Though it was a tightly contested match throughout, USF (16-9, 7-6 AAC) fell to UCF (19-4, 9-4 AAC) by a margin of 3 sets to none Wednesday night at the Sun Dome.
On a night in which the Bulls would play in the Sun Dome’s main court rather than The Corral to accommodate the larger crowd brought on by the I-4 rivalry, the Knights proved to be a daunting foe with powerful offensive players.
USF senior Dakota Hampton recorded her 1,000th career kill for the Bulls, but ultimately it would not be enough to overcome a Knights squad led by Jale Hervey and Kia Bright. Though Bright ended up with 16 kills on the night, Hervey’s leaping ability and punishing finishes placed her atop the stat sheet with 19 kills.
“(Hervey) can find the floor pretty easily, she’s got good eyes,” USF senior libero Amy Van Sant said. “The main thing with her is you’ve just got to put up a good block and be able to dig around it.”
The Bulls at times found ways to counter UCF’s pair of powerful strikers, but too often kills found holes in the Bulls’ defense, proving crucial to the Knights’ victory.
UCF held a fairly commanding leads in the first two sets, which they would ultimately win by scores of 25-21 and 25-20.
However, the third set saw the Bulls take a lead late in the match, with UCF storming back to first tie the game at 24 and subsequently end on back-to-back kills to finish the set 26-24.
With Memphis next on the slate for the Bulls, this was surely a difficult way to lose, but individual performances including Hampton’s career milestone served as silver lining in the defeat.
“UCF has a really powerful offense, so for Amy to get in there and get some really quality digs off of some of their heavy hitters, I was impressed and proud of her,” USF coach Courtney Draper said. “I’m really proud of Dakota … I think there’s still more of her to come throughout the rest of the season.”
The Bulls will look to get back to winning in their next match against a Memphis team that has a 3-9 record in conference play and is 11-13 overall.