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Knight Cap: Men’s Soccer Settles For No. 2 Seed at Sun Belt Tournament

Plus: Women’s Golf concludes fall slate with another podium

Noah Goldberg

This past week of UCF Knights sports saw one team conclude its fall slate and another fall short of a conference title.

We recap all of that action, plus we give you our Knights of the Week and Plays of the Week in this spooky Knight Cap for Wednesday, November 1, 2023.

#1 Men’s Soccer upset by JMU, heads to postseason

#1 UCF had a chance to win the Sun Belt regular-season conference championship and the #1 seed in the conference tournament with a win over James Madison but the Knights could not hold a 1-0 lead and conceded two second-half goals in a 2-1 loss in front of a program-record 1,268 fans at the UCF Soccer Complex.

Marshall won the regular season title and the top seed.

The Knights (10-2-2, 6-2-1 SBC) enter the Sun Belt Conference Tournament as the conference’s No. 2 seed and will host the first two rounds of the tournament on Nov. 5 and 8, beginning with a quarterfinal matchup against seventh-seeded South Carolina on Sunday night. The Sun Belt Conference Tournament Championship will be hosted by the highest remaining seed on Nov. 12.

The good news is UCF’s RPI was not hurt by the loss too much as they are still at #3 with the 12th toughest schedule in the country. If the Knights can win the Sun Belt Tournament, that would put UCF in a great position to be a top-four national seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Volleyball splits TCU matches

The UCF Volleyball team’s late-season gauntlet continued last week with the Knights splitting a pair of matches against TCU.

The Knights got out ahead with a 3-1 victory on Thursday, a match which served as a vehicle for a breakout performance by true freshman defensive specialist Annika Sokol, who led the team with a career-high 17 digs.

While UCF would fall to the Horned Frogs, 3-1, the next evening, it did reinforce the emergence of outside hitter Britt Carlson, a redshirt freshman Washington State transfer whose 17 kills and seven block assists across both matches were more than her previous six appearances across this season combined.

However, Carlson’s performance could not make up for the Knights’ service issues, ending the night with more service errors (15) than blocks (11).

The matches keep UCF stable at #42 in the RPI rankings, and second in the Big 12 standings, though Kansas is now right on the Knights’ heels in third.

Up Next:

@ Houston - Friday at 8 p.m. and Saturday at 4 p.m.

Women’s Golf falls just short at Landfall Tradition

The #14 UCF Women’s Golf team concluded its fall schedule last weekend with its third podium finish and fourth top-five finish of the season.

The Knights came in third place at the Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, North Carolina with an 844 (-20), one stroke shy of Duke and Clemson, who tied for the lead at 843 (-21). It is also the fifth-lowest 54-hole team score in program history, which means that all four 54-hole team scores in the team’s fall 2023 slate rank in the top seven in program history.

Additionally, the team’s third-round 274 tied for the seventh-lowest 18-hole team score in program history. This makes it the seventh time (out of 12 total rounds) the Knights have shot a round of golf and scored 277 or lower this fall.

Individually, fifth-year senior Tunrada Piddon tied the fourth-lowest individual 18-hole score in program history (65) to elevate herself into the Top 10 overall, specifically a tie for ninth at 211 (-5) alongside sophomore Pimpisa Sisutham.

Joining them in the Top 20 are freshman Molly Smith in a tie for 13th at 212 (-4) and fifth-year senior Brittany Shin in a tie for 19th at 214 (-2).

Click here for the full results from the Landfall Tradition.

Up Next:

UCF Challenge - Feb. 4-6

Cross Country competes in first Big 12 Championship

The UCF Cross Country team became the first Knights squad to compete in a Big 12 Championship event on Saturday in Ames, Iowa.

The Knights finished the 6K race in 11th place with 263 points, coming fifty-five points behind fifth-place Kansas State.

“I thought we had a good race, I thought the squad put in the effort,” coach Bryan Harmon said. “Fifty-five points separated fifth from 11th, which just shows you how good this conference is. It was snowing a bit at the beginning, but the team battled through and I know they put everything on the line.”

Sophomore Isabella Richardson led the way individually for UCF, finishing in 50th overall with a 21:25.8 time. She was closely followed by senior Mariana Rodriguez, who came in 51st with a 21:25.7 time.

Click here for the full results of the Big 12 Women’s Cross Country Championship.

Up Next:

NCAA South Regional Championships - Nov. 10

Men’s Tennis competes in north Florida

The UCF Men’s Tennis team continued its fall slate with a couple of events in northern Florida last week.

In Tallahassee, sophomore Mehdi Benchakroun competed in the ITF’s Tallahassee Open. The Moroccan native advanced out of the qualifying draw with a sweep of 29-year-old India native Vivek Yadlapalli (6-0, 6-0) and a three-set win over Florida sophomore Borys Zgola (7-5, 3-6, 10-2). He would end up falling in his first match in the main draw to All-SEC First Teamer (and recent Texas A&M grad) Noah Schachter (3-6, 5-7).

Following his elimination in Tallahassee, Benchakroun made his way to Gainesville to join the rest of the Knights for the Gator Fall Invite.

Fifth-year senior Lleyton Cronje led the way for UCF in singles play, going 3-0 on the weekend, while sophomores Francisco Llanes and Liam Branger teamed up to go 2-1 in doubles play.

Click here for the full results from the Gator Fall Invite.

Up Next:

ITA National Fall Championships - Nov. 1-5

M25 Austin, TX - Nov. 6-13

Track and Field Athlete competes in Pan American Games

UCF Discus Thrower Adrienne Adams represented her native Jamaica Monday evening at the Pan American Games in Santiago, Chile.

Adams finished in 8th place in the event with a 55.55-meter best throw.

Knight of the Week

Luciano Natoli, Men’s Soccer

This true freshman goalkeeper is back in this spot for the second consecutive weekend. He once again filled in for Juanvi Munoz due to the latter’s red card in the last match, but this time it was for the full 90 minutes, despite only 19 minutes of in-game experience going in.

While he wasn’t perfect, as he allowed two goals that brought Georgia State one goal away from equalizing, his four saves were enough to keep the Men’s Soccer team’s win streak going and chances at a Sun Belt regular-season title alive.

Knights Play of the Week

Redshirt Senior AJ Seals scores his first collegiate career goal