The 2016 athletic season is now upon us, which means it’s time for our Everything You Need To Know series previewing each of the fall so-called olympic sports. We begin, as always, with the team that starts its season first – Women’s Soccer.
This Year’s Outlook
UCF is receiving votes, but is not ranked in the NSCAA preseason poll (it’s the fifth straight year UCF has received votes in that poll). USF is also receiving votes, and UConn, the defending AAC regular season champs, are 15th.
UCF was picked to finish third in The American in the preseason coaches’ poll, tied with Cincinnati. UConn was unanimously picked first, with USF in second.
12-6-2, 6-3 AAC. After starting the season 6-5-1, the Knights scuffled in conference play to win six of their last eight to finish third in The American behind USF and UConn. In the AAC Tournament, UCF made it to the semifinals before losing in heart-breaking fashion to USF, 1-0 on a golden goal in double-overtime.
UCF got an at-large invite to the NCAA Tournament, but fell at home after another extra time marathon, this time to William & Mary on penalty kicks after 120 scoreless minutes:
Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak. A ten-year Team USA veteran and 1999 World Cup champion, Coach Sahaydak returns for her fourth season in Orlando. Her next victory will be her 100th career win as a head coach (99-64-25 overall between VCU and UCF). At UCF, she’s 46-14-6, and has been named conference coach of the year twice. The North Carolina grad’s husband, Tim, is her top assistant coach.
Top Returning Players
#99 Carol Rodrigues – Sr. Forward/Juazeiro, Brazil
The senior from Brazil and Preseason All-AAC selection scored 11 goals as a junior in 2015, but none more spectacular than this one against Tulsa:
Rodrigues, who moonlights in the Brazilian National Team’s system and played for then in the 2014 U20 World Cup, was tied for the team lead in goals (third in the conference) and second on the team in assists (6) en route to Co-Conference Offensive Player of the Year and All-AAC First Team honors.
#1 Vera Varis – Soph. Goalkeeper/Vantaa, Finland
Varis, a member of the Finnish National Team and participant in the 2014 U20 World Cup, recorded three clean sheets in 18 matches for a GAA of 1.33 and 4.28 saves per game (third in the conference). Despite that, her save percentage was only ninth-best in the league at 75.5%, due to an inexperienced defensive half.
As the defense strengthened down the stretch, so did Vera – enough to earn all-rookie honors and a spot on the all-tournament team.
#9 Kayla Adamek – Jr. Midfielder/Ottawa, Canada
After missing all of 2014 with an injury, Adamek, who represented Canada as a U17, finished third on the team with six goals and tied for the team lead with six assists in 2015, en route to the All-AAC First Team. She is UCF’s other representative on the Preseason All-Conference Team.
She had two two-goal games last year, although her goal production was actually down from her last full season at UCF, when she netted nine tallies in 2013.
Ashley Spivey tied Rodrigues for the team lead with 11 goals, and added two assists in 2015. She led the team in shots with 64, and provided a spark in her senior season that Rodrigues and others will have to fill.
- 11 returning players
- 10 newcomers have junior national team experience
- 8 players from outside the U.S., including Canada, France, Brazil, Finland and Sweden
- 16 players from Florida, including five from Central Florida
Key Games to Mark on the Calendar
- August 19 at #9 North Carolina – Season Opener
- August 21 at #3 Duke (in Chapel Hill, N.C.)
- August 25 vs. UMass – Home Opener
- August 28 vs. #24 South Carolina
- September 2 at Oklahoma State
- September 4 at Stetson
- September 8 vs. FIU
- September 11 at Florida Gulf Coast – Atlantic Sun Champions
- September 18 at #7 Florida
- September 29 vs. Houston – Conference Opener
- October 7 at USF – Knocked UCF out of AAC Tournament last year
- October 13 at #15 UConn – Defending AAC Regular Season Champions
- October 20 vs. Cincinnati – Defending AAC Tournament Champions
- October 23 vs. East Carolina – Senior Day
Last Conference Title: 2014 (Regular Season), 2013 (Tournament). UCF has won either the tournament or the regular season conference title in 12 of the last 18 seasons (across three different conferences). Last year was the first time they failed to do that since 2011.
Last NCAA Appearance: Last year. UCF has made it to the NCAA Tournament nine years in a row, making the Sweet 16 in 2014 and the Elite Eight in 2011. Last season was only the second time the Knights failed to get out of the first round of the NCAAs since 2003.
Something to Keep an Eye on
The schedule. The Knights landed at 27th in the final RPI rankings of 2015, thanks to their insanely tough non-conference schedule. This year, UCF plays five teams ranked in the preseason NSCAA poll (North Carolina, Duke, South Carolina, Florida and UConn), and two others that are receiving votes (FGCU and USF).