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KnightCap: Men’s Soccer Takes First Place in Sun Belt

Plus: Women’s Golf wins again

Noah Goldberg

This past week of UCF Knights sports saw one team lose the lead in its conference standings and another team gain the lead in its conference standings.

We recap all of that action, plus we give you our Knights of the Week and Plays of the Week in your Knight Cap for Monday, October 23, 2023.

#2 Men’s Soccer takes over first place in Sun Belt

The #2 UCF Men’s Soccer team has taken the lead in the Sun Belt Conference standings after a couple of goal-heavy victories and a little help elsewhere in the nation.

For the Knights’ (9-1-2, 5-1-1 SBC) side of things, they dominated Coastal Carolina on Wednesday, 5-0, and survived a late surge to beat South Carolina on Sunday, 3-2. UCF’s eight goals in the past week is more than the seven goals in the first five Sun Belt matches.

Seven different Knights were responsible for the goals, with midfielder Yanis Belatrache being the only one to score in both games. They were the first goals of his collegiate career.

“I’m so happy for this group, for other people to get on the scoresheet because I think, to a degree, we’ve been really dangerous, multiple players, and sometimes you just need a goal and then your confidence rises,” Calabrese said on Wednesday after the Coastal Carolina match.

Forward Lucca Dourado was also in on the goal explosion, picking up one in the 65th minute against the Gamecocks (4-7-3, 2-3-2 SBC). It is the 37th goal of his career, putting him two shy of Rony Francois for the fifth-most goals in program history.

Dourado also picked up a pair of assists, one against Coastal Carolina and one against South Carolina, which combined with his goal helped get him to 79 career points, vaulting him past Nik Robson (2009-2011) for the seventh-most in program history.

While Dourado was able to help UCF build up a three-goal lead by the 66-minute mark, South Carolina bounced back with 13 shot attempts in the final 45 minutes, outshooting UCF’s 12 shots for the full 90 minutes. Additionally, while only two of the Gamecocks’ shots were on goal, they both turned into goals.

While South Carolina’s leading goal-scorer Adam Luckhurst got one in the net in the 74th minute, the Gamecocks offense had a window of opportunity open when goalkeeper Juanvi Munoz was shown a red card and ejected from the match for tripping. By rule, he will also be suspended for the Knights’ next match against Georgia State.

Redshirt freshman Luciano Natoli, who made his UCF debut with a four-minute appearance against Coastal Carolina, took over for Munoz for the final 15 minutes. While he did give up a goal in the 83rd minute and recorded no saves, the Miami Beach native did end some late South Carolina offensives that threatened to equalize the match.

While the Knights extended their winning streak to five matches, elsewhere in the country, #1 Marshall suffered back-to-back losses against #5 West Virginia and Kentucky.

The Thundering Herd’s misfortune is the UCF’s gain, as the Knights take over the lead in the Sun Belt Conference standings with two matches remaining in the regular season.

As for the RPI rankings, Notre Dame leapfrogged both Marshall and UCF to take over the #1 spot, knocking both Sun Belt teams down one spot to #2 and #3 respectively. Time will tell if such a jump will occur in the United Soccer Coaches poll as well.

“What you always have to go back to are the things that you control,” Calabrese said Wednesday. “We don’t control the rankings committee, we don’t control that, but we do control how we show up come Sunday.”

Next up:

@ Georgia State - Friday, 7 p.m., ESPN+

Women’s Golf wins another team title

The #15 UCF Women’s Golf team won the Mercedes-Benz Intercollegiate team title last weekend, its second consecutive team, title of the 2023-24 season.

The Knights shot the second-lowest 54-hole score in program history (835, -17), beating runner-up #10 Mississippi State by 12 strokes. The mark only falls short of the team’s 834 (-18) in last season’s edition of the tournament. Additionally, the team also shot the second-lowest (271) and the fourth-lowest (273) 18-hole scores in program history.

Individually, true freshman Molly Smith won her first career individual title with a 201 (-12), finishing five strokes ahead of runner-up Manassanan Chotikabhukkana of Tennessee.

Smith torched the field on Par 4s, shooting seven-under on such holes for the weekend, six strokes better than the only other golfer in the 78-player field to shoot under par on Par 4s. She helped the Knights shoot three-over on Par 4s as a team, eight strokes better than Mississippi State.

Fifth-year Tunrada Piddon and senior Jess Baker joined Smith in the Top 20 overall, finishing in a tie for 10th at 212 (-1) and in a tie for 290th at 215 (+2) respectively.

While grad student Brittany Shin finished in a tie for 50th at 223 (+10) individually, she rebounded from a subpar opening round to contribute to the team’s historic achievement. Sophomore Pimpisa Sisutham was on track for a top-20 finish, shooting 142 (E) after two rounds. However, her third round was disqualified, so Shin’s third-round 69 (-2), her best round of the weekend, was used for UCF’s team score.

