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Knight Cap: Spring has Sprung

Plus: Undefeated Tennis Teams

Courtesy of UCF Athletics

Knight Cap is back for 2024!

This first edition of the year will recap the UCF programs that began their spring seasons and other breaking stories revolving around UCF athletes.

So, from the indoor track to the tennis court and from all-star football games to a draft stage, let’s see how these Knights marked the new semester, plus we give you our Knights of the Week and Play of the Week in the first Knight Cap for the calendar year on Friday, January 26, 2024.

Women’s Tennis sweeps #20 Georgia Tech

The UCF Women’s Tennis team opened up their 2024 season by avenging the end of the 2023 one.

The Knights swept No. 20-ranked Georgia Tech, the same team that eliminated them from 2023’s NCAA Tournament, last Saturday.

“We knew it was going to be tough and obviously it was on our mind, it was on our mind all summer,” head coach Bryan Koniecko said.

Both sophomore Jantje Tilbuerger and senior Jaleesa Leslie took victories in both doubles and singles play.

Thanks to the victory, the Knights entered the Top 25 at No. 23 in the nation, joining fellow Big 12 programs Oklahoma State (No. 3), Texas (No. 10) and Oklahoma (No. 16).

They will take on the Sooners (2-2) this upcoming Saturday at 11 a.m. in their next matchup as part of ITA Kickoff Weekend, followed by a Sunday tilt against either No. 19-ranked Cal or Illinois.

Track and Field Opens Indoor Season

The UCF Track and Field team began its first indoor season as a Big 12 team this month and has since traveled to three meets in Gainesville, Louisville, Nashville and Lubbock, Texas.

Highlights from the Corky Classic in Lubbock, Texas include:

  • Fifth-year Charlotte Crook broke her own program record in the 1,000-meter run with a 2:52.16.
  • Rayniah Jones: Bronze in the 60-meter dash (7.25 seconds) and silver in the 60-meter hurdles (8.01 seconds)

Highlights from the Vanderbilt Invitational in Nashville include:

  • Junior Asherah Collins earned a silver in the long jump (6.09 meters) and a bronze in the triple jump (12.80 meters).
  • Y’Vette Harris set a new school freshman record in the pentathlon, with 3,440 points.
  • Junior Natalia Madison earned a silver medal in the pentathlon with 3,794 points, breaking her own mark at second-best in program history.

Highlights from the UK Rod McCravy Memorial in Louisville include:

  • Jones also earned a bronze medal in the 60-meter hurdles with an 8.09.
  • Jones won the gold medal in the 200-meters with a 23.68:

UCF ranks #6 in the USTFCCCA South Region. The Knights’ next stop will be in Clemson this weekend for the Bob Pollack Invitational.

Men’s Tennis wins four straight to start 2024

The UCF Men’s Tennis team is off to its first 4-0 start since 1999 with wins over UNC Wilmington, Coastal Carolina, North Florida and Georgia Southern.

All four of those wins came thanks to UCF’s singles play, having not yet won a doubles point yet.

Fifth-year Lleyton Cronje, sophomore Santiago Giamichelle and #95 sophomore Mehdi Benchakroun are all 4-0 in singles play this season. Cronje also took home Big 12 Player of the Week honors:

The Knights will be back at the USTA National Campus at noon on Saturday to face Florida Gulf Coast (1-1).

Five Knights Say Goodbye in Hula Bowl

Five UCF Knights football players played their final game in FBC Mortgage Stadium on Jan. 13 at the 2023 Hula Bowl.

QB John Rhys Plumlee, OL Lokahi Pauole, LB Jason Johnson, DE Tre’mon Morris-Brash and DB Decorian Patterson all played, with all but Pauole playing for Team Aina, who took a 24-17 loss to Team Kai.

Johnson was named Defensive MVP for Team Aina:

Pauole recovered a called fumble by BYU’s Isaac Rex that was forced by Morris-Brash.

UCF head coach Gus Malzahn getting a sideline interview at the start of the second quarter.

Next up on the All-Star circuit: the East-West Shrine Bowl on Feb. 1, which will feature Plumlee, Johnson and OL Tylan Grable, and the Senior Bowl, which will feature WR Javon Baker on Feb. 3.

Knight of the Week

Talia Gabarra, Women’s Soccer

UCF Women’s Soccer M Talia Gabarra was selected with the 56th and final pick of the 2024 NWSL Draft, by the Orlando Pride. Coming back from an injury that forced her to sit for all of the 2022 season, Gabarra started 12 of 14 matches she played in 2023, totaled 965 on-pitch minutes and earned an assist in the Knights’ first Big 12 conference win over West Virginia.

Knights Play of the Week

JRP finds former Georgia Tech WR Dylan Leonard for his final TD pass at the Bounce House