined all night, holding USF to a .062 hitting percentage. The Bulls never led by more than two points.
Hervey finished the night with 19 kills and seven digs, while junior Farah Rajaee totaled 20 assists and 11 digs.
“The coaching staff really prepared us well. Everyone just did their job tonight and executed very well,” Rajaee said. “The atmosphere was great and we were happy to come out with the win.”
The 3-0 victory gives UCF the first three points in the newly established War on I-4 rivalry series. Each time the two teams meet, points will be totaled and the program with the most points at the end of the athletic year will be awarded the War on I-4 trophy, shaped like an I-4 road sign.
“We’re proud that we could go out and collect the first three points of this new War on I-4,” Dagenais said. “I know this is going to be a great thing for both schools. I’m glad we finally have this because it is a great rivalry between the two schools.”
UCF will take the court again on Friday night against Memphis (8-4, 0-0 AAC) at 7 p.m.