Women’s soccer team keeps eyes on the prize
Published: Monday, August 13, 2012
Updated: Monday, August 13, 2012 13:08
It’s fall and that means sports are back and they are in full swing. The Knights are ready to kick off the 2012 soccer season.
The UCF women’s soccer team is ready to start its last year in Conference USA before transitioning into the Big East. Although UCF is projected to finish second in the conference behind Memphis in the preseason poll, the team has high hopes for this season.
With its eyes on the prize, those plans are not only to improve, but to snatch the C-USA title before departing to the Big East.
“We always expect to do better than the year before. We want to win the season, the tournament because we didn’t do that last year,” head coach Amanda Cromwell said.
Cromwell, an Olympic gold medalist, has led the Knights to 10 NCAA tournament appearances since joining the program in 1999.
The Knights had an exciting season last year. They finished strong with a run to the NCAA quarterfinals, but were taken out by Wake Forest. They were even ranked twelfth at the end of the season, according to National Soccer Coaches Association of America.
Senior Nicolette Radovcic, who led the team in goals last year, reciprocated her coach’s lofty expectations.
“I think our expectations for this year are very high,” she said. “We made it to the Elite Eight last year and we are looking to go even further.”
Their appearance in the Elite Eight was the club’s first since 1987. With four out of five top scorers returning, the girls are looking to show up once again and get past the quarterfinals.
“We want to get further than the Elite Eight, which will mean the Final Four. [We have] high expectations, but you always want to improve on what you did the year before,” Cromwell said.
The No. 12 Knights will play 12 games at home and 10 on the road. UCF will have their home opener on Aug. 24 at 7 p.m. against No. 4 Florida State. The Knights will also host Miami on Aug. 26 at 1 p.m.
Before UCF can have its home opener it must travel and play in-state rivals South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast.
“Those [South Florida and Florida Gulf Coast] are important games on the road that we have to win. We have those must wins early on, so it is key to get that and get our confidence for the conference play,” Cromwell said.
Cromwell said that winning the games before playing conference teams such as Memphis and Southern Miss will be key for this season as she hopes to get the team’s confidence up.
Last Tuesday, senior Tishia Jewell and junior Marissa Diggs were named to the Preseason All-Conference USA Team for the second consecutive year.
“We don’t put much into it [2012 Preseason All-Conference USA Team] because you have to play the game still. It is an honor from the year before, recognizing what they did the year before,” Cromwell said. “We appreciate them being on there, but in the end it’s who wins the conference and who is on the teams at the end of the season that we really focus on.”
Not only was Diggs named as part of the 2012 Preseason All-Conference USA Team she was also named the league’s Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
“I feel I win awards because of my teammates. We all work together and it just happens that one of us stands out and gets recognition, but it is always a group effort and my teammates are the reason I win anything,” Diggs, a junior from Rowlett, Texas, said.
Diggs joins former Knight Aline Reis as the only two Knights to receive this honor since the Knights joined C-USA in 2005.
“This season I expect to add on to our accomplishments [from] last year and to grow off it as a team and incorporate our freshmen and help the UCF program grow as a whole,” Jewell said.
The Satellite Beach native stood out last year and was ranked as one of the top 25 players in the nation as she had seven goals and 10 assists.
The Knights will have to make minor adjustments from last year as three seniors graduated this past spring. Now the team consists of four seniors, eight juniors, eight sophomores and 14 freshmen.
“Having attacking players return from the year before is important because [maintaining] the fluidity of attacking plays sometimes is hard when there are a lot of new players added into the mix,” Cromwell said. “Defensively, it is a little easier to work out. So having those players return means we should be better earlier.”