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Knight Cap: Volleyball stays unbeaten in Big 12 play

Plus: Women’s Tennis player wins pro tournament

This past week of UCF Knights sports saw one team get its first conference win, one team get its first conference loss and another team make history.

We recap all of that action, plus we give you our Knight of the Week and Play of the Week in your Knight Cap for Monday, October 2, 2023.

Volleyball wins pair over Oklahoma in 1st home Big 12 matches

The UCF Volleyball team marked the program’s first conference matches in The Venue with a pair of victories over Oklahoma, a 3-0 sweep on Thursday and a 3-1 win on Friday.

Friday night volleyball proved popular with the UCF fanbase because that night’s game drew 1,615 people, the third-largest crowd in Venue history. Head coach Jenny Maurer said it was like having “a room full of coaches” watching the match.

“We felt it,” Maurer said. “I was not sure about challenging that one in-out serve for Emily Wilson and the whole crowd stood up and everyone was pointing in, so I pulled the challenge card. They were all into it.”

Outside Hitter Emily Wilson led the team with 22 kills and 24 digs across both matches. During Friday night’s match, she set new UCF career single-match highs in digs (16) and aces (six).

“I say focusing in on being the best I can in the back row is a big game-starter for me,” Wilson said after Thursday’s match. “If I’m going to pass good then I’m going to hit good, and that’s just something that I’ve always worked very hard at.”

Wilson and the Knights have also excelled in their service game. They currently lead the nation in Aces per Set (2.58) and tied for second in Total Service Aces (142).

The wins keep the Knights stable at #30 in the RPI rankings. UCF is also one of two Big 12 teams that remain unbeaten in conference play after two weeks, joining defending national champion Texas.

Next Up: @ Texas Tech - Wednesday, 7 p.m.

Men’s Soccer gets first SBC win over Kentucky

Following a loss to #1 Marshall and a draw to #4 West Virginia, the #3 UCF Men’s Soccer picked up its first conference play victory in the Sun Belt, 1-0, against Kentucky.

The Knights (5-1-2, 1-1-1 Sun Belt) got out ahead midway through the first half, when freshman midfielder Saku Heiskanen marked his 22nd birthday with an unassisted goal in the 22nd minute, his third of the season.

“He’s a really mature [player],” head coach Scott Calabrese said in a press release. “He’s been really effective and dangerous coming in from that right-hand side, whether it’s creating chances for himself or finding other players in the box. Especially in the early part of this game, he was very good.”

While the Knights outshot Kentucky, 14-9, both teams ended up with three shots on goal a piece. The Wildcats (3-6, 0-3 Sun Belt) even had two converted goals that were disallowed due to offsides penalties, one in the 21st minute that would have given them the lead and another in the 75th minute that would tie the match up.

Goalkeeper Juanvi Munoz tallied three saves during the contest, putting him at 27 on the season. It was also his second shutout of the season, tying the number of shutouts he recorded in 2022.

The win, which was also the 150th of Calabrese’s head coaching career, puts the Knights in a tie for 4th place in the Sun Belt table with Georgia State and Coastal Carolina. It also keeps them ranked #2 in the RPI rankings behind #1 Marshall.

Next Up: Georgia Southern - Saturday, 7 p.m. ET

Women’s Soccer splits Sooner State matches

The UCF Women’s Soccer team sustained its first conference loss of the season this week but bounced back to remain among the Top 3 in the Big 12 table.

That Knights’ (8-3, 4-1 Big 12) win came in their second game of the week against Oklahoma, 2-1. The Sooners were led by head coach Matt Mott, a former UCF assistant coach who was in his first season in Norman, Oklahoma after 13 seasons as the head coach of Ole Miss.

While Oklahoma (6-6-1, 2-2-1 Big 12) outshot the Knights by a wide margin, 20-8, a majority of them were off target. The Sooners did still lead UCF when it came to shots on goal, 7-4, but the Knights made the most of those four shots.

Forward Mia Asenjo picked up the first goal of her collegiate career in the 11th minute, with assists from forward Dayana Martin and midfielder Katie Bradley. It was Martin’s fifth assist of the season, tying her mark from 2022.

It did not take long for Oklahoma to respond, however, tying the game up with a goal in the 13th minute.

The match would remain that way into the second half until the 59th minute when defender/midfielder Kyleigh Thelen scored her first goal in a UCF uniform off of a corner kick from Bradley. It was the Knights’ only corner kick of the day, compared to Oklahoma’s 15.

Goalkeeper Caroline DeLisle kept the Sooners’ shots out of the net for the rest of the contest, finishing her day with six saves.

