Preview: The Returners

ORLANDO, Fla. ( – With just six days remaining until the No. 16 UCF women’s soccer team officially opens its 2018 campaign, the Knights are preparing to build on the success of last season.

UCF returns experience at nearly every position from the 2017 campaign that saw the Knights post a 13-2-3 record with an American Athletic Conference regular season title and the program’s 21 NCAA Tournament bid. Head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak returns a pair of the league’s major award winners in Vera Varis and Dina Orschmann.

“Vera and Dina are great leaders; they lead by example,” Roberts Sahaydak said. “They’ll go into this season knowing what it takes to be a Top 10 team in the country and to be conference champions. It starts in training with them.”

Varis has accumulated accolade after accolade this preseason. She was named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, in addition to earning The American Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year and a spot as the first team keeper on Top Drawer Soccer’s Preseason Best XI. A native of Vantaa, Finland, Varis was dominant in 2017, conceding just four goals last season for a 0.27 goals against average that ranked third nationally.

Orschmann is UCF’s top returning scorer from last season, earning a spot on the league’s preseason all-conference team. She tallied 20 points on six goals and eight assists in her rookie campaign. The Berlin native notched at least one point in 10 of her 16 appearances and started 15 contests as a freshman.

Despite missing the first seven matches in 2017, Stefanie Sanders earned a spot on the all-rookie team after recording four goals and an assist in 11 appearances. The Hamburg native has shown her ability to score already this fall, notching a goal and an assist for Germany in the U-20 Women’s World Cup.

“I think our team and our opponents only got to see 70 percent of (Sanders) – if that – and she was still successful,” Roberts Sahaydak said. “We have high hopes for her because she is a clinical finisher, a goal scorer. We’re excited for her to be at 100 percent and see what she can do with that.”

Roberts Sahaydak is also looking to her returners to step up in leadership positions.

Senior Carrie Lawrence will see a change in her role on the squad. As the Orlando native enters her third season with the Knights, she will be looked upon as a leader.

“Carrie understands the commitment level it takes to stay at this high standard, but she’s never really had to be in a leadership role, per se,” Roberts Sahaydak said. “She’s always a strong leadership class ahead of her. She has all of the qualities to be a good leader, so now she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and take on that responsibility for her team.”

Several Knights left impressions on the coaching staff after the two exhibition victories against Wyoming and North Florida.

Maura Aman has grown into that center back position,” Roberts Sayahdak said. “I think last season gave her some confidence and we’re expecting a lot from her leadership role on the field. She looked like a solid veteran during the exhibitions.”

Roberts Sahaydak also noted a pair of midfielders that have stood out to her, including junior Zandy Soree.

“Zandy tends to go unseen by other teams sometimes,” Roberts Sahaydak said. “She doesn’t play like Bridget Callahan, but I think she’s a player like that. She does a lot of the work, but sometimes is the unsung hero. She’s very active and does the little things.”

Sophomore Madison Murnin has also caught Roberts Sahaydak’s eye this preseason.

“Even though she’s young, Madison has a lot of experience with playing time,” Roberts Sahaydak continued. “I think she needs a little more time to be coached and finely tuned, she is such a hard worker. You can see the type of passion that she plays with; she’s fun to watch.”

The Knights host FGCU on Aug. 19 for the season opener at the UCF Soccer Complex. The game is slated for a 6 p.m. start, with the first 200 UCF students receiving a free UCF flag.

The UCF women's soccer team is set for its sixth season under head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak and will welcome five teams from the 2017 NCAA Tournament to the UCF Soccer Complex in 2018. Click here or call (407) 823-1000 for ticket information. 

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