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Knight Cap: Incoming AACs and History

While Track makes history, both Tennis teams prep to host AAC Tournaments

Courtesy of UCF Athletics

This last weekend, the UCF Knights sports world saw record books rewritten and the stage set for two teams to take their home court for the conference tournament.

Plus, we name the Knight of the Week and Knights Play of the Week in your Knight Cap for Wednesday, April 19, 2023.

Track and Field Program Records Fall in Gainesville

The UCF Track and Field team returned to Gainesville for the Tom Jones Invitational last weekend.

Highlights from the meet include:

  • Latasha Smith breaks the program outdoor 400-meter dash record with a 51.47-second time. It was the first sub-52-second run in program history. In an event that saw a new NCAA record get set in the event, the time was only enough for 6th place.
  • Kiah Williams became the 2nd athlete in program history to run a sub-52-second outdoor 400-meter dash with a 51.59-second time. It netted her an 8th-place finish.
  • Smith, Williams, Daija Lampkin, and Rayniah Jones teamed up to set a new program 4x400-meter dash record with a 3:31.42 time that got them 5th-place overall.
  • Jones also took gold in the 100-meter hurdles with a 12.80-second time in the final.
  • Kaliah Jones tied her personal best to get 4th place with the High Jump at 1.73 meters.
  • Chloe Hill took bronze in the hammer throw with a 576.81-meter best throw.
  • Mariana Rodriguez set new personal bests in both the 1500-meter run (4:29.28) and the 800-meter run (2:09.02), elevating herself to 5th and 9th in respectively in program history in the events.

For the full results, check out

Thanks to the team’s performance in Gainesville, it only dropped two spots in the USTFCCCA’s rankings to #16 in the nation.

The team will divide and conquer next weekend as the distance squad heads to Atlanta for the Georgia Tech Invitational on Friday and Saturday while the rest of the team will be in Baton Rouge, Louisiana for the LSU Alumni Gold on Friday.

Men’s Tennis Strikes Back Against Tulsa

Back in January, the UCF Men’s Tennis team fell to Tulsa, 4-1, in ITA Kickoff Weekend.

Last weekend, the #49 Knights (10-11, 5-1 AAC) capped off the regular-season with a win over the #56 Golden Hurricane, 4-2, at the USTA National Campus.

The win caps off a season of growth for a freshman-dominated Knights team that started the season 1-6, but finish it winning six their last seven and having a shot at an NCAA Tournament bid.

“We feel like we control our own destiny,” Roddick said. “Today is probably the first day that we do.”

It was one of those seven freshman, #124-ranked Liam Branger, that sealed the overall victory as he swept the tiebreaker in the third set to defeat Golden Hurricane Volodymyr Zakharov (4-6, 6-3, 7-6 (7-0)).

“He’s starting to be one of those guys like, it might not be pretty sometimes, but that’s the guy you want out there at the end, because he’s coming through at the end,” Roddick said.

With the win, UCF moves up one spot to #48 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s rankings on Tuesday as they head into the American Athletic Conference Championship, hosted by the USTA National Campus.

As the #3-seed in the tournament, the Knights will open the tournament on Friday at noon against #6-seed South Florida.

Battered Women’s Tennis Falls to SMU

The #39 UCF Women’s Tennis team dips back below .500 after a defeat at the hands of #47 SMU to conclude the regular season.

UCF has now lost four of their final six matches going into the American Athletic Conference tournament, though head coach Bryan Koniecko said the team has had “a little funky season with some injuries.”

The team has been without freshman Stefani Webb since March 25 while fellow freshman Jantje Tillbuerger has been sidelined since March 14. Koniecko said the pair are doing “a good job trying to get themselves back on the court, hopefully for [the AAC Conference Tournament.]”

However, in their absence, redshirt sophomore Anique Kattenberg has stepped into the lineup and has gone 4-1 in singles play and 2-2 in doubles. She ended up being the only Knight to defeat her SMU counterparts in both singles (2-6, 6-4, 6-3) and doubles play alongside partner Jaleesa Leslie (6-1).

“Anique’s a super competitive person, super competitive tennis player, so when she’s in a match situation, she thrives.” Koniecko said. “With just match experience, she’s been able to figure out to deal with her nerves and she’s been doing a beautiful job at that.”

Despite the loss, UCF moved up two spots to #37 in the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s rankings on Tuesday. Thus, as the 2nd-highest-ranked AAC team behind SMU, it will be the #2 seed for the American Athletic Conference Tournament, hosted by the USTA National Campus.

The Knights’ first matchup of the tournament will be on Thursday at noon against the winner of #10-seed East Carolina and #7-seed Houston.

Baseball Comes-Back to Beat Stetson

The UCF Baseball team defeated the Stetson Hatters 7-6 Tuesday night, coming back from a 6-3 deficit to win its fourth out of their last five games.

The team initially jumped out to a 3-0 lead, which it would hold for three innings. However, the Hatters would soon take over by scoring six unanswered runs, four of which came in the top of the 6th.

The Knight’s hitters and pitching struggled in the game. The Knights had 11 hits but eight of them only came from two players, catcher Ben McCabe and designated hitter Andrew Sundean.

As for the pitching, the Knights had to keep making calls to the bullpen. Things started will with Cameron Leiter, who pitched the first three innings and only gave up two hits and no runs. but after that things didn’t go well. The Knights would go on to make eight pitching changes. And out of those eight pitchers, only half of them pitched a full inning. Combined, they gave up eight hits and six runs.

The team woke up in the bottom of the 8th with shortstop Drew Faurot hitting a two-run home run to make the score 6-5. The team would tie it in the bottom of the ninth thanks to an RBI single hit by second baseman Cole Russo before walking it off that same inning when Tom Josten walked in a run.

UCF Head Coach Greg Lovelady said while there are things the team needs to improve on, he’s happy to get the win.

“Proud of the kids,” Lovelady said. “We talk about ‘Don’t give up until the last out, 27,’ and we took advantage of all 27 tonight.”

The Knights will be back in action on Friday as they start a three-game road series against USF, a rematch of a series they had a few weeks ago in which they dropped two of three games.

Knight of the Week

Bogdan Pavel, Men’s Tennis

While there is youth in abundance on the UCF Men’s Tennis team, Sunday was a day to celebrate its lone senior, Bogdan Pavel, who said he was dubbed “Grandpa” by the freshmen.

The #89-ranked singles player in the nation said it was a “perfect day” as he not only won in doubles play with partner Lleyton Cronje (6-4), but he also took down #51-ranked Kody Pearson (7-6, 7-6) after going into a tiebreaker in both sets.

“I knew from the beginning that it was going to be a fight, it was going to be a battle and I’m just happy that I pulled through,” Pavel said.

Knights Play of the Week

Latasha Smith runs the first sub-52-second outdoor 400-meter dash in program history