clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Everything You Need To Know About the 2023 UCF Women’s Soccer Team

The Knights begin the Big 12 Era on the Field with Women’s Soccer

Noah Goldberg

The Women’s Soccer team will officially kick off the UCF Knights’ Big 12 era on the field in Indiana against Purdue on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m. The game will be streamed on Big Ten Plus.

Here’s everything you need to know about the Knights as they start their campaign:

Last Season

9-2-7 (7-0-1 AAC), AAC Regular-Season Champions

Postseason: Tied #1 UCLA 1-1, lost 3-0 on PKs

The Knights opened 2022 with a bang with a 3-0 victory over Florida. However, the rest of the non-conference schedule would be a mixed bag, not helped by an injury to leading goal-scorer Kristen Scott that kept her on the sidelines for four matches, during which the Knights received their only two losses of the regular season (Ole Miss and North Carolina, both 2-1).

The team bounced back with draws against Memphis and Texas without Scott. Upon her return, the team ran the table against the rest of their AAC opponents, helping the Knights win their first AAC title since 2017. Six of their last seven matches ended in shutout victories.

Despite a premature exit from the AAC Tournament on penalty kicks by Memphis, UCF still ended its postseason drought with its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2017. The team added to that by beating NC State on penalty kicks to make it back to the Second Round for the first time since 2014.

The Knights would end their season by tying eventual national champion UCLA, 1-1, but would lose on penalty kicks.

For more, check out Knight Cap of the 2022 season here.

This Season

Picked 6th in the Big 12; Ranked 24th in United Soccer Coaches Poll

For the first time since 2018, the Knights will start their season ranked in the Top 25 nationally.

As for the Big 12, UCF comes in just two points behind Texas Tech in sixth place in its preseason coaches poll.

At the top of the conference, it is a three-way race between BYU, TCU and Texas, all coming within four points of each other. Though when it comes to first-place votes, BYU edges out the Longhorns, 6-5. The Knights drew against Texas last season, 2-2.

Who’s in Charge

Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak — 11th Season at UCF

Belgium v United States
Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak
Photo by Meg Oliphant/Getty Images

She has led the Knights’ coaching staff to four AAC Coaching Staff of the Year awards and will now spend her eleventh season leading UCF into the Big 12.

She ended the program’s postseason drought last season and will now have to try and build momentum to get it back to consecutive postseasons for the first time since her first years in Orlando.

She will be coming off of coaching on the staff of the U.S. Women’s National Team in the FIFA Women’s World Cup after its Round of 16 exit.

UCF Under Coach Sayhaydak

Year Overall Conference AAC Reg. Season AAC Tournament NCAA Tournament
Year Overall Conference AAC Reg. Season AAC Tournament NCAA Tournament
2013 16-3-4 8-0-1 1st Won AAC Tournament First Round
2014 18-5-0 8-1-0 1st Lost Semis (UConn) Sweet 16
2015 12-6-2 6-3-0 3rd Lost Semis in OT (USF) First Round
2016 9-8-2 4-4-1 6th Lost 1st Round in PKs (SMU) -
2017 13-2-3 7-0-2 1st Lost Final in PKs (USF) First Round
2018 10-7-1 6-3-0 3rd Lost Semis (MEM) -
2019 11-4-4 5-2-2 3rd Lost Semis (USF) -
2020* 2-4-1 2-4-1 6th DNQ -
2021 8-7-1 3-4-1 6th Lost 1st Round (MEM) -
2022 9-2-7 7-0-1 1st Lost 1st Round (MEM) Second Round
Total 108-48-25 56-21-9 4 Titles 1 Title 5 Appearances

Check out our preview interview with Coach Sahaydak prior to the team’s home opener against North Florida below:

What to Watch for

Goal Scoring

While the Knights made great strides defensively, they fell from 46th in sthe nation in scoring offense in 2021 to 99th in 2022.

Now, with the graduations of Kristen Scott and Mallory Olsson alone, there will be plenty of goal-scoring opportunities to go around. Will another dominant scorer emerge or will goals be more evenly spread between players? Time will tell.

