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Knight Cap: Track and Field still breaking records

Plus: UCF golfer competes for a spot in the 2022 Masters

Rayniah Jones
Photo courtesy: UCF Athletics

The past week of UCF Knights sports saw one team continue to raise the bar, another team started its season with a bang, and one other team continuing a rough start to its season. Plus, we name the Knight of the Week in your latest Knight Cap for Thursday, January 20, 2022.

Track and Field Breaks More Records at Hokie Invitational

The UCF Track and Field team’s Indoor Season continued last weekend as they traveled to Blacksburg for the Hokie Invitational, and once again, the team kicked the event off by breaking school records.

Redshirt senior Brittany Floyd broke the UCF Indoor Pentathlon record with 3,825 points and finished 5th overall. This eclipsed Lizzie Harris’ 3,653 points she scored back on Feb. 27th, 2008.

Freshman Holly Cassels, also competing in the pentathlon, broke the school’s freshman indoor record in the event with 3,316 points, finishing 9th overall.

The mark narrowly eclipsed Sandy Jean’s 3,303-point performance from Jan. 28, 2011.

Knights athletes finished 1-2 in the 60-meter dash. Senior Ciara Holback took the gold with a 7.42-second time. Danielle Bess took silver with a 7.47-second time, tying her personal record she set during her preliminary heat earlier in the day.

The team also dominated in the 60-meter hurdles, with half the Final consisting of four Knights athletes: Sophomores Rayniah Jones and Tamia Badal, junior Kaylor Harris, and senior Selena Wright.

Jones and Harris took home 2nd and 3rd respectively, both setting new personal bests in the process.

Jones, however, did take home the gold in the 200-meter dash, matching her personal best 24.01-second time in the process. Smith and Holback also finished in the top five, with Smith setting a new personal best in the event.

Three Knights also finished in the Top 5 in the 800-meter run. Junior Charlotte Crook took gold with a 2:12.04 time, fellow junior Katie Pinnell finished close behind in 2nd with a 2:12.46 time, and freshman Lillian Holtery came in 5th in her first collegiate 800-meter run with a 2:13.70 time.

Sophomore Latasha Smith also took home gold for the Knights in the 300-meter run, tying her personal best with a 37.81-second time.

The field events were highlighted by the triple jump, where three Knights finished in the top 10. Junior Jasmine Scott-Kilgo finished in 3rd with a 12.60-meter best jump, freshman Asherah Collins came in 5th with a 12.44-meter best jump, and freshman Natalia Madison set a new personal best in the event with an 11.99-meter best jump to finish 8th overall.

For even more results from the Hokie Invitational, check out the recaps of Day 1 and Day 2 on the UCF Athletics’ website.

With the team’s performances over its first two meets, the team was ranked No. 36 in the country and No. 2 in the South region (only behind Tennessee) by the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association in its first rankings of the Indoor season on Monday. These rankings, both nationally and regionally, have been the team’s highest since 2013, per UCF Athletics.

The team has this upcoming weekend off before they head back out on the road on Feb. 4-5 for the Charlie Thomas Invitational, hosted by Texas A&M.

Women’s Tennis wins season opener

The UCF Women’s Tennis team did not let a little rain spoil their season-opening 4-3 victory over Penn at the USTA National Campus on Sunday.

Before the inclement weather, the Knights captured the doubles point.

First, freshman Sophia Biolay, in her UCF debut, and redshirt junior Nandini Sharma shut out Penn freshman pair of Gavriella Smith and Saige Roshkoff, 6-0.

Then, to secure the point, senior Evgeniya Levashova and sophomore Nadja Bay Christians beat Penn freshman pair Sabine Rutlauka and Eileen Wang, 6-2.

Despite not finishing their match, since the doubles point was already won, freshman Noel Saidenova, in her UCF debut, and junior Marie Mattel were beating Penn’s No. 30-ranked pair senior Iuliia Bryzgalova and graduate student Marija Curnic, 5-1.

This doubles point came without head coach Bryan Koniecko pairing up his two ranked doubles pairs (Mattel with Sharma and Levashova with redshirt senior Valeriya Zeleva).

Per Knoiecko, the move stemmed from Biolay and Saidenova’s delayed arrival to campus until this month due to issues obtaining visa appointments because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He said this development meant he had to “teach a little faster.”

“We got to try to see who gels a little bit more and I’m sure we’re gonna keep tweaking and keep trying to find out best chance to get two out of three doubles points, you know, to put our team in a good position to win,” Koniecko said.

Mother Nature then delayed the match during singles play with only two of the six matches finishing its first set, which forced the rest of the action to move indoors.

