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Knight Cap: Men’s Soccer Back on Track After Shutting Down #9 SMU

Plus Volleyball sweeps, Baseball rolls, and more

Gino Vivi UCF Men’s Soccer
Gino Vivi
Image Courtesy: UCF Athletics

A busy weekend of UCF Knights sports brought some big wins, plus we name a Knight of the Week in your latest Knight Cap for Monday, March 15:

UCF Men’s Soccer Upsets No. 9 SMU, 2-0

In the premiere rivalry of AAC Men Soccer, UCF perhaps has turned around the season by knocking off their nemesis in No. 9 SMU, 2-0 Saturday night in Dallas. It marks the first time SMU has lost two straight matches since 2016, while the Knights have now won two in a row to improve to 3-3.

UCF got off to fast start, scoring 10 minutes in when Gino Vivi set up Hattabiou Barry to give the Knights 1-0 lead:

UCF would add a 2nd goal in the 63rd minute when Yoni Sorokin scored his 5th career penalty kick goal to put the Knights up two:

That would be all the Knights would need as Goal keeper Yanik Oettl return after a two-match absence and was strong with 8 saves in the match to pick up the shutout.

Next up: Saturday, 6 p.m. at home vs. Temple - Eric Lopez

UCF Volleyball Sweeps Cincinnati Twice To Clinch AAC East

What was supposed to be the UCF Volleyball team’s biggest challenge of the conference season - a double dip at Cincinnati - turned out to be not a challenge at all. The Knights disposed of the Bearcats in back-to-back sweeps to clinch the top seed in The American’s East Division, and move to 12-1 on the year.

In the first match on Friday, the Knights blitzed the Bearcats by holding them to just .071 for the match while hitting .435 in a 25-15, 25-17, 25-17 romp. McKenna Melville posted 13 kills, and Kathryn Wesolich and Nerissa Moravec combined for six blocks (Moravec added 7 kills of her own). The match was over in less than 90 minutes.

On Saturday, the Bearcats came out much more aggressive in the first, leading 17-12 at one point before UCF closed on a 13-5 run to clinch the set. It was more of he same the rest of the way as the Knights wrapped up a second straight sweep to clinch the #1 seed in the East Division. This means they would draw the #2 seed from the West in the American Championship Tournament, which will be held at Cincinnati April 2-3.

Again UCF held Cincy under .080 hitting (.078 this time), and again Melville dropped a baker’s dozen worth of kills. But it was the front line that again led the way for UCF, posting 15 total blocks, led again by Nerissa Moravec with 11.

UCF is 10th in the nation in blocks per set with 2.83 and 15th in aces per set with 2.08. Moravec leads The American in blocks per set (1.26) and Melville is all alone atop the league in points per set (5.36).

Next up: UCF has a weekend off before finishing the home slate with a pair against USF March 26th and 27th. - Jeff Sharon

UCF Baseball Wins 3 of 4 From North Florida

The Knights got back on track this weekend with a series win over the North Florida Ospreys. But by weekend’s end, there was plenty of pain and frustration residing inside of UCF’s clubhouse.

Sunday’s game concluded with jubilation that was quickly replaced by concern. Playing extra innings for the first time since 2019, UCF claimed a 3-2 victory when Tom Josten’s double down the right-field line drove home Pablo Ruiz. As Josten was mobbed by his teammates, infielder Matt Archer injured his right ankle while trying to hop over the hero of the moment.

Head coach Greg Lovelady didn’t say much about the incident afterward other than that Archer will be examined by team doctors.

The ending and UCF’s bullpen marred perhaps the best performance of Jack Sinclair’s four-year career as a Knight. The junior righty threw a career-high six shutout innings and gave up just three hits. Not bad for a guy who was called upon at the last minute because usual Sunday starter AJ Jones “wasn’t feeling very good,” according to Lovelady. Sinclair exited with a 2-0 lead but was left with a no-decision as the Ospreys scored twice immediately after his departure. The Knights had plenty of chances to make Sunday’s game less suspenseful, but they stranded 13 runners and went 1-for-12 with men in scoring position.

The Knights blanked UNF, 10-0, in the series opener on Wednesday. Grad transfer pitcher Kenny Serwa allowed one hit over three scoreless innings in his Black and Gold debut. Pablo Ruiz and Josh Crouch homered that night; those were two of the Knights’ seven home runs in the series.

Left-handed starting pitcher Colton Gordon had the Ospreys wrapped around his finger on Friday night. He gave up one run over seven innings and struck out 10 for the second consecutive outing in a 6-2 triumph.

Gordon befuddled UNF with the use of his changeup and fastball, which often had a 20-mph difference. Gordon was supported by freshman shortstop Alex Freeland, who homered from each side of the plate during the weekend.

