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Knight Cap: Men’s Soccer Earns NCAA First-Round Bye, Plays Sunday

Plus: Women’s Tennis brings home more fall titles

Anderson Rosa
Photo: Derek Warden

This past week of UCF Knights sports saw one team learn its postseason path and another finish off their season.

We recap all of that action, plus we give you our Knights of the Week and Play of the Week in this week’s Knight Cap for Wednesday, November 15, 2023.

Men’s Soccer earns 12 seed, will host NCAA Second Round

The UCF Men’s Soccer team learned its postseason fate on Monday. The #12 seed Knights (10-3-2, 6-2-1 Sun Belt) were awarded a first-round bye and will play the winner of Vermont and Rider in Orlando on Sunday at 7 p.m.

Joining UCF in the lower left quadrant of the bracket is fellow Sun Belt team West Virginia, who enters the tournament as the #5 seed. Should the Mountaineers meet the Knights in the Sweet 16, the match would take place in Morgantown, West Virginia, unlike these teams’ regular-season meeting, which ended in a 2-2 draw in Orlando.

UCF also sits at #12 in both the RPI rankings, down two spots from last week, and the United Soccer Coaches poll.

Next up:

NCAA Tournament 2nd Round match vs. Vermont/Rider | 6 p.m. | ESPN+

Volleyball drops another pair to BYU

With its pair of losses to BYU last week, the UCF Volleyball team has now lost seven of its last eight matches.

The Knights (17-9, 8-7 Big 12) were swept on both Thursday and Friday night by the Cougars. For the second weekend in a row, UCF hit an under .200 hitting percentage in both matches.

The result came despite a record turnout at The Venue for Friday night’s matchup, with 1,707 people now setting the mark for the largest regular-season home crowd and second-largest overall home crowd in program history.

Thanks to BYU’s high RPI ranking, UCF was able to maintain its place in the high 60s, even going up a spot to #62 after the losses.

Up Next:

vs. Texas - Sunday at 2 p.m. | ESPN+

2023 UCF Athletics Hall of Fame Class Inducted

The 2023 UCF Athletics Hall of Fame class was enshrined in a ceremony at the on-campus Celeste Hotel Friday night.

The seven-member class is the largest in 2011, which includes the likes of former UCF Volleyball player DeLaina Sarden, UCF Baseball pitcher Kyle Bono and UCF Softball pitcher Shelby Turnier. The 2007 National-Championship-winning Cheerleading team was also inducted, alongside “The Voice of UCF Football” Marc Daniels and a pair of posthumous inductions in former UCF Football head coach Gene McDowell and President John Hitt.

Women’s Tennis brings home three titles

A trio of UCF Women’s Tennis players are bringing home hardware from two separate tournaments they competed in last week.

Knights swept both the singles and doubles titles at the Fighting Illini Open in Champaign, Illinois.

Sophomore Stefani Webb joins junior Sophia Biolay as the second UCF player to win a title this fall, taking down NC State senior Gina Marie Dittmann (6-2, 2-6, 6-1) in the Final. She also defeated 26-year-old Kennedy Shaffer (7-5, 5-7, 6-4), Virginia Tech senior Tamara Barad Itzhaki (6-1, 6-2) and Illinois fifth-year senior Josie Frazier (6-3, 6-2) along the way.

Webb also won the tournament’s doubles title alongside Biolay, defeating Oklahoma State duo Raquel Gonzalez Vilar and Ayumi Miyamoto (7-5, 6-3) in the Final. The duo also defeated pairs from NC State (4-6, 6-4, 10-7) and Illinois (6-2, 7-5) along the way.

Biolay also picked up a win in the singles bracket over 14-year-old Kristina Penickova (6-4, 6-1), but fell to her twin sister, Annika, in the second round (4-6, 6-2, 5-7).

Meanwhile, in Waco, Texas, another trio of UCF players competed at the Big 12 Invite.

Junior Noel Saidenova captured the Gold Draw Championship, going a perfect 4-0, defeating Baylor freshman Zuzanna Kubacha (6-1, 6-2) in the Final.

Also in singles play, senior Jaleesa Leslie went 3-1 in the Green draw and Jantje Tilbuerger went 2-2, also in the Gold Draw.

Meanwhile, in doubles play, Tilbuerger and Saidenova teamed up to go 1-1, while Jaleesa Leslie, paired with Iowa State sophomore Juliette Nask, went 2-1, with both wins coming in the consolation bracket of the Red draw.

Up Next:

W25 Austin - Nov. 13-17

Cross Country concludes season in Gainesville

The UCF Cross Country team wrapped up its 2023 season in Gainesville in the NCAA South Regional 6K.

Sophomore Isabella Richardson led the way for the Knights, finishing in 80th place overall at 20:38.9.

As a team, the Knights finished 18th out of 29 teams with 492 points.

Fifth-year senior Charlotte Crook also set a new personal best in what was the final cross country race of her collegiate career. Her 20:47.0 put her in 88th overall, tying her place in the 2019 NCAA South Regional.

Just behind Crook was junior Alexandra Del Re, who also hit a new personal-best time of 20:48.9, netting her 91st overall.

“I can’t say enough about Charlotte and Ali,” distance coach Bryan Harmon said. “It was probably both their best cross-country races of their college careers so it’s always nice to see the seniors who have invested so much into the program and both of them specifically who have battled a lot of injuries in their careers get through the season healthy and perform at a high level.”

Click here for the full results from the 2023 NCAA South Regional Invitational.

Men’s Tennis fall pro circuit continues in Austin

A trio of UCF Men’s Tennis players saw action at the Greenview Development & Majestic Realty Men’s Pro Tennis Open in Austin, Texas last week.

Sophomore Yassine Dlimi defeated Pepperdine alum Stefan Menichella (6-1, 7-5) to advance to the second round, but ended up falling to Texas senior Eliot Spizzirri (3-6, 3-6).

Two other Knights joined Dlimi in Austin, though were less fortunate. Sophomore Liam Branger lost in his first match in the qualifying draw to Incarnate Word senior Jose Sasso (7-5, 4-6, 9-11) and fifth-year senior Lleyton Cronje fell to Abilene Christian alum Joshua Sheehy (7-5, 4-6, 5-7).

Cronje also played in the doubles bracket, teaming up with former UCF player, now Texas A&M alum, Trey Hilderbrand in the doubles bracket, though they lost in their first match to #2 seed Patrick Harper and Mark Wallner (6-4, 3-6, 7-10).

Up Next:

M15 Boca Raton | Nov. 13-19

Knights of the Week

Demari Henderson, Football

The sophomore defensive back’s three turnovers helped keep #15 Oklahoma State off the board, allowing the Knights to continue widening its lead.

He was recognized as the Walter Camp Defensive Player of the Week for his efforts.

Stefani Webb, Women’s Tennis

Not only did Stefani Webb join Sophia Biolay as the second active UCF Women’s Tennis player to win on the fall professional circuit in 2023, but she also did one better and won both the singles and doubles titles at the same tournament.

Knights Play of the Week

RJ Harvey getting the 2nd-longest TD run in school history