ORLANDO - The UCF women’s soccer team is set to begin its 2023 inaugural regular season campaign as a member of the Big 12 conference as it travels to Purdue on Thursday for a 7 p.m. EST kick-off on Big 10+.
In 2022, UCF bid farewell to the AAC with a dominant campaign that saw the Knights go undefeated during conference play. The squad went 6-0-1 en route to the program's fourth AAC Regular Season title. After an upset victory at NC State, UCF battled till penalties with the eventual national champions, UCLA, in the NCAA Second Round.
UCF will welcome nine new faces to the squad in 2023, four transfers and five freshmen. Transfers, Daniella Chung from South Florida, Chloe Netzel from Xavier, Kyleigh Thelen from Stetson and Morgan O'Connor from Ole Miss will all add valuable experience to the squad.
The five freshmen entering are Genesis Perez Watson, Lilly Nava, Natalia Ballinas, Jada Silvest, and Jalen Haas. After redshirting their freshman season, Jessica McCullen and Audrey Buck will also add versatility to the squad.
Dayana Martin was named to the preseason All-Big 12 team, the first Knight in program history to receive Big 12 honors. In 2022, Martin led the squad with five assists and was second in goals with five, both career highs, landing her on the All-Conference First Team. Four of her five goals came on the road, with her last of the season coming in the NCAA Second Round at UCLA.
The Knights were tabbed sixth on the preseason Big 12 poll, voted upon by the conference's coaches. UCF was the highest amongst the former American Athletic Conference competitors, slotting in ahead of Houston (10) and Cincinnati (13).
Full poll: BYU (1), TCU (2), Texas (3), West Virginia (4), Texas Tech (5), UCF (6), Oklahoma State (7), Kansas (8), Oklahoma (9), Houston (10), Baylor (11), Kansas State (12), Cincinnati (13), Iowa State (14).
A strong preseason leaves the Knights battle-tested entering a tough Big 10 matchup. The Knights traveled south to Miami, defeating the Hurricanes 1-0, before a thriller against FSU. The Seminoles tested UCF in all facets before an eventual 3-4 final.
The first meeting since 1999 between the programs leaves much to be settled. Purdue’s 2022 season was a tail of two halves, as the Boilermakers defeated No. 15 USC in their first match of the season, before eventually going winless in Big 10 conference play.
With a new slate on the horizon, Purdue returns a strong squad, including its leading scorer Gracie Dunaway (six) and assist leader Emily Mathews (seven).