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Knight Cap: Men’s Soccer Season Ends in Heartbreak

Plus: Tennis wraps up fall slate

Brenna Johnson

This past week of UCF Knights sports saw one team’s season come to an end while another one’s losing streak continued despite improvement.

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 Monday, November 20, 2023.

Men’s Soccer out of NCAA Tournament

The UCF Men’s Soccer team’s 2023 campaign came to an end Sunday night after the Knights lost in overtime to Vermont, 3-2.

The Catamounts ended up outshooting the Knights 23-17 in shot attempts and 8-5 in shots on goal.

The 912 people at the UCF Soccer complex, the sixth-largest crowd in program history, did not have to wait long for scoring to commence. True freshman midfielder Saku Heiskanen got UCF on the board early with a goal at the 1:06 mark, his 5th goal of the season.

However, Vermont would even things up with a 17th-minute goal by Gibraltar National-Team call-up Niels Hartman and then take the lead in the 55th minute with a goal from All-America East First-Team forward Yaniv Bazini.

Forward Clarance Awoudor, who picked up an assist on UCF’s early goal, tied the match up late in regulation with a late goal 77th minute, assisted by fellow forward Lucca Dourado.

While the goal forced overtime, Bazini assisted on one last goal for the Catamounts in the 105th minute that sent them to the Sweet 16 for the second consecutive season.

The Knights finish their season at 10-4-2 (6-2-1 Sun Belt), with three of their four losses coming in three consecutive home matches to end the season.

“Once you’ve had a taste of being in these environments, NCAA Tournament games, postseason play within your conference, you want to do it again and again and again, and there’s nothing that’s better,” head coach Scott Calabrese said after the match. “So, hopefully, this gives them a taste for ‘Okay, this is what we want.’ I mean, incredible crowd, amazing atmosphere.”

“The table’s set for a big story that we can create, but it’s not going to happen this year now. So, now we need to work towards what our goals are, which is to continue to pursue championships.”

Volleyball hangs close but falls to Texas

Despite a program-record 1,787 fans at The Venue, the UCF Volleyball team was swept by defending national champion #5 Texas, 3-0.

The Knights were able to hand around for the majority of the match, never losing a set by more than five points (25-20, 25-22, 25-23).

After over a week of rest since its last match, UCF (17-10, 8-8 Big 12) turned in its best hitting percentage since facing TCU three weeks ago (.223). Head Coach Jenny Maurer said the time off helped the team have all 15 of its members available to take the floor for the first time in all season, preseason included.

“What happened today, I expected us to be able to do and it was great to see us execute and really get them on the ropes a lot,” Maurer said. “Sure, we had our errors that we can cut down and control a little bit better, but we brought it, we made them earn it.”

Seniors Lauren Clark, Claudia Dillon and Abby Hansen, all transfers to the program in the last three years, were all honored in the team’s Senior Knight festivities.

“The reason our team was able to bond so quickly had a lot to do with them and the people they are,” Maurer said. “I tease them a little bit, ‘They may not have started here, but they eventually landed at the right place,’ and everything that they’ve given, I’m so grateful for, personally, as much as thankful for what they’ve given to this team that’s allowed us to do what we did today.”

Dillon turned in a .500 hitting percentage with seven kills, tied for second-most on the team that night with Clark right behind her at six. Hansen turned in five kills but also had five block solos and two block assists.

The loss dropped the Knights five spots to #67 in the RPI rankings and to eighth in the Big 12 standings.

Up Next:

@ Iowa State | 7:30 p.m. | Big XII Now/ESPN+

@ Kansas | 2:00 p.m. | Big XII Now/ESPN+

Women’s Tennis concludes (scheduled) fall slate

The fall slate wrapped up for the UCF Women’s Tennis team this week.

Incoming true freshman Olivia Lincer became the third Knight to win a title this fall as she and fellow Pole Anna Hertel took home the doubles title at one of the ITF’s W25 tournaments in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. Along the way, the duo defeated American duo Dasha Ivanova and Victoria Osuigwe (7-5, 6-3).

Lincer would later team up with Osuigwe, a 16-year-old Bradenton, Florida native, in another W25 Tournament in Santo Domingo. They made it to the semifinal before falling via walkover.

She was not as fortunate in the Dominican Republic in singles play. While she did defeat Mississippi State alum Lilian Poling (6-1, 6-4) in her first match, she lost her last two.

Meanwhile, sophomore Stefani Webb and junior Sophia Biolay were at the H-E-B Women’s Pro Tennis Open in Austin, Texas.

Biolay fell in the first match of the qualifying draw to 17-year-old Jennifer Jackson (4-6, 6-4, 10-5).

Webb had better fortunes, winning her first-round matchup against North Carolina commit Tatum Evans (6-3, 6-1) before falling to 25-year-old Hanna Chang (7-5, 2-6, 4-6).

Webb, Biolay, Lincer and the rest of the Knights will be back in the spring for their first dual-match season in the Big 12.

Men’s Tennis wraps up (scheduled) fall circuit

The UCF Men’s Tennis team also wrapped its fall schedule with sophomore Liam Branger competing at the MNO Tennis Series in Boca Raton.

While Branger defeated Pacific alum John Horoz Garner (6-4, 6-1), he fell in the second round of the qualifying draw to 16-year-old Minnesota native Maxwell Exsted (4-6, 2-6).

As the fall season comes to a close, three Knights found themselves ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association.

Fifth-year senior Lleyton Cronje and sophomore Santiago Giamichelle rank 20th in the nation in doubles play and sophomore Mehdi Benchakroun ranked 95th in singles play.

All four Knights will be back in 2024 for the team’s first dual-match season in the Big 12.

Knight of the Week

Abby Hansen, Volleyball

Thanks to her five block solos against the Longhorns, Hansen now has 27 this season. It’s not only a career record for the Oregon transfer, but it also ties for the eighth-best in a season program history with 2016 Jeanne Westney.

Knights Play of the Week

Lucca Dourado and Clarance Awoudor tie it up late in the match