Courtesy: American Athletic Conference
For the first time since the start of the 2018 conference volleyball season, The American has one team leading the pack, as UCF stands alone atop the league’s standings with a 9-0 conference record halfway through conference play. Each American team will face nine more conference opponents, as the Knights are one match ahead of Cincinnati (8-1), three ahead of third-place Tulsa (6-3) and four in front of Tulane and SMU—the two teams tied for fourth place with 5-4 league records.
- UCF has won 15-straight matches, which is the seventh-longest stretch in the country, as it enters the second half of American play at home against Texas duo Houston and SMU. UCF earned the league’s first spot in the AVCA’s national coaches’ poll this season, cracking the top 25 for the first time in program history. The Knights hold a 10-0 record at the Venue this season and lead the conference in assists (13.26 per set) and kills (14.03 per set), while holding opponents to hitting below .175 11 times this season.
- The American’s teams have combined for a .644 record against other conferences with only one more nonconference match left to play in November. UCF cracked the top 10 in the NCAA’s latest RPI report, coming in at No. 9 to lead the conference. The Knights are one of three conference teams to rank in the top 50 with Cincinnati moving up to No. 27 and Wichita State at No. 42. Six conference teams have top-100 RPI rankings with Tulsa at No. 52, Tulane at No. 93 and USF at No. 97.
- It was a battle between the two unbeaten conference teams on Sunday, as UCF outlasted Cincinnati on the road in a five-set win to claim the sole first-place spot in The American. The Knights needed to stop the nation’s leader in kills and points—Cincinnati outside and right side hitter Jordan Thompson—as they held the Bearcats to hitting below .200. Anne-Marie Watson and Kathryn Wesolich both broke the UCF record for block assists in a match with 12 apiece, which ranks No. 2 all-time in conference history. The Knights also had the second-most blocks recorded in an American match with 21.5.
- Cincinnati’s Thompson leads the nation in kills and points for an eighth-straight week, as the Bearcats will look to bounce back from a 3-2 setback against UCF. Despite Sunday’s loss, the Bearcats are one of two teams in the country with seven five-set victories. They rank fourth (1,210) and fifth (1,281), respectively, in the country in assists and kills. Cincinnati started off the week with a 3-2 win at Dayton, as Thompson reached 30 kills for the seventh time this year. The Bearcats also swept USF on Friday. Thompson is averaging 6.14 kills and 6.81 points per set with a .321 hitting percentage. Her 4.91 career kills per set are the most among any active NCAA Division I player. Cincinnati looks to get back on track when it heads to Memphis and Tulane over the weekend.
- Tulane extended its winning streak to five matches with another weekend sweep. The Green Wave collected a pair of straight-sets victories, defeating UConn and Temple on the road. Tulane boasts one of the top defenses in the conference, holding opponents to a league-low .152 hitting percentage, which ranks No. 12 in the nation. The Green Wave also leads The American with 181.5 total blocks and 2.49 blocks per set. In addition to hosting Cincinnati, Tulane welcomes ECU to the Avron B. Fogelman Arena in the Devlin Fieldhouse over the weekend. The Green Wave is 9-2 at home this season.
- SMU joined Tulane in fourth place after completing a weekend sweep, collecting its fifth-straight win at Moody Coliseum. Down 2-1 in the match, five Mustangs scored at least 10 kills, as SMU battled back to win-out the final two sets on Friday, defeating defending conference champion Wichita State in five sets. SMU then swept Tulsa on Sunday, as libero Montana Watts averaged 7.00 digs per set over the weekend to earn this week’s conference Defensive Player of the Week honor. The Mustangs look to grab their first road wins of the season when they travel to the Sunshine State for matches against USF and UCF.
- Houston also had a strong ending to its week, storming back from a 2-0 deficit to beat Wichita State 3-2 on Sunday. The Cougars snapped their eight-game skid and tallied their first conference win of the season. Houston had four players reach 10 or more kills, led by freshman outside hitter Alexis Cheatum who knocked down a career-high 23 kills. The Cougars will look to keep it going in Florida, facing first-place UCF and USF over the weekend. Houston has the most service aces in The American with 122 and 1.61 per set, which ranks No. 14 in the nation.
- USF and Memphis each ended the weekend on a high note. The Bulls earned their fourth Sunday win of the season, defeating ECU in four sets to move into a three-way tie for sixth place with a 4-5 record. Outside hitter Jac’cara Walker had a strong performance, recording 19 kills and 12 digs for her 11th double-double of the year.
- Memphis collected its third conference win at UConn in five sets on Sunday. The Tigers used a combined 31 kills and six service aces from Hannah Flowers and Kelsea Bivins. Memphis’ 12 service aces in the win are the most by a conference team in a five-set match this season. The Tigers return home to the Elma Roane Fieldhouse next weekend to host Cincinnati and ECU.