Jennings Nets Hat Trick as #5 UCF Wins 5-0

Tournament Central Box Score (PDF)

ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) – The No. 5 UCF men's soccer team saved their best performance of 2019 for the postseason as they soared over the fifth-seeded Temple Owls in The American tournament semifinals by a score of 5-0 on Wednesday night. Jennings picked up his first hat trick of the season and fourth of his career as the top-seeded Knights posted their highest goal total of the season.

"We came out with the right energy and were aggressive," said UCF head coach Scott Calabrese, "It was an exceptional performance from the guys, from minute one to the end. A really good time of the year for us to be playing at that level. "

UCF possessed the ball and applied pressure early. They found their first goal of the night off a corner kick in the 20th minute. Louis Perez sent a ball spinning toward the center of the box where Itzik Efraim leaped up and headed the ball in for his first goal as a Knight.

Almost exactly ten minutes later, Cal Jennings extended the UCF lead to 2-0 with a missile of a shot in the 30th minute. The ball wound up trickling its way straight to Jennings who didn't miss the chance. He rifled it by the goalkeeper for his 14th goal of the season. Little did anyone in the building know that his night was just getting started.

The Black and Gold found another goal from a different source, as Mauricio Villalobos Vega scored his first career goal in the 35th minute. Everyone in attendance was in awe as Villalobos spun a beautiful ball into the top right corner to push UCF's lead to three.

Perez picked up his second assist of the night on the Villalobos goal, pushing him to 11 on the season. He needs just one more assist before the season's end to tie the record for most assists in a single season which is currently held by Eric Vasquez and Farid Guediri, who achieved 12 assists in 2003 and 1975 respectively.

At the half, UCF was in the driver's seat with a 3-0 lead. They led in every other stat category as well, outshooting the Owls 11-3 and leading in corners 6-0.
Jennings found his second goal of the evening in the 68th minute off two beautiful passes from Richard Amon and Gino Vivi. That gave Jennings his third multi-goal game of the season. But he wasn't done yet.

It didn't take long for Jennings to score his third goal of the evening as he received a beautiful ball from Vivi in the box as he registered his fourth career hat trick and his first of the 2019 campaign. Jonathan Dean picked up the second assist on the play, his sixth of the season and 11th of his career. Vivi tallied his second assist of the night, bumping his total to six in his outstanding rookie campaign.

Jennings now has 16 goals on the season and 44 in his career. He is now in a tie for second leading goal scorer in the country and trails the two leaders by just one goal. Jennings scored three hat tricks last season, with his last one coming against FGCU on Oct. 16, meaning that it had been 392 days since he had tallied three goals in a single match.

"It feels really good to get the hat trick," said Jennings, "I definitely owe some guys a couple more assists, I missed some easy ones in the first half. I had to stay confident and know that chances would come again. I'm on a great team and I'm extremely thankful for that, they served some great balls in today."

UCF goalkeeper Yannik Oettl defused some good chances from the Temple offense, making three saves as he recorded his sixth shutout of the season and 12th of his career. That mark ties him for sixth place all-time on UCF's shutout list with Didier Mendard, who recorded his 12 clean sheets from 1989-1993.

The win extends UCF's program best unbeaten streak to 16 matches. They have not lost a match in 75 days, with their lone loss of the season coming on Aug. 30 against then No. 4 Wake Forest. The Knights' record of 14-1-2 is the second highest number of wins posted in a single season, trailing the 15 victories posted in 1976, the program's second year of existence.

The Black and Gold dominated in the shot column, outshooting Temple 18-5 and held an 11-3 edge in shots on goal. The Knights came into the match leading the nation in corner kicks per game with a mark of 7.88 and only helped that average as they registered 10 corner kicks to the Owl's two.

With their five goals, the Knights tied Rutgers and UConn for most goals scored in an American Athletic Conference tournament match. Rutgers defeated Cincinnati 5-0 in 2013 while UConn defeated SMU 5-0 in 2013 and Temple 5-0 in 2014. UCF players combined for a total of 16 points in the match, a new tournament record; they tied the standing record of six assists, gathered by USF against Memphis in 2014. Jennings' hat trick was just the second ever recorded in the conference tournament.

UCF will face the No. 10 SMU Mustangs, who are the tournament's No. 2 seed. SMU advanced in a thrilling 2-1 double overtime victory prior to the UCF vs. Temple. The Knights will host the Mustangs on Saturday at 7 p.m. with the winner earning an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament and the right to call themselves champions of the conference tournament.

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