The No. 17 UCF women’s soccer team played its home opener Friday night against the No. 8 University of Florida Gators in a match that featured the highest ranking schools of the night.
Despite the large crowd that came out to support the Knights, the Gators were able to prevail with a 2-0 victory. The game’s first goal, and eventual game winner, came off the foot of Gator freshman midfielder Mayra Pelayo.
Pelayo was able to get enough space in the UCF zone to bury a shot slightly out of reach of UCF keeper Francesca Fischer to the top left corner.
“UCF was a really good team tonight, but we were just able to play wide and create space between players,” Pelayo said after the game.
After a successful season in 2014, which saw UCF advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament, the Knights saw 15 new faces added to their roster for the home opener.
Looking for experience to build team chemistry, freshmen Katarina Naumanen from Finland and Maura Aman from Virginia are players who have head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak excited and optimistic for the remainder of the season.
“Getting the chemistry and the dynamic of the new teammates gelling is important,” Sahaydak said. “Everyone is just kind of getting fitter and sharper and sticking together.”
The Gators went into halftime with a 1-0 lead and were able to hold the ball the majority of the second half.
Although losing the possession battle, the Knights were able to create a number of chances on counters and set pieces that narrowly missed the back of the net on more than one occasion. The Gators put a second goal on the board in the 61st minute when Savannah Jordan headed a ball into the back of the net.
The Knights will regroup to play their second game on Aug. 23 at 1 p.m. when they host Jacksonville University.
Matthew Saunders is a contributing writer for the Central Florida Future.