UNF’s one win came on Saturday as it punished UCF pitching in a 14-7 game. Ten of those earned runs were credited to the Knights’ bullpen, which now has a season earned run average of 6.39.

After Sunday’s finale, Lovelady praised the efforts of Sinclair and others but added that his team’s lack of consistency both at the plate and on the mound is very frustrating.

UCF (6-9) will host the Florida Atlantic Owls on Tuesday at 6 p.m. The Owls (9-5) took two of three games from the Knights during the season’s first weekend. FAU also scored a victory over the then-No. 6 Florida Gators a couple of weeks ago. - Brian Murphy

No. 24 UCF Softball Ties Record for Best 20-Game Start After Sweep of FAU

UCF got dominant pitching this weekend in Boca Raton from the 1-2 punch of Alea White and Gianna Mancha as the Knights swept FAU, outscoring the Owls 12-0. The sweep boosted the Knights’ record to 17-3, which is tied for the best 20-game start in program history (2002,2020).

White took a no-hitter into the 6th inning on Sunday and ended up breaking the program’s record for most innings pitched in a career, surpassing Mackenzie Audas. She tossed a 2-hit shutout, striking out 9 in the win to improve to 9-0 on season. Georgia Blair hit her 8th homer of the season and 14th as a Knight, which moves her into 9th place all-time at UCF.

Mancha followed it up in the second game of the double-header, going six innings and striking out nine in the win to complete the sweep.

Shannon Doherty hit a home run that broke the game open in her return home, as the Coral Springs native had big weekend.

Mancha dominated Saturday’s game with a 2-hit, 12 strikeout performance in the win. For the week UCF dominated their opponents, outscoring them 25-1 in five games, including a 7-1 win over FIU on Thursday which saw catcher Karissa Ornelas throwing out three base runners, tying a school record set by Samantha McCloskey in 2015.

Centerfielder Kyra Klarkowski got her 16th outfield assist in the top of 7th to break another record held by Vanessa Perez (09-12). Delani Schappacher added three hits and three steals in the win, and Georgia Blair connected for her 7th home run of season.

Next up: At UNF for a doubleheader on Wednesday at 4 p.m. ET - Eric Lopez

UCF Women’s Soccer Draws East Carolina

Soccer can be a cruel sport. UCF dominated the action, out-shooting ECU 23-7, 8-5 on goal, and had a 12-5 margin in corners, but they only get a 1-1 draw against the Pirates.

UCF scored first in 43rd minute on a goal by Elle Moreno, which was her 2nd of the season.

But the Pirates tied it up on a corner set piece in the 80th minute. Both teams had chances in the two overtime periods but in the end settled for the draw.

Next up: The Knights (2-2-1) go on the road next Sunday night in a showdown with rival USF in Tampa at 6 p.m. - Eric Lopez

No. 16 UCF Women’s Tennis Wins 3rd Straight, Beating UNF

Valeriya Zeleva and Ksenia Kuznetsova each picked up their 8th straight singles win in leading the Knights to a 3rd straight win overall, knocking off North Florida 6-1 to improve to 10-3 on the season.

Next up: The Knights are 10-3 and have 13 days off before facing SMU at home on March 28th.

No. 21 UCF Men’s Tennis Beats FAU, South Alabama

The Knights won their 5th straight match as they swept Florida Atlantic 7-0 in Boca Raton. Earlier in the week the Knights knocked off South Alabama, 6-1.

Both FAU and South Alabama were receiving votes in the rankings.

Next up: UCF now is 7-2 on the season and heads to Florida State next Friday.

Knights of the Week

Gianna Mancha, Softball

Gianna Mancha started the week with the biggest win of her career and the Knights’ biggest win of the season to date with a 2-0 victory over No. 2 Arizona. Mancha pitched a 3-hit shutout with 9 strikeouts.

Over the weekend in Boca, she followed that up with a two-hit, 12-strikeout shutout on Saturday, followed by six more innings with nine strikeouts and two hits allowed on Sunday as UCF swept FAU. For the week. Mancha went 3-0 in 20 innings pitched, giving up just 7 hits while striking out 30 batters with only five walks.

Yannik Oettl, Men’s Soccer

After missing the last two matches with an undisclosed injury, The two-time AAC Goalkeeper of Year returned in a big way with eight saves against a dynamic SMU offense to pick up the clean sheet and huge win for UCF.

Nerissa Moravec, Volleyball

Moravec led the Knights to a sweep of Cincinnati on Saturday with 11 block assists, which is one short of a school record for most blocks assists in a match. Moravec’s 11 blocks were also the most in program history in a three-set match in the rally-scoring era.

Moravec also added eight kills, hitting at a .727 mark in the match. In the two wins in the Queen City, Moravec had 15 kills and 13 blocks.