ORLANDO – The No. 22 UCF women’s soccer team continues its season-opening road trip on Thursday night as the squad travels north to Athens for a 6 p.m. ET matchup with No. 25 Georgia. The meeting will be the sixth between the programs as the Knights will look to level the series at three a piece. The match will be streamed on SECN+ from Turner Sports Complex.
Since head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak took over the program in 2013, UCF has consistently played challenging non-conference schedules. With it being the Knights first season in the Big 12, the 2023 schedule serves as eye candy for fans looking for noteworthy matchups with some of the nation’s best teams. Following its first Big Ten matchup with Purdue last week, the Black and Gold set its sight on an SEC pillar, Georgia. For players such as Caroline DeLisle, Dayana Martin, Sanja Homann, and Olivia Lewis, their experiences in past seasons came to fruition in the Knights gritty win against the Boilermakers to open the season.
Transfers Chloe Netzel and Kyleigh Thelen combined for 146 minutes against Purdue, as Netzel assisted Martin on the match-winning goal, while Thelen played a crucial role in protecting the lead alongside Ariel Young at the heart of the defense. Sophomores Polly Watson and Mia Asenjo played a critical role as the second half became a physical duel in midfield with the Boilermakers. Fifteen Knights played in the victory, as the backline consisting of Lewis, Thelen, Young, and Homann displayed brilliant performances in front of DeLisle who made a last-second save to secure the victory.
The Bulldogs traveled out west as they opened their 2023 campaign with a familiar opponent to many Knights fans. No. 1 UCLA, who UCF battled in the second round of the NCAA Tournament in November, hosted Georgia for a much-anticipated matchup. The reigning National Champions bested the Bulldogs 2-0, handing Georgia its first loss of the season. Second-year head coach Keidane McAlpine and his squad were set to return to his former program across town, USC, though the Sunday match was called off due to severe weather in the Los Angeles area.
Georgia was ranked No. 24 in the Top Drawer Soccer preseason poll and are now No. 25 in the ranking, as the expectations in Athens increase with a talented squad returning. Joyelle Washington, who tallied five goals in 2022, along with Mallie McKenzie, who tallied three of her own along with five assists, return to lead the Bulldogs attack. The biggest addition to an already strong squad is Top Drawer Soccer’s Preseason No. 1 player and 2022 First Team All-American Croix Bethune, who is reuniting with her former coach after three seasons at USC. The midfielder collected seven goals and eight assists on the back of 16 goals and 10 assists in 2021.
- Caroline DeLisle secured her 27th career shutout as the Knights have outscored opponents 11-0 across their past four season-opening wins dating back to 2020. The fifth year is now tied for fourth all-time alongside Aline Reis (2007-11) in shutouts. DeLisle is two saves away from sole possession of third all-time in career saves as she currently has 237 behind Heather Brann with 238.
- The Knights own 23 all-time wins against current SEC programs all-time, though UCF holds winning records against five teams (Alabama, Auburn, LSU, Mississippi State, and Vanderbilt). With a 2-1 record in Orlando against Georgia, UCF will look to secure its first win in Athens.
- The Knights are two wins away from achieving their 500th victory in program history. UCF’s current record stands at 498-216-75. A win in Athens would give the Knights a chance to reach the historic mark against North Florida in the home opener.