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Martin, McCullen Secure All-Big 12 Honors

by Alex Clough

ORLANDO – A prominent inaugural Big 12 campaign saw the UCF women’s soccer team place two student-athletes on the all-conference teams, the league office announced Wednesday. Dayana Martin, who set a career-high in assists with seven in her final year in Orlando, was tabbed to the All-Big 12 Second Team. The fifth year was joined by Jessica McCullen, who garnered all-freshman team honors, after a strong first season with UCF slotting into the Knights' defense.


The league’s awards were determined by a vote of the conference’s 14 head coaches. Among the four newcomers, UCF notched the second-most honors behind BYU, who along with regular-season champion Texas Tech, placed eight athletes throughout the three teams.


Following a farewell season in the American Athletic Conference in which Martin featured alongside three other Knights on the all-conference first team, she left her mark in her final regular season at UCF in 2023. With a season of firsts in the cards, Martin will long be remembered in UCF Athletics history for her part in the Knights’ first year in their new conference.

In the squad’s season-opening bout at Purdue, the first of any team to play as a Big 12 member, Martin finished off a beautiful sequence to give UCF both its first win and its first of many goals and points as a Power Five school. On Sept. 14 in front of a packed UCF Soccer Complex, all in attendance to witness the monumental occasion as the Knights welcomed West Virginia for their first conference match, Martin electrified once again. She slotted home the equalizer in an eventual 4-2 triumph over the Mountaineers, the reigning Big 12 Tournament Champions.


For UCF, her performance this season was a marquee factor in the Knights first-round bye and sixth-place finish. After a five-goal, five-assist 2022 season, she continued to advance her game alongside a newly-formed attack that featured Xavier transfer Chloe Netzel, Ellie Moreno, and Maggie Jenkins. Her seven assists serve as a testament to the vision that has pushed the Knights over the line in numerous matches, as UCF is 3-1-1 when Martin notches an assist. With three goals, seven assists, and 13 points on the season, her knack for scoring in big moments will never be forgotten.


With one Knight wrapping up an illustrious six-year career, another shinned her first full season with UCF. McCullen served as a splash of youthful energy for head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak. After making her collegiate debut versus North Florida on Aug. 27 in a 2-1 victory, she made her first start alongside Kyliegh Thelen at center back on Sept. 3 versus Florida Atlantic in place of an injured Ariel Young. In the Canadian’s absence, McCullen and the Knights backline notched three clean sheets, including two consecutive at Houston and Kansas.

Her performance during the stretch featured a Big 12 Freshman of the Week honor, the first of her career. After Young returned, McCullen continued to feature in the Knights backline, playing both as a center-half and as a fullback. With the talent to play out the back and the physicality to fend off the opposition, she’s been a sense of security in front of goalkeeper Caroline DeLisle who set the program record in career shutouts (31) following a 1-0 victory at Cincinnati on Oct. 15.

UCF is set to embark on its first Spouts Farmers Market Big 12 Championship next week in Round Rock, Texas. The Knights, playing as the sixth seed, will meet No. 3 TCU for just the second time in program history, in the last of four quarterfinal matchups at 9 p.m. ET.