Whidden's Double-Overtime Goal Lifts UCF Past Memphis, 2-1


Oct. 28, 2007

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (www.ucfathletics.com) - With a berth in the Conference USA Championship already locked up, the UCF women's soccer team moved one step closer to winning its second regular-season title in the last three years Sunday in Tennessee. Sophomore Courtney Whidden became the Knights' hero with a dramatic double-overtime goal to defeat Memphis, 2-1, in a battle for first place in C-USA.

The victory brought UCF's record to 11-3-3 overall and 6-1-1 in league play, and it has just one regular-season tilt remaining. It now has 19 points to sit all alone in first, while Memphis (12-3-1 overall) dropped to second with a 5-1-1 C-USA mark and 16 points. The Tigers had entered the match undefeated (10-0-1) in its last 11 outings, and 9-0-0 on its home soil.

"We showed an awesome display of fight and a will to win," said head coach Amanda Cromwell. "We had some girls playing in some different positions and they were able to step up to the plate. I am very honored to coach this group of girls. We were very emotional after this win because of the loss at UAB Friday. A lot of the players fell to the ground in exhaustion and some just had tears of joy."

Sunday's game marked the sixth time this season that UCF scored a game-winner or game-tying goal in the 87th minute or later, and second time the Knights won a match in double overtime (ECU, Oct. 7). It also was the fifth overtime game of the year, the most OT contests the Black and Gold has been a part of since 1995.

UCF trailed in the overall shot department, 21-9, but had a 4-3 edge in corner kicks. Senior Jennifer Manis racked up six saves to give her 90 this year, which ranks sixth in the Knights' history books. Offensively, sophomore Sarah de Leon amassed three points in the win, scoring UCF's first goal and assisting on the game-winner.

"This was a gutsy win and these girls showed a lot of heart," said associate head coach Colby Hale. "It was a complete team effort. I did think we came out extremely flat in the first half, but Memphis just outplayed us. Sunday road games are difficult, but we picked up our energy in the second half and some players who hadn't seen a lot of time this year really turned it on. A credit to Memphis, though, because that was one of the best teams we played all year."

For the third time this season, UCF got on the board in the first six minutes of a match as de Leon put the Knights on top, 1-0, on a header in the box just 5:10 into the contest. It was her second goal of 2007 and fourth of her career. Junior Hanna Wilde picked up her third assist on the goal.

However, Memphis struck back in the 15th minute, tying it at 1-1 on Caroline Barrett's goal from approximately 25 yards out. Each team continued to get more looks at the net, but when the 27th minute rolled around, the Tigers rattled off seven unanswered shots in the next 6:28. Memphis finished the half by outshooting the Knights, 13-5.

The second half proved to be very defensive, with UCF and Memphis combining for just six total shots, 16 fouls and three yellow cards. In the first overtime, Wilde recorded the lone shot on goal by either program, which was saved by Memphis keeper Isabel Briones. When the second OT opened up, it did not take long for the Knights to return to the Tigers' zone.

Situated about 40 yards away from the net, de Leon delivered a pass to Whidden, who played it to her right foot to get away from the defense. From 25-30 yards away, Whidden then placed a perfect shot into the top left corner for her fourth game-winner and 11th goal of 2007. The deciding tally came just 21 seconds into the final OT session.

UCF now looks to claim the C-USA regular season title at home Friday when Southern Miss invades the UCF Soccer Complex for a 7 p.m. showdown. The match also marks senior night as five members of the program, Manis, Kate Begley, Kelsey Kravec, Jessica Newport and Arielle Orr, are set to play their final game on UCF's home surface.

"We are definitely looking forward to possibly winning the conference at home Friday," said Hale. "Southern Miss is a good team and they beat UAB today. So we have a tough test ahead of us if we want to remain in first place."

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