Click here for the full results of the Mercedes-Benz Intercollegiate.

Next up:

Landfall Tradition - Oct. 27-29

Volleyball drops pair to Baylor

The #24 UCF Volleyball team was handed its first two losses in Big 12 play over the weekend, courtesy of #21 Baylor.

Following the Knights (16-4, 7-2 Big 12) taking the first set in the first match on Saturday, the Bears (12-7, 6-3 Big 12) won the next six for a 3-1 victory on Saturday and a 3-0 sweep on Sunday. It is the first time UCF has had multiple losses in conference play since 2019 and they are the first consecutive losses in conference play since October 2017.

The normally varied Knights offense leaned on outside hitter Emily Wilson on Saturday as she set a new season-high with 21 kills on 53 attack attempts. Before Saturday, she never had higher than 16 kills in a match and only went above 40 attack attempts twice in 18 matches.

Meanwhile, Sunday’s match saw the Knights’ second-worst hitting percentage of the season (.139) and the Bears out-blocking them 13-6.

Across both matches, Baylor also outkilled UCF 107-85 and, for a UCF team that entered the weekend leading the nation with 2.41 aces per set, it only got four between both matches, compared to the Bears’ 10.

The losses drop the Knights from a tie for the top in the Big 12 standings to a tie for 2nd place with BYU. They also dropped six spots in the RPI rankings to #42.

This past weekend’s matchups were the first of eleven consecutive matches against opponents in the RPI top 50.

Next up:

vs. TCU Thursday and Friday at 7 p.m. — Big Xll Now/ESPN+

Women’s Soccer Goalie starts for Costa Rican National Team

Goalkeeper Genesis Perez-Watson, a true freshman on the UCF Women’s Soccer team, made her first start for the Senior Costa Rican National team on Sunday.

She recorded four saves in 90 minutes of playing time in the Costa Ricans’ opening match of the 2023 Pan American Games against Argentina, which ended in a 0-0 draw.

The tournament, hosted in Santiago, Chile, continues group play this week, with Perez-Watson and her squad taking on the United States U-19 National Team on Wednesday at 3 p.m. and Bolivia at 6 p.m. on Saturday.

Meanwhile, Perez-Watson’s UCF teammates will be concluding their regular season Monday night at 8 p.m. against #7 BYU.

Men’s Golf Wraps Fall Slate in Mississippi

The UCF Men’s Golf team concluded its fall schedule at the Fallen Oak Collegiate Invitational last weekend in Saucier, Mississippi.

Senior Egor Eroshenko led the way for the Knights, finishing in a tie for 12th individually with a 216 (E).

However, the rest of the team struggled at the Fallen Oak Champion Tees, leading UCF as a team to finish last in the 12-school field with a 903 (+39).

The Knights will have a few months to adjust before they begin their spring schedule in late January.

Click here for the full results from the Fallen Oak Collegiate Invitational.

Next up:

Sea Best Invitational - Jan. 29-30

Women’s Tennis

The UCF Women’s Tennis team competed in its ITA Southeast Regional Championship over the past week.

Redshirt junior Anique Kattenberg led the way for the Knights, going 3-2. She won two matches to advance out of the qualifying draw but fell in her first main draw matchup to USF’s Sara Dahlstrom (6-0, 6-3). She finished by going 1-1 in the consolation draw.

Junior Noel Saidenova, senior Jaleesa Leslie, and junior Sophia Biolay each won their first-round match in the main draw but fell in the second round. All three did get a chance to play one extra match on Saturday, though. Leslie and Biolay picked up victories to go 2-1 overall, while Saidenova lost, ending her tournament at 1-2.

Click here for the full results from the tournament.

Next up:

W80 Tyler - Oct. 23-27

Knights of the Week

Molly Smith, Women’s Golf

Just as Pimpisa Sisutham did back in March, Molly Smith captured her first collegiate title as a true freshman last weekend.

However, she also made her mark in the UCF Women’s Golf record books along the way.

She shot the third-lowest 54-hole score in program history (201, -12) and, along the way, she tied the fifth-lowest 18-hole score in program history in Round 1 (66) and the fourth-lowest round in program history in Round 3 (66).

Luciano Natoli, Men’s Soccer

Last week belonged to the freshmen.

Despite giving up a goal to South Carolina, redshirt freshman goalkeeper Luciano Natoli, in just his second-ever collegiate appearance, was still able to help keep a charging Gamecocks squad from equalizing the match for nearly seven minutes.

Knights Plays of the Week

Anderson Rosa, with an assist from Emmanuel Bam, puts UCF up three goals South Carolina