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Knight Cap: The Big 12 Era on the Field Begins

Men’s Soccer shocks the country and more

We might be in a new conference, but it’s still the same old Knight Cap back for another athletic year.

For first-time readers, the purpose of Knight Cap is to keep the UCF community up to date on UCF’s Olympic sports that can go under the radar.

This past week (and some change) of UCF Knights sports saw three teams begin their new eras on the road. However, while one team made a statement on a national stage and another took care of business, another team got off to a bit of a shaky start.

Plus, we name the Knight of the Week and Knights Play of the Week in your Knight Cap for Wednesday, August 30, 2023.

Men’s Soccer Vaults into Top 15 after Week 1

The UCF Men’s Soccer team put the college soccer world on notice last week with a 2-1 upset of #9 Clemson on the road, its first win over a Top 10 opponent since beating Tulsa in 2021.

The Knights overcame an early mistake, giving up a goal less than a minute into the contest, by equalizing in the 43rd minute with a goal from true freshman midfielder Saku Heiskanen.

Heiskanen, alongside fellow true freshman midfielder Yanis Belatrache, would also get an assist on the Knights’ game-winning goal in the 69th minute, which was headed into the net by sophomore forward Emmanuel Bam.

“The players had that game underlined and that was a motivator for them to put in the work this summer because they knew that that’s the first game of the season, we have to be ready for that, that’s an opportunity,” head coach Scott Calabrese said on Monday. “And so I think it validates a lot of things about the work that they did.”

The Knights then followed it up with another 2-1 win against Stetson in their home opener.

Forward Lucca Dourado played through a brief rain shower at the beginning of the match to put UCF on the board with a penalty kick goal in the 14th minute. It was the 29th goal of his career, tying him for the seventh-most career goals in program history with Mark Lamb (1984-1987). The goal also got him to 61 career points, tying him with Rami Vehmas (1996-99) and former teammate Gino Vivi (2019-2022) for the tenth-most in program history.

Despite only getting four shots on goal for the match, the Hatters equalized in the 48th minute with a goal from redshirt freshman forward Xavi Csato. The Knights responded aggressively on offense, recording 13 of their 17 total shots in the match during the second half.

The game-winning goal came in the 84th minute off the foot of Oregon State transfer Clarence Awoudor, his first goal in a UCF uniform.

“I’m really happy to score the goal for the win and that’s a good goal, a nice goal, so I’m glad,” Awoudor said. “That’s a good feeling and I’m really glad for myself and for the team.”

The pair of wins skyrocketed the team to #14 in the United Soccer Coaches poll, the highest it has been since being ranked #13 in the preseason of the fall 2021.

UCF is now in the midst of a home stand that continues with NC State at 7 p.m. on Friday and then another Top 10 opponent in #7 Florida International at 7 p.m. on Tuesday.

Women’s Soccer Opens Season 2-1

The UCF Women’s Soccer team got the athletic year off to a winning start, but a loss bumped them out of the Top 25.

Following the team’s 1-0 season-opening win at Purdue on Aug. 17, the Knights had a similar situation brewing in the late-goings of its match against Georgia thanks to a corner-kick goal by Xavier transfer Chloe Netzel in the 27th minute.

However, the Bulldogs, who outshot UCF 15-3 for the match, converted two goals in the final ten minutes to hand the Knights their first loss of the season. Georgia is now ranked #22 in the nation.

UCF attempted to rebound from the loss with its home opener against North Florida. Sahaydak said after the game that while the team achieved the ultimate rebound goal of getting a win, 2-1, there were higher standards it did not meet.

“We were going for a shutout, we didn’t check that box off, and we had goal-scoring opportunities that we should have put away,” Sahaydak said. “So, I think we’re happy that we got the win, but I know there’s still a lot in us that we feel like we should have done better.”

Forward Ellie Moreno initially got the Knights out ahead early with a 14th-minute goal, with assists by fellow forwards Mia Asenjo and Dayana Martin.

However, the Ospreys, despite getting outshot 14-3 for the match, got one into the back of the net in the 69th minute to equalize courtesy of Cincinnati transfer Paige McSwigan.

“Breakdowns will happen, ultimately I’m glad it’s happening at the beginning of the season and we can learn from it and move forward, hopefully, to limit it happening again,” goalkeeper Caroline DeLisle said after the game.

The Knights were able to respond this time, thanks to a goal from Netzel coming off of a short corner kick in the 72nd minute.

“She’s been an awesome heading presence for us and a great addition to the team,” Sahaydak said of Netzel after the game.

While the goal allowed UCF to come away with the win to go 2-1 on the season, between the goal it did give up and only getting five of its 14 total shots on goal, the Ospreys did have opportunities.

“I think we made our own job difficult for us,” Sahaydak said. “I don’t think we had our best match, but credit to the team for still finding a way when we made things difficult.”

The Knights will hit the road once more to take on another Power Five opponent in #6 Penn State on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. before returning home to host Florida Atlantic at 6 p.m. on Sunday.

Volleyball goes undefeated in Albany

The UCF Volleyball team marked the beginning of the Jenny Maurer era with a trio of wins against Navy, Syracuse and UAlbany in New York over the weekend.

The Knights lost their only set of the weekend in their opener against Navy but would go on to sweep the Orange and the Great Danes.

Outside Hitter Emily Wilson led the way with 29 kills on the weekend followed closely by middle blocker Abby Hansen (28), who also led the team in blocks (8). Libero Chloe Scheer led the team on the weekend in digs, with 29.

Additionally, true freshman outside hitter Avah Armour marked her collegiate debut by recording 25 kills and 25 digs on the weekend.

“It takes a mature team to perform as consistently as we did throughout the weekend and maintain our composure as teams made adjustments,” head coach Jenny Maurer said in a Sunday press release.

The Knights, who are receiving 32 votes in the AVCA’s rankings this week, will now return home for their own event, the UCF Challenge. The team will play every day in The Venue from Thursday-Sunday.

It all starts on Thursday at noon against FIU, followed by a 7 p.m. tilt with Mississippi State on Friday, then a 7:30 p.m. matchup on Saturday against Wake Forest and will wrap up with a 3:30 p.m. game against Alabama State on Sunday.

Knights of the Week

Chloe Netzel, Women’s Soccer

The Xavier transfer marked the beginning of her Knights tenure with a bang, recording at least one point in all three of the UCF Women’s Soccer team’s opening matches.

She recorded an assist against Purdue, setting up Dayana Martin’s goal. She then followed it up with a goal against Georgia and the game-winning goal against North Florida.

Johnny Dawkins, Men’s Basketball

The Knights’ Men’s Basketball head coach since 2016, Dawkins was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame Wednesday night in Chicago.

He will be recognized for his playing achievements at Duke under head coach Mike Krzyzewski, who was also honored Wednesday night. Krzyzewski was a part of the Hall of Fame’s 2006 Founding Class.

Dawkins’ 2,556 career points sit second all-time in Blue Devil history, a four-time All-ACC selection, a two-time consensus All-American and the 1986 Naismith National Player of the Year award recipient.

Knights Play of the Week

Emmanuel Bam’s game-winning goal against #9 Clemson