It rained from the kickoff to the final whistle. Players keeping their footing was as valuable as keeping possession of the ball.
Luckily for the UCF women's soccer team, they did a good job of both, leading them to a 1-0 win over No. 23 Long Beach State on Friday night.
The win was the Knights first over a top 25 team since 2012. The shutout was the fifth of the year for UCF, and its third in a row.
"I would say that fierce is a really good word to describe the game today," head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak said. "I really think we stepped it up in the physical area. We were winning balls in the air, but even 50/50 balls on the ground we were doing whatever it takes, so I thought it was a really inspiring performance from our team."
Through the first half, both teams had quality chances, but UCF had more. They out shot Long Beach 7-3 in the first half, with four UCF shots being on goal compared to none for Long Beach.
UCF's first good opportunity came when a cross from Tatiana Coleman found Jennifer Martin's head, but was sent just wide. UCF had another good opportunity a few minutes later when Coleman took the ball in a one-on-two situation and simply overpowered both defenders for a shot on goal that was saved.
The best chance in the first half for UCF, however, came in the 29th minute when Martin was fouled in the box and awarded a penalty kick. Martin went left on the shot and the LBS keeper went right, but the shot hit the pole and ricocheted out where it was cleared by the defense.
Martin led all of the players with three shots in the first half.
While Long Beach had no shots on goal in the first half, they had two shots that were just inches high of finding the net, one of which hit the crossbar and bounced out for a narrow miss.
"I thought we played really good soccer, especially in the first half," Sahaydak said. "We were passing the ball and having some passing strings and moving the ball well and changing the point of attack."
The second half started off with UCF controlling the ball and the game. Just six minutes into the half, the 0-0 tie was broken when a through ball from Ashley Spivey found Coleman on the right of the box, where she was able to cross to the left of the goal and give UCF the lead.
"Wining against a top 25 team is always great, but I really think we deserved it tonight," Coleman said. "We stepped up our game and the competitiveness and we just were after it today and I was really proud of my team."
The goal was Coleman's team-leading sixth of the season.
In the subsequent minutes, UCF continued to control the ball, with more good opportunities coming early in the half, but no goals.
The UCF defense that allowed no shots on goal in the first half didn't go anywhere. In the second half, the defense continued to stifle Long Beach, who still didn't have any shots on goal when the final whistle blew.
The win was a big one for UCF. They dropped out of the national rankings last week, but a win against a ranked opponent could push them back in after this week, depending on the results of Sunday's game against Ole Miss.
"This is a very coachable team," Sahaydak said. "I'm really excited about or growth and where we are right now and I just see us getting better."