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Thrilling Second Half Powers the Knights Past TCU, 3-2, and Into the Big 12 Semifinals

by Alex Clough

AUSTIN, Texas – There has been no shortage of fireworks in the Knights’ first Big 12 campaign and tonight under the lights of Mike A. Myers Stadium, the squad delivered a historic performance. The UCF women’s soccer team (10-6-1, 5-4-1 Big 12) punched its ticket to the semifinals with an emotional and resounding 3-2 triumph over third-seeded TCU (10-6-3, 6-2-2 Big 12). A strong second half powered the Knights past the Horned Frogs following a match for the ages, as both squads exchanged their leads before Chloe Netzel scored the winner in the 82nd minute to propel the Knights into the next round.

Tonight was such a special win for this team! Iā€™m so proud to be the coach of these strong women who find a way to win together through the ups and downs. We look forward to another great game versus BYU on Wednesday.

Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak

A sudden change of location on Sunday afternoon due to weather in the area shifted the match south to Mike A. Myers at the University of Texas in Austin. While on the casual eye, the stadium change from Round Rock could prove to be an advantage for TCU having been conference foes for more than a decade, but the Knights traveled to the stadium in 2022 to conclude their non-conference play. A two-all draw with the Longhorns, who earlier today defeated West Virginia to advance to Wednesday’s semifinals, served as a precedent for the Knights' promising first campaign in the Big 12.

Opening sequences saw both sides testing each other out, as throughout the match it was evident how similar the two squads match up. While the Knights maintained the ball on the edge of the Horned Frogs' 18-yard box, a TCU counterattack and a perfectly placed through ball from Seven Castain led to the match's first goal courtesy of Gracie Brian.

The All-Big 12 First Team honoree’s ninth of the season marked just the sixth match in which UCF conceded first.

Netzel proved to be a strong source of positivity with the ball following the early deficit, with a shot that tested TCU’s Lauren Kellett in the 13th minute. Behind her, Mia Asenjo began to find space and registered two shots during the opening 45. At the half, the Horned Frogs recorded eight shots to the Knights’ five, though possession was shared through the majority of play.

For the Knights, Monday evening's matchup had all the makings of a must-win performance. With both TCU and UCF on the edge of an NCAA tournament berth, a win would serve as a magnitude of benefits, with advancing to the semifinals the obvious fruition.

From the first whistle to the second half, UCF came out of the break with a determined effort to find an early equalizer. With two goals on the season thus far, Asenjo has proven to be a reliable goal scorer for the Knights and tonight, her outstanding effort jump-started a vibrant second half for the Black and Gold. Netzel and Asenjo caused confusion outside of the TCU box before the New York native pounced on a deflection, chipping the Horned Frogs keeper from a tight angle.

From there, Roberts Sahaydak and her squad sought to finish off the match in regulation. In a 2022 postseason that saw UCF featured in three penalty shootouts, the battle-tested Knights showed the looks of last year’s squad in the final 30 minutes.

In the 66th minute, an Ariel Young pass up the pitch fell to Asenjo, who then served the provider, playing a beautiful through-ball into Martin who calmly slotted it past the keeper into the bottom-right of the net. The Boca Raton, Florida, native has consistently risen to the occasion for UCF, scoring the Knights' opening goal at UCLA in the NCAA second round last season, notching the first UCF goal as a member of the Big 12 at Purdue, and eventually securing the Knights their first conference-match goal. The All-Big 12 Second Team honoree’s fourth goal of the season matches her career high in points with 15.

Seven minutes later, TCU equalized on what looked to be the goal that would send the match into overtime. Maddie Mooney pounced on a deflected ball right in front of Knights keeper Caroline DeLisle off a set piece from Bella Diorio.

As the clock indicated 10 minutes remaining on a cold evening in Austin, something special was needed for the Knights to avoid an added 20 minutes. Throughout the 2023 campaign, the special moments have come through many players, none more impactful than Netzel. The Xavier transfer’s physicality and clinical nature in front of goal was on full display. She pounced on a Sanja Homann long-ball, brushing off the TCU defender and with what seemed to be the golden chance, slotted it between the legs of Kellett to secure the victory for the Knights. The goal was her seventh of the season as she continues to set career highs.

UCF’s triumph over third-seeded TCU proved to be the only upset of the day, as the three prior matchups saw all the higher seeds advance. While the emotional victory over TCU will be long remembered, the Knights must shift attention towards Wednesday night as they’ll face a familiar opponent in No. 7 BYU. The second-seeded Cougars punched their ticket to the semifinals with an emphatic 6-0 win over Oklahoma.

Kickoff is set for 8 p.m. ET from Mike A. Myers Stadium in Austin, Texas.