The win got the Knights into a tie for third place in the Big 12 standings with Oklahoma State, who they lost to a few days earlier on Thursday, 2-1.

The Cowgirls got out ahead in the early going of that match with a 15th-minute goal, but UCF equalized in the second half with an unassisted goal by Martin in the 53rd minute. It was her third goal of the season.

However, the Cowgirls were able to reclaim the lead for the rest of the contest after a 61st-minute goal. Oklahoma State outshot the Knights, 24-16, and also edged them out in shots on goal (6-5).

It just so happened that the Cowgirls followed up this performance with a 1-0 loss to TCU, putting them in third place alongside the Knights.

As for UCF, the loss cost them ten spots in the RPI rankings to #33.

Next Up:

Texas - Thursday, 5:50 p.m. ET

Baylor - Sunday, 1 p.m. ET

Women’s Tennis player wins pro tournament

For the first time in program history, an active member of the UCF Women’s Tennis team won a professional tournament.

Junior Sophia Biolay won seven consecutive matches to advance from the qualifying draw to the championship match of the DVDM Shipyard Cup, a stop on the ITF World Tennis Tour, in Hilton Head, South Carolina. She defeated 15-year-old Wakana Sonobe of Japan (4-6, 6-2, 6-4) to win the singles title.

Along the way, she beat the likes of Pepperdine commit Alexia Harmon (6-3, 1-6, 6-3), 2023 SEC Freshman of the Year Carolina Gomez Alonso of Arkansas (6-4, 6-3), Old Dominion freshman Kira Matushkina (6-3, 6-4) and Kentucky alum Maria Florencia Urrutia (6-1, 3-6, 6-4).

Biolay was not the only Knight in South Carolina. Sophomore Jantje Tilbuerger defeated Texas Tech junior Cristina Elena Tiglea (6-4, 4-6, 6-3) before falling in the quarterfinals to Urrutia (3-6, 1-6).

Closer to home, junior Noel Saidenova and redshirt junior Anique Kattenberg competed in the Bedford Cup in Tampa.

In doubles play, the duo went a perfect 3-0 to win the Gold draw doubles title.

In singles play, both players went 3-1, with Kattenberg making it to the final of the Green draw, but fell to FIU sophomore Katerina Mandelikova (6-2, 6-1).

Saidenova lost in her first match in the Gold East draw to FGCU’s Isabella Colmenares (6-4, 5-7 (7-10)). However, upon shifting to the Gold West draw, she won her next three matches, including one against USF senior Grace Suchmacher (6-4, 4-6, (10-7)), to win the Gold West draw final.

Elsewhere across the nation, redshirt freshman Grace Levelston competed in the ITA Women’s All-American Championship in Cary, North Carolina. She got a win over Charlotte grad student Ruxandra Schech (6-3, 6-2), but fell in the second round of the prequalifying draw to Georgia junior Mai Nirundorn (2-6, 3-6).

Next Up:

ITF W60 Rome - Oct. 2-6

ITF W25 Florence - Oct. 9-13

Cross Country Competes in Louisville

The UCF Cross Country team raced for the second time this fall in the Louisville Classic 5K over the weekend.

Sophomore Isabella Richardson led the way for the Knights with a 17:47.4, which got her 38th overall. The time is also the 12th fastest in a 5K in program history.

Following behind Richardson was senior Mariana Rodriguez, who set a new 5K personal best with an 18:06.5, which placed her 72nd overall.

The Knights finished in 12th place in the team standings with 417 points, 23 points behind 11th place Clemson.

Next Up: Arturo Barrios Invitational - Oct. 13, 10:15 a.m. ET

Men’s Tennis gets started at ITA All-American Championship

A pair of Men’s Tennis players began competition at the ITA Men’s All-American Championships in Tulsa, Oklahoma Monday.

Sophomore Yassine Dlimi took the win in his Round of 128 match on Monday over Arizona State senior Max McKennon (6-1, 6-2).

Such fortune did not strike for fifth-year senior Lleyton Cronje, who fell in his fell in Round of 128 match to Oklahoma State freshman Erik Schiessl (7-6 (7-3), 6-3).

In doubles play, Cronje and Dlimi fell in the first round to a duo from Santa Clara (6-7 (6-8), 1-6).

Next Up:

ITA Men’s All-American Championship Continues - Present - Oct.8

UCF Fall Sizzler - Oct. 6-8 @ Lake Nona, Florida

Knight of the Week

Saku Heiskanen

What better way to celebrate your birthday than getting the deciding goal in the UCF Men’s Soccer team’s first conference victory?

Knights Play of the Week

The Birthday Goal for Saku Heiskanen