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Women's Soccer Welcomes No. 6 Texas Tech for Senior Night

by Alex Clough

ORLANDO – The Big 12 leaders, No. 6 Texas Tech (12-0-3), will serve as the UCF women’s soccer team's (8-5) final opponent to cap off the 2023 home slate at the UCF Soccer Complex. Eleven Knights will be honored for Senior night ahead of the highly anticipated meeting with the Red Raiders who sit atop the conference standings with just two points dropped from a possible 21. The matchup will be just the second all-time and the first in the new millennium, with a 1996 UCF victory serving as the first meeting between the two programs.

Thursday’s match will be televised on ESPN+, with kickoff set for 6:00 p.m. ET. ‘Senior Knight’ ceremonies will begin around 15 minutes prior to the start of the match. You can follow along here.

SQUAD INSIGHT

UCF is looking to bounce back after its second defeat in as many matches. Despite an early goal from Chloe Netzel, the Knights were unable to gain an advantage over Baylor and fell 2-1 last Thursday. This was the first time since Sept. 11, 2022, that UCF has lost back-to-back matches. The goal from Netzel was her fifth of the season, giving her a share of the team lead with Ellie Moreno. Fifth-year Caroline DeLisle will have another opportunity to break the program shutout record in front of Knight Nation on Thursday, as she is currently tied for second with 30 career clean sheets. The Tampa native notched five saves against the Bears, bringing her career total up to 287, fourth place in program history.

The center-back trio of Ariel Young, Jessica McCullen and Kyleigh Thelen adds a healthy mix of youth and experience to the back line. The chemistry between the three allows them to be interchangeable and increases the depth of the Knights defense. With the loss of Ellie Moreno, Maggie Jenkins, Dayana Martin and Netzel have stepped up their connections in the final third, creating both beautiful opportunities and goals. 

Senior Katie Bradley has also made her attacking presence felt, capitalizing on free kicks and corner kicks this season. Her constant pressure on opponents has made her a force to be reckoned with. The England native has racked up two goals and five assists this season for a total of nine points, a new single-season record for Bradley.

THE OPPONENT

Six wins and a draw place the Red Raiders atop the Big 12 standings as they’re just one of two squads to remain unbeaten (BYU) heading into the final weeks of conference play. Texas Tech has gone head-to-head with the conference heavyweights, defeating Texas and TCU while drawing with BYU in Provo, Utah. Even more impressive has been the Red Raiders ability to keep opposing attacks at bay, with the two-all draw at BYU serving as the only match this season where the defense has conceded multiple goals. Nine shutouts in 15 matches have propelled Texas Tech to just three draws and zero defeats, with a current unbeaten run of 381 days preceding its meeting with the Knights.

Just the fourth head coach in the program’s history, Tom Stone’s appointment in the Spring of 2007 ushered in the most successful era of Texas Tech soccer. Five top-three regular season finishes and a tournament championship in 2015 have propelled the Red Raiders into one of the top programs in the Big 12. Following a difficult 2020 campaign, Texas Tech has been slowly rebuilding its squad, with 2023 serving as the fruition of Stone’s ability to improve his players year by year. Their current place on the United Soccer Coaches Poll marks the first time since 2014 Texas Tech has landed in the top 10.

Texas Tech’s success this season has come from the back, with graduate Madison White serving as the anchor between the posts. With 35 career shutouts in 77 matches to her name, White is actively second in the nation among DI goalkeepers. Her nine thus far have already matched her previous best last season, while her goals against average (GAA) of .47 is currently her best career mark. Junior Ashleigh Williams is in good company atop the Big 12 goal leaders, as her 12 on the season places her in third, just behind the Texas duo of Trinity Byars and Lexi Missimo. Redshirt-Sophomore Macy Blackburn is second in the Big 12 with 11 assists, four of which have had Williams serving as the goal-scorer.

STORYLINES

- Caroline DeLisle (30) and Madison White (35) are each among the top 10 in shutouts among active DI goalkeepers. DeLisle remains one clean sheet away from setting the new UCF record.

- The Knights will look to win their 47th match in October during the Roberts Sahaydak era as the month is historically UCF’s most successful, with a record of 46-13-5 since 2013.

- 11 Knights will be honored during the senior night ceremony prior to kickoff (Caroline DeLisle, Olivia Lewis, Ellie Moreno, Ariel Young, Sanja Homann, Katie Bradley, Dayana Martin, Kailey Scott, Talia Gabarra, Emma Agin, and Jade Steele.