Back on October 2, UCF was beaten in four sets by Cincinnati who was the 2016 preseason favorite to win the American Conference. Leading up to their second meeting with the Bearcats, the Knights set out to improve and show that they could hang with and beat one of the conference elites.
On Thursday night, UCF (17-7, 7-4 AAC) certainly proved that it can hang with Cincinnati (14-8, 9-2 AAC), but the effort wasn’t enough as the Knights fell in five sets by scores of 22-25, 25-23, 25-21, 20-25 and 15-8.
“I have to say that one stings,” associate head coach Jenny Maurer said. “We knew [Cincinnati] wasn’t going to roll over. They played a great game, but we held them under their numbers from last time. I think there was a lot of relentlessness on our side of the floor.”
Maurer, standing in for head coach Todd Dagenais as he recovers from a medical issue, had the Knights in position to win. Strong play in the fourth and fifth sets, though, allowed the Bearcats to leave with the victory. Up 2-1 in the match, UCF fell behind 12-6 early in the fourth set before Cincinnati rolled to a 25-20 win. In the deciding fifth set, the Knights just didn’t have enough to overcome an 8-1 deficit.
“We took them to five,” Maurer said. “I think we had the game plan to win, but we obviously talked about wanting to play a team better the second time, and I thought we made some great adjustments to their game. We’re proud of that, and we want to carry that momentum into the next game.”
Senior Jale Hervey led the way for UCF, totaling 22 kills and 17 digs while hitting .294. She picked up 10 kills in the second set, which helped the Knights grab some momentum as they went on to win the second and third sets. Redshirt junior Kia Bright was also a big part of the momentum surge, as she had seven kills between the second and third sets.
She finished the night with 17 kills and 11 digs. Jordan Pingel led the team with a game-high 31 digs.
“These last two days we have really been working hard in the gym, working on the game plan, and I think we did a good job of executing [it],” Hervey said. “We didn’t come out with the W, but we will learn from that and move on to the next game.”
The Knights hit .184 on the night, which is well below their season average, but their resiliency is what gave them a confidence boost coming out of a tough loss.
“I think the first time we played Cincinnati, we almost gave them too much respect in a sense of not really putting ourselves on the same level,” Maurer said. “I think this time we played like we deserved it, so we see that confidence really coming out each week.”
UCF will conclude its four-game home stand on Saturday at 1 p.m. against East Carolina (14-7, 4-7 AAC).