The Back

Part of the reason UCF was able to finish 23rd in the nation last season in both goals-against average and save percentage was due to the back line taking the load off Caroline DeLisle defensively. In 2021, she had an 81.3 save percentage with 78 saves. In 2022, 72 saves gave her an 84.7 save percentage.

The Knights will once again have to replenish the backline this season following the graduations of Mathilde Kack, Kelis Barton and Second-Team All-AAC selection Georgia Eaton-Collins.

Olivia Lewis and Ariel Young are back and Kyleigh Thelen, a defender/midfielder from Stetson, has transferred in, but beyond them is a mix of true and redshirt freshmen.

Who to Watch

Two Knights from last season’s All-AAC First Team return for the program’s first season in the Big 12. Though, one of them was able to snag a spot on the Big 12’s Preseason All-Conference Team.

#17 - Dayana Martin - Forward

Noah Goldberg

Martin stepped up in big moments for the Knights last season en route to an All-AAC First Team and All-South Region Third Team selections. She got a goal in the Knights’ 2-2 draw against Texas, another in their 3-2 win over Tulsa and another in the NCAA Tournament against UCLA.

In total, Martin was tied for second on the team in goals (five) and tied for the team lead in assists (five), which puts her in a prime position to become the team’s new main striker with the departures of both Kristen Scott and Mallory Olsson, who combined for half of UCF’s 28 goals in 2022.

#1 Caroline DeLisle - Goalkeeper

UCF Athletics

DeLisle took home the AAC’s Goalkeeper of the Year award for the second consecutive season thanks to getting a career-high 84.7 save percentage. She also increased her career save total to 233, putting her in fourth place in program history just ahead of her predecessor Vera Varis.

DeLisle is 105 saves behind third-place Heather Brann though, and with her season-high being 78 saves, it looks unlikely she will get higher than fourth.

However, she will still be able to solidify her place in program history in its first season in the Big 12.

For more about DeLisle, check out her Know Your Knight article from 2021.

#37 Mia Asenjo - Forward

Noah Goldberg

Asenjo came out of the gate aggressively in her freshman season, shooting the ball 26 times, the fourth-most on the team.

She was named unanimously to the AAC’s All-Rookie Team as a midfielder (despite being labeled as a forward on the team roster).

Now, she will be returning to the team with another offseason of development and is still in search of her first career goal.

Who We’ll Miss

#7 Kristen Scott - Forward

Noah Goldberg

The most prolific scorer of the Sahaydak Era, Scott finished her UCF career with 33 career goals, tied for the sixth-most in program history. In 2022 alone, she led the team with nine goals, despite missing four matches. She was also named the AAC’s Offensive Player of the Year and First-Team All-South Region.

While she was drafted in the NWSL Draft by the Orlando Pride, Scott will begin her professional career overseas with France’s ASSE Feminines.

#21 Darya Rajaee - Midfielder

Noah Goldberg

Rajaee tallied over 5,000 minutes over her UCF career, 1,592 of which came in 2022. She was an AAC First-Team selection and a Second-Team All-South Region selection for the second consecutive year and was even the conference’s Midfielder of the Year back in 2021.

She may have only scored one goal the entire 2022 season, a penalty kick, but it ended up being the goal that sent the Knights’ NCAA Tournament game against NC State into overtime and subsequently, penalty kicks. Then, Rajaee would put the nail in the coffin to send UCF to the Second Round for the first time since 2014.

Rajaee is also beginning her professional career overseas with Germany’s Turbine Potsdam.

Who’s New That’s Good

#33 Morgan O’Connor - Forward

A transfer from Ole Miss, O’Connor got four assists and scored six goals (one of which was against UCF on Sep. 4) on her way to an All-SEC Second Team and an All-Southeast Region Third Team selection.

This season, she joins Dayana Martin in a forward group that will be looking to replace the goal-scoring production of Kristen Scott.

#0 Genesis Perez-Watson - Goalkeeper

Genesis Perez-Watson is joining the Knights fresh off of a trip to New Zealand for the 2023 FIFA Women’s World Cup as part of the Costa Rican National Team.

