The UCF men’s soccer team closed its regular season Saturday on a high note with a 1-0 win over Cincinnati on Senior Knight.
The Knights (7-8-1, 3-4-1 American Athletic Conference) honored seniors Hadji Barry and Mason Miller, who have each been integral pieces in the turnaround season’s puzzle.
“This is probably one of Mason’s best games. I just thought he was a warrior in there, winning balls in the air, keeping our distribution going,” UCF head coach Bryan Cunningham said. “A game like tonight, when people see other people putting in that extra effort and battling for balls in the air and battling for second balls, it kind of sparks the energy of the entire team.”
Barry led the Knights this season with nine goals and two assists for 20 points in 16 games, and Miller served as the team’s captain and held the back line, adding a goal and assist as well.
“The program has given us so much … but at the same time coach has given us this opportunity,” Miller said. “I’m just really thankful to have everyone come together and be able to celebrate everything that we’ve gotten here.”
Going into the game, the Knights were undefeated against the Bearcats (7-8-3, 1-4-3 AAC) all-time. UCF only needed the 56th-minute strike by sophomore forward Matias Pyysalo to maintain a clean sheet and bring the team’s all-time record against Cincinnati to 4-0.
Pyysalo managed to put a pass from sophomore forward David Raizes into the back of the net with a strong right boot.
Two minutes later, the Knights looked to add fire to the flame but were stopped on back-to-back chances. Barry began the rush with a shot that was saved by a diving Bearcats’ goalkeeper Pedro Diaz. The rebound went to Pyysalo, who was denied by a diving Diaz.
Diaz finished the night with nine saves as the Knights outshot the Bearcats 11 to three.
“We should have had two, three more goals out there. He made some great saves, so a lot of credit goes to him,” Barry said.
The Knights will open The American Quarterfinals Nov. 7 against UConn in Storrs, Connecticut as the No. 5 seed.
Jarrod Heil is the Sports Editor for the Central Florida Future. Follow him on Twitter at @JarrodHeil or email him at JarrodH@CentralFloridaFuture.com.