Bursting into the American Athletic Conference tournament, the UCF women’s soccer team is riding a five-game winning streak.
After reaching the Sweet 16 of the NCAA tournament last season, the Knights (11-5-1, 6-3-0 in AAC) added 15 new faces to their 2015 team. Only two starters from that Sweet 16 team started the opening game of the 2015 season.
“We had a good preseason. We have a lot of new faces so getting the chemistry and the dynamic of the different new teammates gelling is important,” UCF head coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak said after the team’s first game of the season against No. 8 Florida.
The Knights stumbled early in AAC play this season, posting a 1-3-0 start, including a three game skid in which they were shutout twice on the road.
Playing at home, the team needed a spark to get the offense going. That spark was junior Carol Rodrigues, who scored four goals in two games against Memphis and Tulsa to help get the Knights back on track.
“The last three games we did not have a good match and we had to build our way back up,” Rodrigues said after the Knights bounce-back win over Memphis Oct. 8. “We stick together, we had some good teamwork and it worked out for us and we are just going to keep going.”
UCF came back strong in its return home after the losing streak. The Knights put on an offensive show in their final five games, outscoring their opposition 14-6 during that stretch.
“It does feel great that the team sees the improvement with each game,” Roberts Sahaydak said after the team’s 3-1 win over No. 18 USF Oct. 23. “To beat South Florida, who is having an amazing season, I know that just gives our team even more confidence going into the conference tournament.”
With the run of success to end conference play, UCF has secured the No. 3 seed in the AAC tournament. Winning an AAC tournament championship in 2013 and falling just short in the championship game last season, the Knights are looking to make it three straight AAC tournament championship appearances.
“I think this game showed the heart of this team and that is what is going to take us into this tournament and into the NCAAs,” senior midfielder Megan Fish said after the win over USF. “We had a few hiccups in the beginning [of the season], but we learned from them and regrouped.”
UCF will face the No. 6-seed Temple Owls Nov. 3 in Dallas, Texas. The two teams played earlier this season in a game that UCF prevailed in a hard-fought 1-0 victory at home.
Matthew Saunders is a Contributing Writer for the Central Florida Future.