While she did not see the pitch, Watson has seen the pitch for the Costa Rican U17 and U20 National teams in 2022.

While she is likely to not take playing time away from Caroline DeLisle at the net, her arrival in Orlando bodes well for the future of the position for the program.

Who’s On the Roster

  • 6 Fifth-Years
  • 5 Seniors
  • 7 Juniors
  • 4 Sophomores
  • 8 Freshmen
  • 16 Floridians — 6 from Central Florida
  • 7 International players (England, Finland, Germany, Canada, Costa Rica and New Zealand)

2023 UCF Women’s Soccer Roster

No. Name Pos Year Hometown 2022 School 2022 Stats
No. Name Pos Year Hometown 2022 School 2022 Stats
0 Genesis Perez Watson GK Fr. San Jose, Costa Rica Montverde Academy N/A
1 Caroline DeLisle GK 5th Tampa, Fla. UCF AAC GK of the Year, 72 saves, 0.847 Save %, 0.696 GAA, 9 Shutouts
2 Olivia Lewis D 5th Cooper City, Fla UCF Started 17 games, 1 goal
4 Jessica McCullen D R-Fr. Longwood, Fla. UCF Redshirted
5 Ellie Moreno F 5th Winter Park, Fla. UCF Played in 11 games (Started 8), 1 goal, 1 assist
7 Daniella Chung M So. Boca Raton, Fla. South Florida Played in 16 games (Started 8), All-AAC Rookie Team, 1 goal
8 Ariel Young D R-Jr. Ottawa, Canada UCF Played in 12 games (Started 10)
9 Sanja Homann M 5th Freiburg, Germany UCF Played in 10 games (Started 3)
11 Polly Watson M So. Manchester, England UCF Played in 16 games, 2 assists
12 Katie Bradley M Sr. Bolton, England UCF Played in 18 games (Started 15)
13 Maria Tregansin M R-So. Winter Garden, Fla. UCF Played in 3 games
14 Chloe Netzel F Jr. St. Louis, Mo. Xavier Played in 23 games (Started 19), 6 goals, 1 assist
17 Dayana Martin F 5th Boca Raton, Fla. UCF Played in 18 games (Started 10), 5 goals, 5 assists, 1st-Team All-AAC
18 Lilly Nava F Fr. Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Westminster Academy N/A
19 Maggie Jenkins M R-Jr. Wellington, New Zealand UCF Played in 9 games
20 Annika Huhta M Jr. Espoo, Finland UCF Played in 8 games (Started 7)
21 Kyleigh Thelen D/M Jr. Oviedo, Fla. Stetson Started 16 games, All-ASUN 3rd Team, 3 goals, 2 assists
22 Kailey Scott F R-Jr. Orlando, Fla. UCF Played in 6 games
23 Talia Gabarra M R-Sr. Annapolis, Md. UCF Injured all of 2022
24 Emma Agin M Sr. Safety Harbor, Fla. UCF Played in 2 games
25 Brooke Mulroney M R-Fr. Weymouth, Mass. UCF Redshirted
26 Natalia Ballinas D Fr. Weston, Fla. Cypress Bay HS N/A
27 Jade Steele M Sr. Lake Worth, Fla. UCF Played in 1 game
28 Audrey Buck D R-Fr. Melbourne Beach, Fla. UCF Redshirted
30 Lizah Pistorio GK R-Sr. Charlotte, N.C. UCF Did Not Play
31 Jada Silvest D Fr. Land O' Lakes, Fla. Land O' Lakes HS N/A
32 Tianna Hogan F R-Jr. Port St. Lucie, Fla. UCF Played in 13 games (Started 1)
33 Morgan O'Connor F 5th Oxford, Miss. Ole Miss Started 20 games, All-SEC 2nd Team, 6 goals, 4 assists
34 Jalen Haas F/D Fr. Orlando, Fla. Lake Nona HS N/A
37 Mia Asenjo F R-So. Malverne, N.Y. UCF Played in 18 games (Started 14)

The Schedule

For their non-conference schedule, the Knights face three Power Five teams on the road, two of which made the NCAA Tournament last season in Georgia (#27 RPI) and Penn State (#7 RPI).

