Fresh off their first conference regular season title in 14 years, the UCF Knights men’s soccer team now embarks on their questo for the double - regular season and tournament conference titles - at home Thursday night.
The 1-seed Knights face the 4-seed UConn Huskies in the American Athletic Conference Tournament semifinals at the UCF Track and Soccer Complex on campus at 7 p.m. Thursday. The match will be streamed on The American Digital Network.
The second match of semifinal Friday at @American_MSoc Championship comes later tonight when #1 @UCF_MSoccer takes on #4 @UConnMSOC at 7pm ET/6pm CT live on the @American_DN over on Facebook.— The American (@American_Conf) November 8, 2018
: https://t.co/QSCGofhq8T pic.twitter.com/AgTDBTzA5S
It has been a truly remarkable year so far for the Knights, who are ranked 7th in the latest United Soccer Coaches’ Poll (the highest ranking in program history), and have an RPI of 13. They’re 12-2-2 on the year, but since last year’s long-weather-delayed home opener against Stetson, the Knights are 19-3-3 in their last 25 matches, with two of those losses coming in overtime. One of those was in last year’s AAC Championship, 2-1 to SMU.
Earlier this week, UCF took home four of the six top conference awards:
- Cal Jennings - Player of the Year
- Louis Perez - Midfielder of the Year
- Yannick Oettl - Goalkeeper of the Year
- UCF’s coaching staff - Coaching Staff of the Year
Jennings, Perez, Oettl and midfielder Yoni Sorokin were named to the all-conference First Team, and defenseman Yanis Leerman was named to the Second Team.
Leerman and fellow back-rower Andres Hernandez Betancur were named to the All-Rookie Team.
All that’s well and good, but not bringing home the tournament trophy could prevent UCF from achieving larger goals. The Knights have never made it past the second round of the NCAA Tournament, doing so the last time they were in the field in 2011.
UConn presents a challenge all its own. The Huskies are the only other team in The American to win double-digit matches in 2018, took basically all of the other individual conference awards, and have the second-best RPI among The American (24th).
These two teams have had their share of nail-biters. The Knights and Huskies played to a scoreless draw earlier this year, and last year, UCF knocked off the Huskies 1-0 in the AAC semis:
In the regular season meeting before that, UCF defeated UConn on a golden goal:
Should UCF get through UConn, they would play the winner of SMU and Memphis, who upset South Florida in the quarters. The Championship is scheduled for 7 p.m. on Saturday, and will be televised on ESPN3.
The Knights haven’t won 14 matches in a season since the second year of the program in 1976. Should they win the conference title this weekend, they will do just that, and head into the NCAA Tournament on one of the hottest streaks in the nation.