The busiest spring in UCF Knights athletics history is in full swing and we will keep you on track with recaps every Monday of all sports, plus we’ll name a Star Athlete of the Week.
Here’s your first Knight Cap of 2021:
Cross Country: Lastra Wins Freshman of the Year, Leads UCF to Best Finish in AAC Championships since 2016
UCF has a new star in cross country. Freshman Valerie Lastra posted the fastest time by a freshman at the AAC conference meet since 2017, finishing fourth overall with a 21:10.55 in the 5k, which helped UCF to the best finish in the AAC Championships since 2016, finishing 5th overall.
Lastra became the first Knight to earn Freshman of the Year in The American. In her two meets this season, Lastra broke Knights legend Anne-Marie Blaney’s freshman 5K and 6K records. Her fourth-place finish is the best conference debut by a Knight in program history.
Turning in one of the best showings by a newcomer in race history and finishing fourth overall, @UCF_Track's Valerie Lastra captures #AmericanXC Women's Freshman of the Year honors! ⚔ pic.twitter.com/xaJyfNcuDL— American XC Track (@AmericanXCTrack) February 6, 2021
The Knights’ 5th place finish is their second-best ever since joining The American, and only one spot behind their previous best finish. Tulsa ended up winning AAC Championship.
UCF picked up six points in the War on I-4 as a result of finishing ahead of the USF Bulls, who finished 10th, bringing the count to 15-3 in favor of the Knights. But the story of the weekend is Lastra, who made all-conference and is the future of UCF Cross Country.
UCF Volleyball Wins Two Matches Over Tulane In Four Sets
The UCF Knights Volleyball team improved to 5-0 on the season with back-to-back wins over Tulane in a matchup of AAC foes playing a pair of non-conference matches.
On Friday, UCF came back from dropping the first set to win the match in four (19-25, 25-15, 25-16, 25-22) behind McKenna Melville’s team-leading 21 kills and Anne Marie Watson’s 12 kills and 5 blocks.
On Saturday, Melville once again carried the offense as the Knights defeated the Green Wave in four tight sets. The turning point was the 3rd set when the Knights scored the last six points come back from 23-19 deficit to win 25-23. Melville had a season high 26 kills, two shy of her career high, and added three aces and two blocks. UCF out-aced Tulane 11-1 in match.
UCF Men’s Soccer Drops 1-0 Opener to Tulsa
For the first time since 2018, UCF Men’s Soccer lost a regular season home match. The Knights opened American play on Saturday night losing to Tulsa, 1-0.
The Golden Hurricane came ready to play and scored 9 minutes in, with Tulsa’s Alex Minehard scoring the only goal of the match. UCF picked up the play as match developed but could never find the equalizer. UCF now heads on the road next weekend to take on Temple.
No. 22 UCF Women Tennis Keeps Rolling
The Knights won their fourth match in a row on Thursday as UCF dominated Stetson 7-0 to improve to 4-2 on season.
UCF beat Old Dominion, who was receiving votes on Monday 7-0 in windy conditions.
Up next for the Knights is a road match at No. 21 Florida on Tuesday in a rematch from the meeting on January 29th, when UCF knocked off Florida 4-3.
No. 18 UCF Men’s Tennis Wins at Miami
UCF Men’s Tennis won its second straight match against a team from the Sunshine State. Following a win over South Florida on January 31st, UCF went into Coral Gables and pulled out a dramatic 4-3 win at Miami to improve to 2-1 on the season.
UCF Women’s Golf Ranks No. 22 in GolfWeek Rankings
The UCF Women’s Golf team made its first appearance of the year in the latest GolfWeek Women’s Team Collegiate Rankings, checking in at No. 22 in the country. Individually, sophomore Tunrada Piddon is currently ranked as the No. 45 player in the country in the Golfweek Women’s Collegiate Individual Rankings.
Piddon had a top 20 finish at the UCF Challenge last week as the Knights got the spring season going. The Knights are scheduled to return Feb. 14-16 at the Moon Golf Invitational at Duran Golf Club in Melbourne.
UCF Athlete of Week: Valerie Lastra, Cross Country
We will be honoring one UCF Knight each week, with the first one going to Lastra, who had a memorable performance and is the face of UCF Cross Country for years to come as we mention on top.
Honorable Mention: McKenna Melville, Volleyball
Melville had another dominant weekend for Melville who had 47 kills and 17 digs in the two wins over Tulane. For the season, Melville is averaging an amazing 5.06 kills per set with 91 total kills and 35 digs on the season (1.94 per set). She is up to 1,120 kills in her career, which puts her 88 kills away from passing Erin Campbell for 8th place all-time at UCF.