ORLANDO - An inaugural season that has thrown everything at Knights head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak and her team will serve up one last test ahead of the Big 12 Conference Championship later this month, as the UCF women’s soccer team (9-5-1) embarks on its longest journey of the season for its Monday meeting with No. 7 BYU (13-1-3).
In front of one of the nation’s toughest environments, the Knights and Cougars are set to kick off at 8 p.m. ET from South Field in Provo, Utah. For BYU, a senior night ceremony will precede the regular-season finale as both squads have secured a first-round bye, each have the chance to ensure higher seeds ahead of the postseason.
A first all-time meeting between two of the Big 12’s premier newcomers, separated by 2,283 miles, sets the stage for what could potentially serve as a Big 12 Tournament preview. The Cougars are still within striking distance of the regular-season crown, as just two points separate them and Texas Tech. Picked to finish sixth in the coach’s preseason poll, UCF currently holds the fifth spot, along with Texas and West Virginia with all three teams owning 16 points.
Caroline DeLisle etched her name into the history books in the Knights’ last match against Cincinnati on Sunday, Oct. 15. The Tampa native secured her 31st career shutout in the 1-0 victory, moving into first place in program history, officially earning the crown as the UCF shutout queen. She is tied for sixth nationally in active career shutouts and is second in the Big 12. The record for shutouts was previously held for 33 years by Karen Richter, the current head coach at Auburn, before DeLisle’s fifth shutout of the season bested it.
After a slow start to the month of October, with back-to-back losses to Texas and Baylor at home, the Knights have rebounded tremendously, battling to a one-all draw against No. 6 Texas Tech and securing their first-ever victory at Gettler Stadium in Cincinnati. Under coach Roberts Sahaydak, the UCF squad has historically been strong in October, compiling a 49-15-6 record that features three unbeaten and one perfect month. This season, the Black and Gold are 2-2-1 and will look to get back to a winning record in October with a win over BYU.
Katie Bradley has continued her dominant senior campaign, scoring the game-winner against the Bearcats last week. After Chloe Netzel drew a penalty in the box, Bradley took the penalty kick from the spot and was able to slot it past the goalkeeper. The England native is now two-for-two on penalty kicks this season and has tied her single-season goal record with three. Despite not scoring as many goals as last season, Dayana Martin has been vital to the Knights’ offense, leading the squad in assists (seven) and constantly creating opportunities to get the ball into the back of the net. The mark is the most she’s had in a single season at UCF.
Six wins in their inaugural Big 12 campaign saw the Cougars pounce on the conference’s top spot in third edition of the United Soccer Coaches poll at No. 7. Along with an opening night triumph over Saint Louis, 3-2, BYU toppled the reigning national champions UCLA in front of over 5,000 fans, 3-1, en route to the program’s first-ever No. 1 ranking. Following two 6-1 victories, the Cougars drew 3-3 versus TCU and suffered an upset loss at Utah State, 1-0. BYU remains unbeaten in conference play and Monday night’s meeting with the Knights will have the crowd on edge, as Texas Tech travels to Iowa State with hopes of clinching its first-ever Big 12 regular-season championship.
BYU and Jennifer Rockwood go hand-in-hand. Since taking over in 1995, she’s led the Cougars to 498 wins as she’s currently eighth in active winning percentage among DI coaches. While in the West Coast Conference, Rockwood claimed two Coach of the Year honors in 2000 and 2008. Seven Sweet 16 and three Elite Eight appearances propelled BYU into one of the nation’s top programs and a perfect addition to the Big 12.
Goals come in bunches for BYU, as it leads the Big 12 and is second in the nation in scoring offense with 3.24 goals per match. Five different Cougars have notched six or more goals, a testament to the deep squad that has led multiple offensive categories throughout the season. Erin Bailey leads BYU with nine goals while Brecken Mozingo, Ellie Walbruch and Allie Fryer each have eight. Mozingo’s 25 points lead the squad and currently place the senior fourth in the Big 12.