ORLANDO – The RV UCF women’s soccer team will host its first Big 12 conference match on Thursday night when West Virginia comes to town. The match, which will kick off at 6 p.m. at the UCF Soccer Complex, will be the first Big 12 match in UCF history. The first 100 fans to the match will receive UCF rally towels and all fans are encouraged to wear black for the “Big 12 Blackout”.
The Knights capped off their non-conference slate with a 2-0 shutout over South Florida on Sunday night. Chloe Netzel scored first through three Bulls defenders to give UCF an advantage in the 72nd minute after a relatively quiet first 45 minutes. Ellie Moreno scored less than two minutes later to double the lead and solidify the win off a corner kick from Katie Bradley. The win at home further extended the home undefeated streak for the squad, which is the longest active record in the Big 12, dating back to Sept. 4, 2022.
The goal from Ellie Moreno was her fourth of the season, putting her one away from matching her career high of five, previously set in 2021. Moreno has been dominant in front of Knight Nation, scoring all four of her goals at home. The 5th year leads the squad in goals (four) and points (8), followed closely by Netzel, who has seven points, made up of three goals and one assist.
The shutout from Caroline DeLisle marked the 28th of her career, giving her sole possession of fourth place in program history. She also tied for sixth among active NCAA players for career shutouts after her second shutout of the season. The Tampa native faced five shots on target and made four saves en route to the victory. The other save came from Kyleigh Thelen, who has played the full 90 minutes in six straight matches, off a team save. DeLisle has had a phenomenal season thus far, recording 10 saves in the 1-0 loss to No. 6 Penn State in late August, a season high for all goalkeepers in the Big 12.
In its final season in the American Athletic Conference, UCF went undefeated in conference play in the 2022 campaign, collecting a 7-0-1 record. In their first season in the Big 12, the Knights will look to make an immediate impact in conference play after Dayana Martin earned a nod to the Big 12 All-Conference Team. After the conference opener, the squad will travel to familiar foe Houston for a one-match road trip.
The all-time series record sits at 1-2, with West Virginia taking the last meeting 4-0. However, the two teams have not met in almost, the last match being in 1999 in Morgantown. Since then, the Knights have entered two new conferences, the American and the Big 12, and the Mountaineers left the Big East to join to the Big 12.
For West Virginia, a trip to Orlando and a historical matchup awaits them. The Mountaineers make the journey south on the back of two consecutive draws with Auburn (1-1) and Villanova (0-0), having not won a match since a 1-0 victory with Duquesne on August 27. Tabbed fourth in the Big 12 Preseason Poll, the reigning tournament champions have stumbled out of the gates; a tough schedule has made it difficult for West Virginia to find the form that saw them win six of seven leading up to the 1-0 overtime triumph to secure its fifth Big 12 Championship a season ago. The Mountaineers three top-15 matchups are the most of anyone in the conference, though two one-goal defeats to No. 8 Penn State (2-1) and No. 12 Virginia (2-1), along with an opening defeat at No. 4 Duke (2-0) have halted consistent results leading up to their first Big 12 meeting. Along with the Knights, the Mountaineers will travel to Houston on Oct. 1 and play host to Cincinnati on Oct. 23 to cap off the first season of a new-look conference.
On par with many of the Knights non-conference opponents, Nikki Izzo-Brown is a tenured and proven coach embarking on her 28th season in Morgantown. Izzo-Brown’s name and the school itself go hand in hand as since its inception in 1996, she has been the only coach to lead the Mountaineers. The Rochester graduate has built one of the more successful programs in the nation, having led West Virginia to 22 NCAA Tournament appearances including a storied run to the 2016 NCAA College Cup Final alongside the MAC Herman Trophy honoree Kadisha Buchanan. In the defunct Big East, Izzo-Brown and her squad won five divisional titles along with three tournament crowns and since transitioning in 2012 to the Big 12, the success has only become more common. Five championship titles (’13, ’14, ’16, ’18, ’22) and a remarkable five consecutive regular-season crowns (’12, ’13, ’14, ’15, ’16) during their first years in the conference marked the Mountaineers place as one of the top teams in the country.
Following an impressive freshman campaign, Cincinnati native Taylor White’s prowess has only grown with four goals thus far as she leads the Mountaineers attack. With a Big 12 All-Freshman Team honor in 2021 and an All-Big 12 Second Team campaign in 2022 after notching two goals and seven assists, Dilary Hredia-Beltran has continued to be a force for West Virginia. She went three consecutive matches with an assist (Penn State, Duquesne, and Virginia) and is second on the team in points with five through non-conference play. There will be nothing short of quality goalkeeping Thursday night as reigning AAC goalkeeper of the year Caroline DeLisle and Big 12 Goalkeeper of the year Kayza Massey go head-to-head. Massey was tabbed to the Preseason All-Big 12 team and is regarded as one of the top goalkeepers in the nation, boasting 23 career shutouts across five seasons.
- Moreno’s home form has propelled the Knights to three wins on the jump in Orlando. Her four goals through non-conference play are the most by a Knight since Kristen Scott bagged five in 2019. Moreno is one goal away from matching her career high of five in 2021.
- Chloe Netzel’s currently fifth in the Big 12 in match-winning goals following her second-half header against North Florida and superb finish against South Florida. The Xavier transfer has seven points through her first six matches, the best start to her career thus far.
- A win would mark the first time since 2017 that the Knights have taken five of their first seven matches to start a season.