ORLANDO, Fla. – UCF won the first two sets Saturday afternoon and hung on to defeat East Carolina 3-1 (25-21, 25-19, 24-26, 25-19) in an American Athletic Conference match inside The Venue.
The Pirates drop to 2-6 overall and 0-6 in league play while the Knights improve to 10-1 and 4-2.
Senior outside Sydney Kleinman ended up with a team-best 17 kills on 43 attempts while senior right side Bri Wood and junior outside Natalie Tyson also reached double figures with 10 kills apiece. Wood and Tyson completed double-double efforts by adding 11 digs each. Junior setter Janiece Jefferies tallied a double-double as well, collecting 21 assists and 13 digs. Additionally, senior libero Camryn Allen racked up a match-best 22 digs while redshirt sophomore S’mara Riley finished with five blocks.
McKenna Melville led UCF with a double-double of 19 kills and 21 digs. Teammate Amber Olson also turned in a double-double with 31 assists and 11 digs.
The Knights held the upper hand in kills (64-51) and digs (72-65) while also owning a slight advantage in total blocks (8.0-7.0) and service aces (6-4).
UCF raced out to a 6-1 lead behind four kills, prompting ECU to call a quick timeout. The Pirates reduced the advantage all the way down to 14-12 following a kill by Kleinman and drew all the way to within 21-20 after the Knights committed consecutive attack errors. UCF was able hold on down the stretch, scoring four of the last five points.
East Carolina faced another fast deficit in the second, falling behind 8-4 and using a timeout. With the Knights later leading 13-7 thanks to a Tali Marmen kill, ECU went on a 7-1 tear behind a flurry of kills by Wood to knot the score at 14. The sides battled to a tie at 19 before the home team captured the set with a final 6-0 run.
The Pirates came on strong in the third, building a 10-4 cushion after a kill by Wood. UCF rallied within 13-11, forcing East Carolina to utilize a timeout, and completed the comeback to deadlock things at 19 via a Pirate service error. The teams traded blows until the score settled at 23-23. Kleinman and Melville produced kills to forge a 24-all tie and ECU stayed alive in the match when Riley tipped a ball down for a kill and Kleinman mustered up an ace.
Neither squad created too much separation early in the fourth set, battling to a tie at nine points apiece. From there, the Knights went on a 5-0 run behind the serving of Olson and East Carolina could never quite catch up. A kill by Riley kept the Pirates close by at 19-17, but UCF proved too much in the end.
ECU returns home next weekend, wrapping up its conference schedule March 12-13 against Temple.