Coming off of a three-game losing streak, including two games in which it was held scoreless, the UCF women’s soccer team got a much-needed early spark on offense Thursday night.
In an American Athletic Conference matchup, the Knights (7-5-1, 2-3-0 in AAC) were able get ahead early and did not look back as they defeated visiting Memphis 3-1, handing the Tigers (7-4-2, 2-1-1 in AAC) their first conference loss of the season.
The Knights came out with aggressive play and junior forward Carol Rodrigues found the back of the net twice in the first 20 minutes of the game.
The second goal, which would prove to be the difference in the game, came when midfielder Kayla Adamek dribbled down the sideline and delivered a cross that Rodrigues met with her head, giving the Knights a 2-0 lead in the 17th minute.
“This past week, we tried to work more on combinations and trying to use each other more and it worked out in the game,” Rodrigues said.
In the 18th minute, Memphis was able to get their only goal and pressured the Knights heavily, trying to tie the game up before half.
With the Tigers bringing pressure throughout the second half, the Knights defense was able to bend, but not break, behind the stellar performance by the back line and goalkeeper Vera Varis, who made a few great saves to keep the Knights ahead.
“Varis had a great game. Coming off of a few losses, you only have one direction to go and you have to make choices,” head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak said. “She chose to step up her game and she has. She played with a lot of confidence tonight, and I think when you do that it kind of generates confidence.”
The Knights got their third goal of the night as Memphis was making a bid to tie the game in the closing minutes. Coming into the Memphis goal box, a pass met sophomore midfielder Julia Moore whose shot was deflected by a Memphis player into their own goal.
The Knights play their next game at home Sunday when they take on Tulsa at 1 p.m.
Matthew Saunders is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.