It's August, and that means it's time for Soccer.
Yes, we know football is right around the corner, but the other football is getting underway faster than you can believe. In fact, it's already underway. UCF Women's Soccer is 2-0 on the preseason and starts the regular season Sunday, August 19th at home.
So let's start our Everything You Need to Know fall sports previews with Women's Soccer.
13-2-3, 7-0-2 AAC, AAC Regular Season Champions
After a bit of an off-year in 2016, UCF came storming back into national consciousness with a spectacular regular season After losing the opener to South Carolina, UCF went on a roll, beating #4 North Carolina in 2OT at home:
Then they steamrolled through The American by going unbeaten in 16 straight, and outscoring AAC opponents 30-3 in the regular season.
And then it all came crashing to a halt in the final two matches, as UCF fell to USF in the AAC Tournament Championship Game at home on PKs, and then couldn't get a result against an incorrectly-seeded Washington State at home in the first round of the NCAAs:
The Knights finished the year ranked 17th in the final United Soccer Coaches' Top 25, and 10th in the final RPI.
Elsewhere in The American, USF is picked second, followed by USF, Memphis, Cincinnati and SMU. USF and SMU are receiving votes in the preseason Coaches' Poll.
Who's in Charge
Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak
The former Team USA standout and 1999 World Cup champion as a player enters her 6th season at UCF with a 68-24-11 record at UCF, for a winning percentage of .660 (121-74-30 overall in eleven seasons as a head coach). She was last year's AAC Coach of the Year, an honor she has taken home three times in six years.
Under Sahaydak, UCF has missed the NCAA Tournament just once and has never finished below .500 (Last time that happened? 2000.).
Listen to Coach Sahaydak preview the season with Jeff and Eric on the Black & Gold Banneret Podcast:
Who to Watch
#1 Vera Varis (Junior Goalkeeper - Vantaa, Finland)
- 2018 AAC Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year
- 2018 Preseason All-AAC
- 2017 AAC Goalkeeper of the Year
- 2017 All-AAC First Team
- 2017 AAC All-Tournament Team
- 2017: 11-2-3, 8 shutouts, 4 goals allowed in 18 games
Varis spent the beginning half of 2017 platooning with the very talented Chloe N'Gazi in a battle for the starting keeper spot that she eventually won. She gave up just four goals all of last season, for a measly GAA of 0.27. This year she may indeed have to fend off N'Gazi for the starting role, so watch as this battle continues.
#11 Stefanie Sanders (Sophomore Forward - Hamburg, Germany)
- 2017 AAC All-Tournament Team
- 2017: 4 goals, 1 assist in 11 games
Sanders came back from an injury for the final 11 games last year and was sublime, managing to reach fourth on the team in scoring despite that missed time. She scored just minutes into her first appearance as a Knight against Tulsa, and scored the game-winner at LSU two weeks later.
#15 Dina Orshmann (Sophomore Forward - Berlin, Germany)
- 2017 AAC Rookie of the Year
- 2017 All-AAC Second Team
- 2018 Preseason All-AAC
- 2017: 6 goals, 8 assists in 16 games
Orshmann, another German freshman phenom from last year, is clearly the favorite to be the team's scoring focal point in her sophomore campaign. Her first-ever UCF goal came against UNC to tie the game, and we should have all known by then how unafraid she was of the moment, as she led the team in total shots. Her 8 assists led the team as well, so she not only can score herself, but has a keen eye for setting up her teammates.
Who We'll Miss
No more #MoGoals. Mo was one of the most beloved UCF soccer players in program history, not only for her play on the field but her involvement off of it.
While the latter cannot possibly be quantified, the Knights will be hard-pressed to make up her team-best 13 goals, including 6 game-winners. She will start this season as an assistant coach at Eastern Kentucky.
Mo was nice enough to cut a highlight video. Try not to cry:
Who's New That's Good
#2 Samantha Chung (Senior Midfielder - Transfer from Florida)
Chung was a highly-touted player out of Palm Beach County played 41 of UF's 47 games her first season, and started 13 matches in her sophomore season, scoring a goal and assisting on three others. But her playing time diminished in 2017, starting just one of her 17 appearances out of UF's 24 matches scoring one goal with no assists.
Her experience may prove to be valuable for a Knights team that lost nine seniors from 2017.
Who's on the Roster
- Six seniors
- Ten newcomers (nine freshmen, and one transfer, Chung)
- 16 players from Florida, including six from the Orlando area
- Nine international players (three from France, two from Finland and Germany, one each from Canada and Jamaica)
When the Big Games Are
|Sun. 8/19||FGCU||Opener vs. 2017 A-Sun Champs, RPI #38|
|Fri. 8/24||Texas||In Chapel, Hill, N.C. 2017: RPI #14, Sweet 16. Preseason #17. 1st meeting since '14 (2-0 UCF)|
|Sun. 8/26||at North Carolina||Preseason #6. UCF beat then-#4 UNC 2-1 in 2OT last year|
|Sun. 9/2||at Miami||UCF leads series 8-4-2, Last: UCF 4-3 in OT in '15|
|Thu. 9/6||at Maryland||First-ever meeting. Finished last in B1G in '17|
|Sun. 9/9||Florida||2017: RPI #12, 3rd SEC. Preseason #7. Last UCF W: 2011 (3-2 in NCAA)|
|Sun. 9/16||at Stetson||UCF has never lost to Stetson (21-0)|
|Thu 9/27||at Temple||Conference opener. UCF 7-0 all-time (W 4-1 last year)|
|Thu. 10/4||ECU||Home AAC opener. ECU last in AAC in '17.|
|Sun. 10/7||Cincinnati||2017: 3rd AAC. 0-0 draw in '17 AAC opener|
|Thu. 10/11||at Memphis||2017: 4th in AAC. All-time series: 9-9-1|
|Sun. 10/21||Houston||Senior Day. UCF has never lost to Houston (12-0-1 all-time)|
|Fri. 10/26||at USF||2017: 2nd AAC. 1-1 draw in regular season. Beat UCF in PKs (0-0) in AAC Championship Match|
|10/31-11/4||AAC Tournament||Hosted by Regular Season Champion|
The Last Time...
Last Conference Title: Last Year (Regular Season), 2013 (Tournament). UCF has won either the tournament or the regular season conference title in 13 of the last 20 seasons (across three different conferences).
Last NCAA Appearance: Last Year. UCF has missed the tournament just four times in the last 20 years.
What to Keep an Eye On
Orschmann and Sanders are both competing for their native Germany in the 2018 Women's U20 World Cup in France. The Germans were the only team that won all three matches in the group phase and they begin the knockout phase Friday, August 17th against Japan.
Should Germany make it as far as the final, they would be playing on Friday, August 24th. That same day, UCF plays #17 Texas in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, with the #6-ranked Tar Heels on the slate two days later. It's doubtful Orshmann or Sanders would be available for that game should Germany continue to play as they have been.
Orschmann has played in only two of the three matches, for a combined 97 minutes of action. Sanders has played in all three matches, but just for 140 minutes so far, and scored the lone goal for her side in its opener against Nigeria. She also has one assist.
Who to Follow
- UCF Women's Soccer: @UCF_WSoccer
- Coach Sahaydak: @trsahaydak
- The American Women's Soccer: @American_WSoc
- Tolu Omokore of Women's Basketball. Because:
Soccer season is almost here!!!!! Got to get my cheers and little army ready to go ⚔️⚽️ pic.twitter.com/LLGYEeHOFD— Tolu (@lulubayy) July 11, 2018