There, the Knights were able to secure the three points necessary for the overall victory thanks to Sharma’s win over Roshkoff (6-2, 6-2), sophomore Jaleesa Leslie’s win over Wang (6-3, 6-4), and No. 102-ranked Mattel’s win over Curnic (6-0, 7-5).

However, Penn was able to avoid the sweep and won the last three matches: No. 81-ranked Rutlauka defeated Saidenova (6-4, 7-6 (7-4)), No. 53-ranked Bryzgalova triumphed over No. 37-ranked Levashova (7-5, 6-2), and Smith took down Biolay in a 10-point tiebreaking third set (1-6, 7-6 (7-5), 10-3).

Thanks to this opening victory, the team moved up to No. 10 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Top 25-ranking, as announced on Wednesday.

The team will continue its opening season homestand by hosting the ITA Kickoff Weekend at the USTA National Campus from Jan. 28-29. The Knights will take on UC Santa Barbara at 10 a.m. on Friday and either No. 25-ranked Auburn or Arizona State on Saturday.

Men’s Tennis swept by No. 3 Florida

The then-No. 14-ranked UCF Men’s Tennis team was swept, 7-0, over the weekend in a dual match on the road in Gainesville against the No. 3-ranked Florida Gators.

It marks the first time the team has been held scoreless since losing 4-0 against No 17-ranked Memphis on April 8, 2018, and it’s the first 7-0 loss since April 17, 2016, against Tulsa.

The day started with the Gators taking the doubles point. Gator freshman Abedallah Shelnayh and senior Duarte Vale defeated UCF junior Trey Hilderbrand and freshman JC Roddick (6-1). Florida’s No. 51-ranked pair senior Andres Andrade and graduate student Mattias Siimar defeated UCF seniors Alan Rubio and Kento Yamada (6-3).

The Knights’ junior pair, Lleyton Cronje and Bogdan Pavel had a closer matchup going with Florida sophomore Ben Shelton and senior Sam Riffice, only down 4-5, but that matchup went unfinished since the doubles point had already been secured.

Florida got its first point in singles play due to Roddick retiring from his match against Siimar (6-4, 3-0).

The Gators would then cement its overall victory with wins by Riffice over the Knights’ No. 16-ranked Hilderbrand (6-2, 6-3) and Vale over Rubio (6-3, 6-3).

Pavel was close to winning the first set against the Gator’s No. 79-ranked freshman Nate Bonetto but ultimately fell in two sets (7-6 (7-3), 6-4).

Cronje swept the second set against No. 2-ranked Shelton but ultimately could not pull it off in the third set (1-6, 6-0, 3-6). A similar situation occurred with Yamada, who lost in three sets after managing to extend the matchup with a second set win (1-6, 6-2, 2-6).

The loss caused the team to slide to No. 20 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s Top 25 poll as it returns home to host the ITA Kickoff Weekend from Jan. 30-31. The team will take on Louisville on Sunday at 10 a.m. and either No. 16-ranked Stanford or Tulane on Monday.

Golf’s Luis Carrera competes in Latin America Amateur

One of UCF’s senior male golfers, Luis Carrera, competed in the Latin America Amateur Championship over the weekend at the Dominican Republic’s Casa de Campo.

Carrera, a Mexican native, played his first two rounds right around even par, shooting a 73 (+1) and a 72 (E), making the cut.

However, two double-bogeys in each of the final two rounds caused his scores to go up, finishing the third round with a 76 (+4) and a final round 77 (+5).

He would finish the tournament at 10 over par (+10) in a tie for 34th.

Carrera finished his fall season with the Knights with a 72.16 scoring average, the fourth-best on the team, and will start up his spring season with the team on Feb. 12-13 in Gainesville with the Gator Invitational.

Knight of the Week: Rayniah Jones, Track and Field

After coming off an opening weekend of setting new indoor personal bests, she kept it going this weekend in Blacksburg.

She matched her 24.07-second personal best in the 200-meter dash to take the win the event.

However, it’s her feat in her signature event, the 60-meter hurdles that clinched her this week’s honor.

Jones beat her personal best from the previous week, running an 8.07-second time in the Final to finish in 2nd-place overall. This run by Jones is, as of this article’s publishing, the 8th-fastest in the nation this season.

Additionally, the winner of the Final, Gabrielle Cunningham, only beat Jones by a hundredth of a second, finishing with an 8.06-second time. Cunningham was a member of the U.S. Olympic team at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, where she made it to the Final of the 100-meter hurdles and finished 7th.

In short, Jones came within a hundredth of a second short of tying with an Olympian.

The now-sophomore has followed up on her journey to the Olympic Trials by taking down her personal bests in her three Indoor events (60m, 60H, and 200m), taking the podium in both of her events this weekend (60H and 200m), and racing neck-and-neck with an Olympian.

It’s only Week 2 of the broader Track and Field season.