It was Another Championship Season for UCF Women's Soccer

Nov. 17, 2010

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By Brian Ormiston

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - When the NCAA held its first postseason tournament in 1982, UCF immediately played a major role in building the sport across the nation. The Knights hosted the Final Four that season and made it all of the way to the finals. It was clear UCF would be a threat at the top level of college soccer for years to come.

And when Amanda Cromwell took over the program in 1999, she continued that tradition. The leader of the Knights has claimed 12 conference titles, including the 2010 Conference USA regular-season crown, and has advanced to the NCAA Tournament nine times since her first year in Black and Gold. In all, UCF's 15 appearances in the postseason rank in a tie for the 14th most in the country and No. 1 overall in the state of Florida.

This season, Cromwell guided the Knights to a 15-5-3 record and its fourth-straight showing in the NCAA Tournament Second Round. They also received a national seed for the second-consecutive season.

However the NCAA has sent UCF on the road all four times. While seeded teams are typically at home for the first two rounds, the Knights have had the difficult task of going across the country in 2009 an 2010.

In 2009, they traveled to the blistery conditions of Wisconsin where chilly temperatures and a very hard, bouncy surface greeted the team. Familiar with the surroundings, the host Badgers would advance to the Sweet Sixteen.

And in 2010, UCF was sent packing again, this time all of the way to Los Angeles. With the NCAA honoring them with a No. 4 national seed, it certainly was not a gift as the Knights were forced to battle host UCLA in the Second Round, and the Bruins had been to the NCAA College Cup each of the last seven seasons. Even though UCF managed to outshoot the host institution, the Bruins survived, 2-1.

UCF's goal every season is to advance to the College Cup, and it has the talent and determination every year to do so. But the NCAA Tournament has been very favorable to the host schools. This year, UCF, Wake Forest and Texas A&M were all seeded but had to go on the road for the first two rounds. And all three dropped decisions to the host schools. Wake Forest had to go from the East Coast to California and fell to UC Irvine, and Texas A&M went up north to the cold temperatures of Minnesota and lost to the Gophers.

In the last five years, there have been 17 seeded teams that were sent packing for the first two rounds. Only four of them were able to reach the Sweet Sixteen in regulation, while three others won on penalty kicks and another stayed alive with a double-overtime victory, proving it has been extremely hard for seeded teams on the road to keep their seasons going. And only three of the 17 seeded road teams for the opening rounds have made it past the Sweet Sixteen in the last five seasons. Meanwhile, seeded teams sent on the road from 2001-10 have advanced to the round-of-16 at a rate of 22 percent lower (56 percent to 78 percent) than the seeded teams that opened at home.

Overall, 56 of the 80 host schools have gotten through to the Sweet Sixteen. Since 2006, host teams are 23-9 in the Sweet Sixteen and 14-2 in the Elite Eight. And 13 of the 16 schools that celebrated a berth in the College Cup never went on the road in the first four rounds.

As for the Knights and their quest to get back to the Final Four for the first time since 1987, the future always looks bright, especially if they want to host NCAA Tournament games. Along with renovations that are in store for the UCF Soccer Complex, the Black and Gold was very young in 2010, and it could find itself even higher in next year's NCAA RPI report when the 2011 NCAA Tournament field is announced.

With a RPI of No. 18 entering the 2010 postseason, UCF boasted one of the top goal-scoring attacks in the country under the guidance of assistant head coach Colby Hale. One of 21 teams in Division I with two players with 10 or more goals, UCF was led by C-USA Offensive Player of the Year Tishia Jewell, who registered 10 goals and 12 assists for 32 points, and Kim Newsome, who produced 10 goals and seven assists for 27 points.

While Newsome completed her UCF career, Jewell accomplished her feat as a sophomore. She will be joined next year by classmate Nicolette Radovcic who was a force toward the end of the year and scored both of the Knights' goals in the NCAA First Round win over Fresno State. She notched 17 points on six goals and five assists in 2010. Freshman Katy Ling (2-3--7) and sophomores Katie Bolinsky (1-4--6) and Andrea Rodrigues (1-2--4) all have at least two years left with the Knights as well.

At midfield, UCF's junior center-mid Katie Jackson was selected to the All-C-USA First Team thanks to six goals and seven assists for 19 points. Freshman Kristina Trujic could play an even bigger role next year after collecting three goals and three assists for nine points in her first campaign as a Knight. And Stacie Hubbard will also enter her senior year with Jackson following a season where she was primarily a defensive midfielder only her duties next year could be closer to the opposing goal.

UCF finished by outscoring its opponents 52-22 in 23 matches, and an important factor in keeping opponents to just 22 goals was the backline and goalkeepers.

With goalkeeping coach Donna Fishter in her 11th season, the Knights have always shined in net. And the duo of junior Aline Reis and senior Jaclyn Meade came up big in 2010. Reis was once again the All-C-USA First Team goalkeeper, posting five shutouts with a 1.03 goals-against average and 77 saves in 20 starts, while Meade had a 3-0-0 record with two shutouts and a 0.29 GAA in four games played.

In front of the keepers was another glimpse of the young talent that took over this year. At the end of 2010, the Knights started three freshmen and a sophomore on defense, but they certainly did not look like underclassmen. Sophomore Bianca Joswiak and freshman Marissa Diggs were both voted onto All-C-USA squads, and freshmen Ashley Nicol and Sokhara Goodall could have easily been members of the C-USA All-Freshman Team. Joswiak not only stoned some of the opposing teams' top forwards, she also scored three goals and had eight assists for 14 points. And Diggs was always a threat in the air, and scored two goals herself.

UCF may have lost several important seniors from the 2010 squad, but with 2011 set to feature only three seniors in Reis, Hubbard and Jackson, the Knights' drive towards reaching the College Cup will only get stronger in the future.