Amanda Wilkin and Hannah DeBose may be two years apart, but their road to the UCF women’s soccer team wasn’t so different — and the trip certainly wasn’t too long.
The highly touted players from the Space Coast were both All-Space Coast Girls Soccer Player of the Year and led their teams to a state title. But each had the same frame of mind about coming to UCF.
“UCF was the first school that really looked at me, and it was the first school that I visited,” Wilkin said. “I fell in love right away with the team, the campus, with the coaching staff at that time, and I knew right when I came on campus that it was the place for me.”
Wilkin, a senior midfielder, led Merritt Island High School to a 4A state championship in 2010 and a runner-up finish in 2011, compiling 72 goals and 54 assists during her four-year career.
“She is still revered over here at Merritt Island as one of the all-time greats,” Merritt Island head coach Scott Carswell said. “The biggest thing about Amanda was, even when she was a freshman, it was like she was a four-year senior. She was looked at as a leader from the time she came in.”
Where Wilkin left off, DeBose picked up. The sophomore forward led Melbourne High School to 4A state titles in 2012 and 2013, scoring 33 goals during the run.
“Her work ethic was tremendous, high work rate, she was very competitive, but she absolutely loved the game,” Melbourne head coach Rosanna Lord said. “She was an attacking player who was finding the goal. And if she is not finding the goal, she is finding somebody’s feet.”
With the success achieved in high school, it wasn’t a question that the two were going to play collegiate soccer. The question became: What school would they choose?
“When I was looking for schools, I wanted to stay close to home. And when I looked at UCF, I really noticed that the coaches were similar to my high school coaches,” DeBose said. “There were just a lot of connections that brought me back to high school, and I knew it was a comfortable environment.”
Although Wilkin is redshirting through her senior year due to a knee injury, she has had an increasing impact in her time as a Knight. She had her most productive season last year, earning All-American Athletic Conference Tournament Team honors and playing all 23 games.
DeBose is also coming into her own at UCF. In 2014, she was named to the AAC All-Rookie team and recorded six assists for the Knights. This season, DeBose has played all 10 games, often at forward, and netted her first goal as a Knight in a 3-1 win over Georgetown.
Last year, each played a role to help UCF win an AAC Championship and advance to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament.
This year, the Space Coast duo has the same goal in mind: win another conference championship.
Matthew Saunders is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.