UCF’s conference schedule will be bookended by programs that made the NCAA Tournament last season. West Virginia gets things started on Sep. 14 and BYU closes it on Oct. 22. Also, the Knights will get a rematch with Texas, who they tied 2-2 in Austin last season and will hit the road to face Oklahoma, who is entering its first season with former UCF Assistant coach Matt Mott at its helm.

2023 UCF Women’s Soccer Schedule

Date Day H/A Time Opponent Conf - Preseason Rank Coaches Poll 2022 RPI UCF's Result LY Last Season
Date Day H/A Time Opponent Conf - Preseason Rank Coaches Poll 2022 RPI UCF's Result LY Last Season
Aug 17 Thu A 7 p.m. Purdue Big Ten - 12th - 3-11-3 186 - 14th in Big Ten
Aug 24 Thu A 6 p.m. Georgia SEC - 4th RV 13-6-3 27 - 6th in SEC, Lost in SEC Semifinals, Lost to (2) North Carolina in NCAA 2nd Round
Aug 27 Sun H 5 p.m. North Florida ASUN - 3rd - 4-7-5 240 Canceled 7th in ASUN, Lost in ASUN Quarterfinals
Aug 31 Thu A 7:30 p.m. Penn State Big Ten - 1st 10 15-5-3 7 - 6th in Big Ten, Big Ten Tournament Champion, Lost to (3) Virginia in NCAA Sweet 16
Sep 3 Sun H 6 p.m. Florida Atlantic American - 3rd in East - 11-8-3 122 - 5th in CUSA, Lost in CUSA Championship
Sep 10 Sun H 6 p.m. USF American - 1st in East - 8-9 135 Won 2-0 2nd in American, Lost in AAC Semifinal
Sep 14 Thu H 6 p.m. West Virignia Big 12 - 4th - 11-5-7 32 - 4th in Big 12, Big 12 Tournament Champions, Lost To (2) Penn State in NCAA 2nd Round
Sep 20 Wed A 7 p.m. Houston Big 12 - 10th - 6-7-3 144 Won 1-0 8th in American
Sep 24 Sun H 1 p.m. Kansas Big 12 - 8th - 9-9-2 107 - 7th in Big 12, Lost in Big 12 Quarterfinals
Sep 27 Wed A 7 p.m. Oklahoma State Big 12 - 7th - 11-4-4 45 - 5th in Big 12, Lost in Big 12 Quarterfinals
Sep 30 Sat A 1 p.m. Oklahoma Big 12 - 9th - 9-8-3 85 - 6th in Big 12, Lost in Big 12 Semifinals
Oct 5 Thu H 5:30 p.m. Texas Big 12 - 3rd 15 15-3-4 25 Tied 2-2 Big 12 RS Champion, Lost in Big 12 Semifinals, Lost to (2) Duke in NCAA 2nd Round
Oct 8 Sun H 1 p.m. Baylor Big 12 - 11th - 4-11-2 190 - 9th in Big 12
Oct 12 Thu H 6 p.m. Texas Tech Big 12 - 5th - 9-4-6 80 - 3rd in Big 12, Lost in Big 12 Quarterfinals
Oct 14 Sat A 1 p.m. Cincinnati Big 12 - 13th - 7-3-7 82 Won 4-0 3rd in American
Oct 22 Sun A 6 p.m. BYU Big 12 - 1st 13 11-3-7 17 - 2nd in WCC, Lost to (2) North Carolina in NCAA Sweet 16

Big 12 Conference Tournament

  • Host: Round Rock Multipurpose Complex (Round Rock, Texas)
  • First Round: Oct. 28
  • Quarterfinals: Oct. 30
  • Semifinals: Nov. 1
  • Final: Nov. 4

The Last Time...

UCF made consecutive NCAA Tournaments: 2007-2015. Now that the Knights have ended their postseason drought, the next step is consistency. During the Cromwell Era and the first few years of the Sahaydak Era, they had just that.

Now, in a new conference, can the Knights do it again?