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Moreno's Brace Secures Women's Soccer's 500th win

by Alex Clough

ORLANDO, Fla. – An Ellie Moreno brace and a pair of assists from Dayana Martin propelled UCF women’s soccer to a 2-1 victory over Florida Atlantic Sunday night at the UCF Soccer Complex. The Knights extend their home unbeaten run to nearly a year, having not lost a match in front of Knight nation in 362 days.

It was a gritty performance against a really good team tonight. They caused problems for us but we were able to manage the game well and come out with the victory.

Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak

It was a familiar night for the home faithful as the win resembled UCF's first of the season in Orlando against North Florida a week ago. A midfield duel ensued during the opening 10 minutes as neither team got a shot off until the 11th minute as Martin was consistently causing problems for the Owls' defense. Florida Atlantic responded with a shot in the 12th that was blocked by a new Knights backline.

Audrey Buck made her first career start and appearance in the Black and Gold, slotting in at right back due to Sanja Homann’s one-match suspension following her red card at Penn State on Thursday, Aug. 31. The redshirt sophomore looked as if she was a fifth-year veteran, providing stability behind Martin on the right. Jessica McCullen also made her third consecutive appearance and first career start for the Knights, joining Kyleigh Thelen at center back. Following the departure of Georgia Eaton-Collins, Thelen has been vital in sustaining stability and structure in front of Caroline DeLisle, playing the full 90 minutes for the fifth straight match to open her Knights tenure.

It wasn’t long before UCF took advantage of a shaky transitional sequence from the Owls, as Katie Bradley entered the final third with the Martin to her left. Bradley played the through pass into an aggressive Martin who took a great touch to separate from the Florida Atlantic backline before finding Moreno in the box poised to find the back of the net. The Winter Park native halted her run, positioning herself to slot the ball past the keeper with her left. It marks two consecutive home matches Moreno has found the opening goal, as Bradley and Martin both picked up their second assists of the season.

The first 45 was long from over though, as the Owls found the equalizer with seven minutes remaining in the first half. Florida Atlantic’s Malaya Melancon put home the chance with her right foot, just getting it past DeLisle’s outstretched hand in the bottom left corner.

With late goals proving to be the kicker for the Knights during the early stages of 2023, Roberts Sahaydak and her squad had no plans of leaving the match level. In a blink of an eye, Moreno was one-on-one with the Owls’ Blythe Braun after Martin played her through. The fifth year showed composure with her finish, not taking a touch too late or too soon, curling it into the goal with her left. The brace is the second of her career (first vs. Temple on 10/24/21), as through five matches, Moreno is already two goals away from matching her career high of five, set in 2021. Martin also secured her second multi-assist match of her career, with the first coming at Tulsa on Oct. 16, 2022.

UCF kept a strong presence in the midfield throughout the second half. The Owls were more than threatening down the stretch, though DeLisle kept the Knights lead intact, making her lone save of the match in the 83rd minute. The Knights outshot Florida Atlantic 12-8, with five shots on goal in the win.

With both teams finding chances throughout, the Knights saw complete performances from between the posts and upfront from the aforementioned Moreno. The Knights move back over .500 as they welcome South Florida to Orlando, capping off the non-conference slate with a familiar foe next Sunday night, Sept. 11.