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No. 1 Men's Soccer Edged by Gamecocks in Sun Belt Tournament Opener, 2-1

by Ryan Ladika

ORLANDO – The No. 1 UCF men’s soccer team benefitted from a second-half goal by Anderson Rosa and a second-half shot flurry, but could not cash in on its opportunities in the 2023 Sun Belt Conference Tournament opener, as the Knights were upset in the quarterfinal round Sunday evening by the South Carolina Gamecocks, 2-1, at the UCF Soccer Complex.

In the second match of the day hosted by the Knights following West Virginia’s 3-1 win over the Georgia State Panthers in the early contest, the Gamecocks netted a pair of quick scores in the first half to seize the game’s early momentum.

UCF, despite its two-goal deficit in the first half, managed a 13-7 shot advantage through the first 45 minutes, and continued its offensive barrage following the halftime whistle, outshooting the Gamecocks 15-4 throughout the remainder of the match.

The Knights were finally rewarded for their efforts when sophomore transfer and the reigning Sun Belt Conference Newcomer of the Year, Clarence Awoudor, drew a penalty just outside the top of the box with less than 34 minutes to play in the match.

Rosa was selected to take the free kick in his place, and the defender converted the chance with a perfectly-placed try just over a wall of South Carolina defenders inside the left goalpost. The score represented his third of the season, and Rosa also boosted his season point total to seven, marking a single-season career best.

The Knights, despite outshooting their opponent by an aggregate 28-11, including a 7-5 lead in shots on goal, managed little more offensively and saw their bid for a tournament title in their first season as members of the Sun Belt Conference come to an early end with their second straight home loss.

UCF will await the 2023 NCAA men’s soccer selection show Nov. 13 to learn its fate in the NCAA Tournament.