During the month of September, something, or rather someone, was missing from the UCF Knights Women’s Soccer team.
Without her, the team went 0-2-2, falling to Ole Miss and North Carolina and tying Texas and its conference opener against Memphis. Since her return, the team concluded its season on a seven-match winning streak and captured the No. 1 seed in the American Athletic Conference Tournament.
As the team prepares to host No. 4-seed Memphis in its semifinal matchup for the tournament Thursday night, forward Kristen Scott enters the twilight of her UCF career as the program’s most prolific goal-scorer of the last decade.
“She’s been part of the foundation of this team,” goalkeeper Caroline DeLisle said. “I mean, you can see it from the results when she’s on the field versus when she’s not.”
Similar to how her absence affected her team, Scott said her month-long recovery took a mental toll on her.
“I think for a lot of athletes, your sport is your escape from the real world, to escape from your problems,” Scott said. “When I’m on the field, I’m not thinking about the assignments I have due that night or my exam tomorrow or anything like that. It’s for your mental health, and so not having that for an extended period of time can just be stressful.”
At the same time, while 2022 was already known to be Scott’s final season, she said that she took it for granted with an assumption that she would be able to play every match. Her injury, which caused her to be a last-minute scratch before the Ole Miss match, put things in perspective.
Last minute change... Katie Bradley will be starting in place of Kristen Scott.— UCF Women's Soccer (@UCF_WSoccer) September 4, 2022
“I think it was just really eye-opening for me and a reminder that every time I step on the pitch, it could be my last,” Scott said.
Luckily for Scott, her last match was still to come. In the words of her father, Jeffrey Scott, she “came back gangbusters.”
In a single week, Scott scored five goals in three matches. During this period, she scored her 30th career goal. She is the 11th player in UCF women’s soccer history to achieve the feat and the first to do so since Courtney Whidden did it in 2012.
“It takes a certain player to be able to score goals at this level,” Whidden said. “It takes intuition, knowledge, and skill to put the ball in the back of the net. Most important is the desire to score, to make it happen no matter what… it’s really all that matters.”
She is also the first player to reach 30 goals during the tenure of head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak.
“Kristen’s just a competitor and she’s willing to put her body on the line,” Sahaydak said. “She has scored goals where she’s had to be really physical. She’s willing to do that, make those sacrifices, but at the same time she’s very technical and she can score off-volley, she can score off one v. one breakaways.”
“She has all the tools in the kit to score a variety of different ways.”
By the end of the regular season, she led the conference in goals, with nine, despite playing in five fewer matches than the runner-up. She was named the AAC’s Offensive Player of the Year, the first Knight to receive the honor since 2017. She was also named to the All-Conference First Team, alongside fellow forward Dayana Martin, midfielder Darya Rajaee, and goalkeeper Caroline DeLisle.
However, despite her individual success, Scott said that things like scoring the game-winning goal are only “cool” because of the reactions they draw out of the people closest to her, from her family in the stands to her teammates on the pitch.
“There’s nothing like watching the reactions of your teammates,” Scott said. “Being able to produce those smiles, that’s what it’s all for.”
She’s had plenty of time to put smiles on the faces of DeLisle, Martin, Rajaee, and defender Mathilde Kack, who have all been with the Knights since 2018. Scott, Rajaee, DeLisle, and Kack even roomed together on campus for their freshman year, which Scott said gave the quartet’s current group text its name, 4321.
“One of the things I loved about UCF was that situation where the four of them were together freshman year,” Scott’s father, Jeffrey Scott, said. “I think it really helped them on and they all grew together.”
A physics teacher at Edgewater High School, Scott saw his daughter through it all, from when she began playing soccer at Trotter’s Park in Orlando at the age of 4, to taking the podium in Addition Financial Arena as Edgewater’s Class of 2018 valedictorian, to her success at UCF.
Thanks to her local roots, Scott thinks his daughter will still have an impact on the UCF women’s soccer program long after she’s gone.
“I think she’s going to be an inspiration soccer-wise to other people that will then look at UCF and say, ‘Hey, Kristen went there. I want to go there too,’” Scott said. “Kind of like I’m sure the way Michelle Akers probably inspired hundreds of girls to want to go and play at UCF.”
Until then, just like she set her sights on being valedictorian, Scott’s eyes are now set on winning the conference tournament. She said that she wants to play every moment like it’s her last, but no matter if it’s because the season ends or because of injury, her last match, her last shot, will come.
“It’s weird thinking that I’m going to be done, like that there’s going to be a last game,” Scott said. “I don’t know if I fully processed it yet. I am sad, excited for what’s next, but college is the best four years of your life.”
“So, who wants to walk away from that?”