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Men’s Soccer hands #6 Tulsa first loss of the season

UCF’s RPI jumps 30 spots

UCF Head Men’s Soccer Coach Scott Calabrese.
UCF Head Men’s Soccer Coach Scott Calabrese.
Photo: UCF Athletics

The UCF Knights Men’s Soccer team held on after an offensive explosion in the second half Sunday night to hand No. 6-ranked Tulsa its first loss of the season, 3-2.

The win gives the Knights the lead in the conference standings and comes a week after a 3-0 upset loss to Memphis.

“I would say the team was really disappointed with how Memphis turned out, and they responded to that,” head coach Scott Calabrese said. “They were aware that they did not do the things they needed to do at the level that they needed to do and they raised their standards.”

While UCF (6-4, 4-1 AAC) and Tulsa (9-1, 4-1 AAC) came into the match tied for 8th nationally in scoring offense, it was both teams’ defenses that dominated a scoreless first half.

“I think we gave a little too much respect towards the end of the first half,” fifth-year senior utility player Nick Taylor said. “We kind of started to figure out what the weaknesses were, what we could exploit, and at halftime, the coaches came up with a good plan.”

That “good plan” propelled the Knights to three goals in the second half, the first 20 minutes of which, Calabrese said, was the best the team has played all season “by far.”

Taylor got things started with a 51st-minute goal with assists from senior midfielders Mauricio Villalobos Vega and Caleb Franke.

Not long afterwards, sophomore midfielder Ariel Hader headed the ball into the net for Knights’ second goal in the 56th minute, with Taylor on the assist.

Tulsa answered back five minutes later with a free kick by freshman forward Tom Protzek.

Sophomore forward Lucca Dourado scored the Knights’ final goal in the 76th minute with assists from Villalobos Vega and junior forward Gino Vivi. It was Dourado’s 10th goal of the season.

Tulsa’s sophomore forward Malik Henry-Scott scored the final goal of the match in the 83rd minute to put the Golden Hurricane within one.

On the defensive side, Tulsa’s freshman Alex Lopez, who came into this match with the 2nd-most saves in The American, finished the night with four saves. Meanwhile, UCF’s redshirt freshman Tyler Lavigne got a career-high six saves, including one with 13 seconds remaining that would have equalized the match had it gone in the net.

While giving credit to Lavigne, Calabrese also highlighted the work of the backline in keeping Tulsa’s offense at bay.

“[Lavigne’s] performance was really good, but, you know, so many players had to do incredible things, have worked incredibly hard to limit their chances,” Calabrese said.

Despite the loss the week before in what Taylor called a “trap game,” the team rebounded to not only hand the Golden Hurricane its first loss of the season but also beat the No. 6-ranked team in the country.

“It was a great week because I think we were able to keep trusting our process,” Villalobos Vega, the team captain, said. “Obviously, you know, we want to win, but we’re never gonna betray who we are and how we play and we know the result is always an outcome of how we train, how we do little things, how we do our preparation.”

The team hits the road next week to face SMU in a Saturday night match at 8 p.m.