UCF Men's Soccer is 12-2-2 in their last 16 games going back to last year, and probably the biggest reason has been Cal Jennings.
A junior from Roswell, Georgia, Jennings came on strong toward the end of last season and has picked up from where he left off this year, with nine goals so far in 2018, which is good enough for second-best in the nation.
Jennings scored his second hat trick of the season against Stetson over last weekend, earning himself a spot on Top Drawer Soccer's Team of the Week:
Jennings and the Knights have their sights set on the team's first conference title since 2004.
Cal is the subject of this week's edition of Seven Points.
Eric Lopez: What interested you in playing soccer?
Cal Jennings: I have an older brother who is three years older than me. Growing up I would go and watch a lot of his games and when it came time for me to start playing sports I found a lot of enjoyment in soccer and in scoring goals.
E-Lo: Did you have a favorite soccer player that influence you to play soccer?
CJ: Though I did not have a specific player that influenced me to play soccer I often try and learn from watching some of today’s goal scorers, especially those in MLS. Guys like Josef Martinez, Bradley Wright-Phillips, and David Villa are some recent examples. These guys have a knack for scoring goals, so I try to watch and learn things that I can use to improve myself as a player and a goal scorer. However, I think what really kept me playing soccer was the strong relationships I’ve made throughout my career.
E-Lo: What made you decide to come to UCF to play soccer?
CJ: A big reason I decided to come to UCF is because of the investment that Joel Tyson, the coach who recruited me to UCF, spent in getting to know me on a level that showed he cared about me more than just my abilities on the soccer pitch. He was the first college coach who showed interest in me and was the most genuine guy I met during the entire recruiting process. Once he got me on campus I was sold on the school by the players on the team and felt that they were a group of guys I could see myself spending four years with.
E-Lo: What has it been like playing for Coach Calabrese?
CJ: I have really enjoyed playing under Coach Calabrese. His attention to detail and eagerness to improve day in and day out is something I can get behind. He is willing to listen to everyone he works with and always able to give thorough explanations for his teachings and decisions making.
E-Lo: Take me to game at Cincinnati in the 2017 regular season finale, knowing you needed a win to qualify for Conference Tournament and keep your season going. You scored the game-winning goal. Take me through that moment.
CJ: It was the last game of the regular season and we controlled our own destiny regarding qualification for the AAC tournament. We had outplayed Cincinnati and created a lot of chances but at the end of regulation, the score remained 1-1. I just remained focused and calm knowing that the goal we needed would come eventually, and when the opportunity presented itself I turned and struck a shot low and hard inside the far post. I was exhausted from playing 90 plus minutes, so after the ball hit the back of the net I sat down on the pitch and smiled as my teammates ran out to me to celebrate. It was a great feeling knowing that I contributed to our berth into the postseason.
E-Lo: You became first Knight with two hat tricks in a season since 1999. What is it like when things are clicking offensively like it has been with you guys and style of play you all play?
CJ: It is a lot of fun to play for a team that prides itself on being in possession and getting forward. God has blessed me with some fantastic teammates who put me in positions to succeed and a great staff that is 100 percent invested in trusting us as players to execute and play freely. I love scoring goals and helping the team to succeed in any way possible.
If you weren't at the game last night then you missed out !— UCF Men's Soccer (@UCF_MSoccer) September 16, 2018
Good thing we have Cal's hat trick and the second fastest consecutive goals scored by a team right here ⤵️#ChargeOn pic.twitter.com/KuLAPLBJ7c
E-Lo: What are your goals for after your UCF career?
CJ: Most important to me is that I keep my heart open to the plans that God has for my life. I’ve often aspired to play professionally so if that’s where I feel God is calling me and I get that opportunity I will pursue it. Other interests of mine are working with individuals with special needs, helping others grow in their faith, sports-related nonprofit work, and coaching. I believe Jesus put it best when he said, “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, and mind; and love your neighbor as you love yourself” (Matthew 22:37-39). Wherever I can do this is where God will guide me.