With five matches down and a whirlwind of emotions following the eventful first weeks of the 2023 season, the UCF women’s soccer team (3-2-0) welcomes notorious cross-state rival and former conference-mates, South Florida (3-3-0), to wrap up the non-conference slate ahead of its first Big 12 campaign.
The match is set for a 6:00 p.m. start on Sunday night at the UCF Soccer Complex as the Knights welcome back past stars for an AlumKnight celebration. Ryan Davis and former Knight Bridget Callahan will be on the call (Big 12 on ESPN+). Live stats will be available here.
Twenty-five years of history precedes the matchup between the two Florida programs, with conference bouts and five-year hiatuses shrouded in between. Though USF took the first meeting in 1998, 4-0, UCF bounced back with an 11-match unbeaten run and an eventual 2-0 win in Tampa to put an end to the War on I-4. The all-time series currently stands at 12-6-4 in favor of the Knights and a stern advantage in Orlando with a record of 7-1-3.
The Knights opened their three-match homestand with a 2-1 win over in-state opponent Florida Atlantic on Sunday, Sept. 3. Fifth year forward Ellie Moreno scored both goals for UCF in her second career brace, her first since Oct. 24, 2021, against Temple. Dayana Martin picked up a pair of assists on Moreno’s goals, the second multi-assist match of her career, and her first coming at Tulsa on Oct. 16, 2022. Redshirt freshman Audrey Buck made her first career start and appearance in Black and Gold with a newly designed backline. Jessica McCullen also earned her first start, with both providing immense stability to secure the Knights’ advantage through the match. The win on Sunday was the Knights’ 500th victory in program history.
UCF has not dropped a home match in over a year, dating back to Sept. 4, 2022, in a 2-1 loss to Ole Miss. The squad has won both home non-conference matches to start the season, with 2-1 victories over both North Florida and FAU. The Knights will look to close out non-conference play with yet another home win on Sunday against the Bulls.
This will be the first meeting between USF and UCF in a non-conference setting since 2012, when the Bulls were in the Big East conference and the Knights were in Conference-USA. The Black and Gold hold the all-time series, with a 12-5-4 record. The two went head-to-head last season in Tampa, with the Knights taking that match 2-0, marking DeLisle’s ninth shutout of the 2022 season.
With an impressive eight-match winning streak to open the season on the line, the Bulls secured a clean sheet victory on the road against LSU, defeating the SEC giants, 1-0. While the Tigers would brush off the disappointing result with an upset at Texas, USF went on to lose three of its next four, including losses at Louisiana (2-0), FGCU (2-0), and Florida State (5-1). The Bulls returned to the win column ahead of Sunday night’s bout, defeating NAIA school, Florida College, 13-0. USF put nine past the Falcons in the first half before notching four more in the second 45 en route to the lopsided final score. Georgia Brown’s four goals tied the single-match program record.
The Bulls are led by Denise Schilte-Brown in her final season at the realm following 16 seasons with USF. Schilte-Brown was named the first head coach for Tampa Bay’s new USL Super League team as the association is set to open its doors in August of 2024. The similarities between both Schilte-Brown and Roberts Sahaydak are quite prevalent, as the Bulls coach, along with her husband Chris Brown, led the VCU program from 2001-06. Following their departure for South Florida, both Roberts Sahaydak and her husband Tim Sahaydak, took over in 2007, leading the Rams until joining Schilte-Brown in the American Athletic Conference with UCF in 2013. With her first head coaching job coming at her alma mater, UMBC, where she was a four-time All-Conference honoree, Schilte-Brown currently holds a 71-163-59 all-time record and a 176-94-42 mark at USF.
Though the Florida College match serves as an outlier in much of the statistical analysis on the Bulls, 11 players have notched at least one goal thus far. UTSA transfer Anna Sutter and the aforementioned Brown lead the squad with five goals each. German sophomore Gentiana Fetaj has notched five assists in the squad’s first six matches as she’s transitioned into the full-time start in a strong Bulls attack. The goalkeeping duties have been shared between sophomore Leire Herraez Gallach (two starts and 205.50 minutes) and junior Arden La-Rose (four stars and 334.10 minutes)
- Fifth year Caroline DeLisle remains tied for fourth in career shutouts with 27. With 11 matches left on the season (not including any potential postseason play), DeLisle needs just four more to break the program record currently held by former Knight Karen Richter (30.5).
- Ellie Moreno’s brace against North Florida moved her career tally to 15 and she is just two assists away from notching ten. Moreno is just two goals away from matching her career high of five set in 2021.
- Six Knights currently have assists to their name as Dayana Martin leads the squad with three. The Boca Raton native is just three away from breaking her career high of five set in 2022.