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Women’s Soccer Clinches First AAC Regular Season Title Since 2017

Knights mark Senior Day by clinching home field for conference tournament

UCF Women’s Soccer
UCF Women’s Soccer celebrate after winning the AAC regular season title.
Noah Goldberg

Mere minutes after the UCF Knights Women’s Soccer team finished its Sunday afternoon match, the players began gathering around a phone.

They had done their part, getting a 1-0 win against Houston. Now, it was up to Cincinnati to defeat USF so Knights could clinch their first American Athletic Conference regular-season championship since 2017.

“Cincy doesn’t lose at home, so I thought we had that on our side,” forward Kristen Scott said after the match. “It was just amazing to watch that clock count down.”

After the initial celebration upon witnessing the Bearcats’ victory, Scott stepped back from the pile, hands over her mouth as the emotions of what just occurred began to truly sink in. No sooner than she did that, midfielder Katie Bradley embraced the senior forward. She was joined seconds later by a pair of players who have been on the team with Scott since 2018: goalkeeper Caroline DeLisle and defender Mathilde Kack.

“It means so much,” Scott said. “I mean, honestly, we don’t really have to talk. You can just tell by the smiles on everyone’s faces.”

“It’s such a surreal feeling and I’m so proud of everybody. We’re all on top of the world right now.”

Scott scored the match’s only goal in the 17th minute with an assist from fellow forward Dayana Martin. It was Martin’s fifth assist of the season, the most on the team.

“She beat the whole backline with a pass, so all I had to do was finish,” Scott said. “It makes my job very easy and I’m so grateful for her.”

As for Scott, it was her 9th goal of the season and 33rd of her career, putting her into a tie with Courtney Whidden for the 6th-most career goals in program history.

“I am so pumped to have a big-time goal scorer again at UCF!” Whidden said. “We are all so proud of the team and can’t wait to see how far they go this season!”

However, just because the Knights (8-2-4, 6-0-1 AAC) were able to get the early lead, it did not mean they would be able to keep it. Head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak said the Cougars’ counter-attack put the Knights under a lot of pressure. She compared it to football in that a team can make one mistake and find themselves down.

“It was a little nerve-wracking in the second half, but I’m glad that they kept their composure and they just put it away,” Sahaydak said.

Sahaydak and the coaching staff were the only ones on the sideline to know the feeling of an AAC regular-season title. Of the 10 seniors that were honored during the pre-match Senior Knight festivities, none of them were on the 2017 team.

“I know it’s just something that they wanted to go out on top,” Sahaydak said. “They knew that this was the last year in The American. They don’t get to play in the Big 12 and they just wanted to leave their legacy here in The American, which they did today.”

A few days before the match, DeLisle, who picked up a save against Houston, spoke about the team’s lack of a championship.

“That is something we’ve talked about since we were freshmen,” DeLisle said. “It’s now or never.”

The regular-season championship puts the Knights at the No. 1 seed as they pursue a championship in the American Athletic Conference Tournament for the first time since 2013. They will have a first-round bye in the tournament and get to host the semifinals and the championship match on Nov. 3 and Nov. 6, respectively.

However, before all that, there is one more regular-season match that remains. Fresh off their defeat against Cincinnati, the Bulls (8-7, 5-2 AAC) will welcome the Knights for the War on I-4 at 7 p.m. on Thursday.

“They’re gonna get after it,” Sahaydak said. “They’re competitors. I’m just glad that there’s a little bit of less pressure on them and I think we play better that way.”