Knights Poised for Breakout 2019 Season

ORLANDO, Fla. ( – The No. 15 UCF men's soccer team is set to defend their conference crown and build upon their wildly successful 2018 season. The Knights compiled an overall record of 13-3-3 with a conference record of 5-1-1, giving them the title of regular season conference champions.

All of that is in the past now as the team embarks on a new challenge. With 10 seniors graduated and 11 new faces to the program, the Knights look to build off last season that saw the Black and Gold earn the No. 14 national seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Despite having home field advantage in the tournament, the Knights fell in the second round to Lipscomb by a score of 1-0 in overtime. This season, they'll work to avenge that loss and are poised to make an even deeper run in the postseason.

The Returners
While there are many new names and numbers to learn, some quality returners will suit up for the Black and Gold again in 2019. Cal Jennings is set to begin his senior season as UCF's primary forward. He was the nation's second leading goal scorer as he netted 20 goals in 18 matches. Captain Jonathan Dean was granted another year of eligibility as he returns to lead the Knights as a redshirt senior. He collected a goal and an assist in just six games in 2018 due to an injury that cut his season short.

A few key juniors return to the squad as well. Louis Perez will suit up again for the Knights after a knee injury sidelined him from the postseason. Perez as well as Jennings are on the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List to begin the year. In his first match action since last season, Perez scored a goal in his first minute on the pitch in the team's final preseason match against FIU. Goalkeeper Yannik Oettl will stand tall in goal again for UCF after winning the American Athletic Conference Goalkeeper of the Year in 2018. He posted four clean sheets and allowed less than a goal a game throughout the season. Hattabiou Barry, Yoni Sorokin and Jack McCloskey round out a solid junior class.

The New Kids on the Block
UCF brought in 11 newcomers for the 2019 season. Of the 11, nine are freshmen while the other two are a sophomore and a senior. The Knights landed sophomore Itzik Efraim and redshirt freshman Glademir Mendoza as transfers from Belmont and New Mexico respectively. Freshmen Jonas Schmalbach and Gino Vivi got their names on the scorecard in preseason action as Schmalbach scored twice in the first exhibition vs. Eastern Florida while Vivi netted the final goal of the preseason for the Knights. Other newcomers include Beto Ydrach, Josiah Ramirez, Andrew Lizyness, Jeremy Di Lallo, Bernardo Brandao, Jose Aldaco Jr. and Franco Loello.

The Accolades
In The American men's soccer preseason poll, the Knights were picked to unanimously win the conference and repeat as conference champs. The poll also revealed that Jennings was unanimously named as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year while Oettl earned the Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year. Additionally, UCF had four players named to the Preseason All-Conference Team. Jennings, Perez and Yoni Sorokin were all unanimous selections to the team while Oettl was the fourth member of the Knights to round out the squad.

More than just the conference has taken note of UCF's recent success. The United Soccer Coaches Poll tabbed the Knights as the fifteenth best team in the country while Top Drawer's preseason poll had UCF at No. 17. The NCAA soccer Twitter account even named Cal Jennings as the number one player to watch in 2019.

The Schedule
The Knights are certainly not shying away from anyone to start the season. UCF will go on the road to open the 2019 campaign against two top 10 teams. The Black and Gold head to No. 4 Wake Forest to begin the season before going to No. 6 North Carolina. Wake Forest was last season's top seed in the NCAA Tournament but fell in the Sweet 16 to the eventual national runner-up, the Akron Zips. North Carolina was also a national seed in last year's tournament, checking in at No. 5.

UCF will open their home slate against Penn State on Sept. 6 which is the first of nine matches at home for the Knights. The Black and Gold will play a total of 16 matches in the regular season, with 10 of them against top-100 RPI teams from last season. Four of the teams made the NCAA Tournament last season and will serve as pivotal matchups for the Knights to return to the postseason. If UCF can make it back to the postseason, it will be the first time they've done so in back to back seasons since the 2010 and 2011 campaigns.

Season tickets for the 2019 men's soccer season are available now. To catch every moment on the pitch this year, click here.

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