Let's begin our fall previews with UCF Women's Soccer, whose regular season is already under way (shame on us!). We'll be previewing the other fall sports this week as we begin the 2017 sports year.
UCF Women's Soccer is currently 1-1. After a tough 2-0 loss in the opener at #4 South Carolina where the Knights played the last 75 minutes with only ten players after a red card, UCF rebounded in the home opener with a 2-0 win over Stetson:
Listen to a preview of the UCF Women's Soccer team on this edition of the Black & Gold Banneret Podcast:
UCF was picked sixth(!) in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll, its lowest preseason tab since, well, we can't remember when. Part of this had to do with last year's failure to make it to the NCAAs for the first time since 2006.
Memphis is the preseason favorite, followed by SMU, Cincinnati, USF and UConn. UConn is also the only AAC team in the United Soccer Coaches preseason Top 25, at #14.
9-8-2, 4-4-1 AAC, 6th in the league. This was a team that had every break go against it last year. The Knights lost four of their first five, including setbacks against powerhouse programs North Carolina, South Carolina and Duke. An up-and-down conference slate culminated in a heartbreaking loss to SMU in PKs (1-1, 3-2) in the first round of the conference tournament, and no NCAA Tournament berth.
Who's in Charge
Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak. The 99er is coming off her worst - if you can call it that - season at UCF since taking over in 2013 for Amanda Cromwell. Still, her career record at UCF is an astounding 55-22-8 heading into her fifth season (108-72-27 overall in ten seasons as a head coach). She'll tell you the team is due for a bounce-back year.
Who to Watch
#1 Vera Varis (Jr. GK - Vantaa, Finland) - AAC Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year and Preseason First Team All-AAC. 19 starts, 1.42 GAA, five shutouts.
Varis' GAA went up last year compared to 2015, but she still landed on the All-AAC First Team in the preseason. The Finnish National Team hopeful should get considerable help in front of her this year.
#9 Kalya Adamek (Sr. M/D - Ottawa, Canada) - Preseason First Team All-AAC as a defender.
Adamek had her season cut short due to injury after just 16 games. Although she scored only one goal after netting six in 2015, this was due to her move toward the back, where it is hoped she will continue to develop as a defender. Talk about sacrificing for the team.
#14 Saga Fredricksson (Sr. D - Malmo, Sweden) - 2016 AAC Co-Defensive Player of the Year, Second Team All-Conference.
How Fredricksson didn't make First Team All-AAC is beyond comprehension. She emerged as a force on the back line alongside Adamek and in front of Varis. UCF will also count on her senior leadership down the stretch.
Who We'll Miss
#99 Carol Rodrigues F - 12 goals in 19 games last year to lead the team. She was All-AAC First Team after scoring one more goal than she did in the year she won Conference Player of the Year. Her offensive production spoke for itself:
Plus the bicycle kicks. We'll miss the bicycle kicks.
Who's on the Roster
- Ten seniors
- Six newcomers, including one transfer
- 16 players from Florida
- Nine international players
When the Big Games Are
- Friday, Aug. 25 vs. North Carolina
- Friday, Sept. 8 vs. LSU
- Sunday, Oct. 1 vs. Memphis
- Sunday, Oct. 8 at SMU
- Thursday, Oct. 19 vs. UConn
- Friday, Oct. 27 vs. USF (Senior Day)
The Last Time...
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 19 seasons (across three different conferences).
Last NCAA Appearance: 2015. Last year was the first time UCF missed the NCAA Tournament in nine seasons.
What to Keep an Eye On
The 2017 NCAA Women's College Cup Final Four will be held at Orlando City Stadium, the downtown home of Orlando City SC, December 1-3. USC are the defending champs.UCF has made one NCAA Final, back in 1982. They'd love nothing more than to make a run back there to play for a title in their hometown.
UCF has made one NCAA Final, back in 1982. They'd love nothing more than to make a run back there to play for a title in their hometown.