ORLANDO – Fresh off its thrilling season-opening 2-1 road victory over the No. 4/9 Clemson Tigers (Top Drawer Soccer/United Soccer Coaches) Thursday evening, the UCF men’s soccer team is ready to bring its early momentum into Sunday evening’s home-opener against the Stetson Hatters.
The Knights made quite a statement in topping the Tigers Thursday, clinching UCF’s first victory over a nationally-ranked top-10 foe since the group downed then-No. 6 Tulsa Oct. 10, 2021, and the program’s first win over an opponent ranked in the top five since the Knights edged then-No. 5 SMU by a 2-1 margin Oct. 2, 2010.
UCF’s upset victory over the Tigers Thursday evening also snapped a streak of four consecutive season-opening defeats, marking the first time the Knights won their season-opener since their 2-1 overtime victory at Penn State Aug. 24, 2018.
They accomplished the feat on the strength of goals by freshman Saku Heiskanen and sophomore Emmanuel Bam, with both tallying the first scores of their respective collegiate careers. Bam’s first goal came in the 12th match of his career, matching his point total of two from the 2022 season when he accrued a pair of assists in his 11 contests.
Heiskanen, meanwhile, scored a goal in the first match of his collegiate career and added an assist on Bam’s, translating to a total of three points in his UCF debut.
The pair became the first Knights duo to score their first career goals in the same match since the fall 2021 season, when fifth-year midfielder Rainer De Jesus and senior defender Yanis Leerman both notched their first career scores in the American Athletic Conference Tournament Semifinals against Tulsa Nov. 10, a match UCF won 6-0.
Sophomore forward/midfielder Lucas Mauro and redshirt-sophomore midfielder Josiah Ramirez both recorded their first career goals in the same match earlier that season as well, during the Knights’ 5-0 victory over North Florida Aug. 29.
On the other end, sophomore goalkeeper Juanvi Muñoz finished his evening strong after allowing a first-minute Clemson penalty kick goal, making a pair of saves to eclipse the 50-save mark in his Knights career after coming up with 48 during his freshman 2022 campaign.
The contest marked the eighth in his first 14 matches that saw the Valencia, Spain, native surrender one or fewer goals, and Muñoz will enter Sunday’s matchup with a career goals-against average of just 1.43, which would rank 11th-lowest on the UCF all-time career GAA list.
In Stetson, the Knights face an opponent against which they’ve experienced a great deal of historic success, boasting a 34-10-3 all-time record against the Hatters. The two programs will clash for the first time since the 2019 campaign, when UCF outlasted Stetson 3-2 in double-overtime on a Cal Jennings goal in the 101st minute.
The Hatters make the trip south from DeLand on the heels of a 2-2 season-opening draw against the College of Charleston, a match that saw Stetson avoid a season-opening loss with a pair of second-half goals after falling behind 2-0 in the first half.
Like the Knights, Stetson also saw a pair of Hatters score the first goals of their respective collegiate careers in their season-opener in junior forward Andres Freire and redshirt-senior defender Jayden Gonsalves. At the final whistle, the Hatters outshot their opposition 16-7, including an 8-3 advantage in shots on goal.
The Knights’ home-opener will serve as the second half of a doubleheader at the UCF Soccer Complex following the UCF women’s soccer squad’s tilt against North Florida. The women’s team is slated for a 5 p.m. start time, following by the men’s team at 8 p.m.
FOLLOW THE KNIGHTS
Follow UCF men’s soccer on Twitter/X (@UCF_MSoccer), Instagram (@UCF.MSoccer) and Facebook (/UCFMSoccer).
GET THE APP
Never miss any UCF Knights news from your favorite team by downloading the free UCF Knights app right to your iOS or Android device. The app provides personalized information for men’s and women’s teams, scores, schedules, loyalty programs and breaking news. Click here to download the app now.