Having suited up for his team on his 22nd birthday, Heiskanen received a pass from veteran forward Lucca Dourado just after crossing midfield. Fighting through a pair of Wildcat (3-6-0, 0-3-0 SBC) defenders, he brought the ball back toward the middle of the Knights’ (5-1-2, 1-1-1 SBC) offensive end on his way toward the net before letting loose his shot attempt.
The ball sailed past Kentucky starting netminder Ryan Jack and into the upper left corner of the Wildcats’ goal, giving the Knights a one-goal advantage 21 minutes and 10 seconds into the contest.
“He’s a really mature [player],” Calabrese said of Heiskanen. “He’s been really effective and dangerous coming in from that right-hand side, whether it’s creating chances for himself or finding other players in the box. Especially in the early part of this game, he was very good.”
The early goal came just moments after the Wildcats, who entered the evening having suffered three consecutive shutout losses, saw what would have been their first goal since Sept. 8 taken off the board with the referee’s offside call 20 minutes and four seconds into the game.
Kentucky’s called-back score wouldn’t be the last of its kind, as the Wildcats again thought they had tied the game at with 15:01 remaining in the contest, only to once again have the goal waved off with an offside call.
The two Wildcat infractions aided in UCF tallying its second clean sheet of the fall slate, and its first since the Knights’ 2-0 victory over Brown Sept. 9. UCF starting netminder Juanvi Muñoz, who entered play Friday within the top seven in the Sun Belt in goals-against average (1.143, 6th), saves per game (3.43, 6th) and save percentage (.750, 7th), saw the respective first two marks improve on a night that required only three saves by the Valencia, Spain, native.
The shutout marked the fourth in Muñoz’s first 21 collegiate matches, dropping his career goals-against average to 1.286 and boosting his save percentage to .735. UCF’s 1-0 victory also rang the Wildcats’ scoreless drought up to four consecutive matches spanning 373 minutes and 13 seconds dating back to their 3-2 victory over Lipscomb Sept. 8.
In clinching the first Sun Belt win in program history, the Knights also surrendered one or fewer goals for the sixth time in their first eight matches, as well as the third time in their last four.
“We’ve done a good job in defending through the run of play, limiting our opponents’ chances, and that’s a testament to the backline, but also how we defend throughout the team,” Calabrese continued. “Where we really improved is we’re better in defending set pieces, corners, free kicks, those sorts of moments as well. We’re more difficult to break down, and we’ve really grown and improved in defending in and around our own box.”
The Knights will now return to Orlando for their second Sun Belt home match Oct. 7, a tilt against the Georgia Southern Eagles. Kickoff is slated for 7 p.m. from the UCF Soccer Complex.
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