Four times this season, the UConn women’s soccer team has won two games in a row. And all three times so far, they have followed the pair of victories with a loss. On Thursday, the Huskies (6-6-3) will try for their first three-game winning streak of the season—but will have to get past their toughest opponent of the season to do so.
UCF (10-1-1) is good at soccer. Their last, and only, loss of the season came in their season opener against No. 3 South Carolina—back on August 18th. They are currently undefeated in conference play at 5-0-1 and have won sixth straight. They ride an 11-game unbeaten streak into the game, and have outscored opponents 35-4 over that span.
The Knights’ success has been well-recognized by national polls and indexes. Currently ranked No. 8 nationally in the two most reputable polls (United Soccer Coaches and TopDrawerSoccer), UCF is even higher in RPI at fifth in the country.
As dominant as they’ve been, the Knights have been a huge surprise this season. They were picked to finish sixth in the American Athletic Conference preseason poll, one spot behind UConn. In other words, they were expected to finish worse in conference standings alone than they currently stand in national RPI.
UCF leads the conference not only in standings but in most statistical categories as well. They average an impressive 2.92 goals per game, over half a goal more than the next closest conference team, and sixth in the country. The Knights also lead the conference in assists per game at 2.58, and if you’re beginning to think they’re just an offensive powerhouse, they have allowed the fewest goals in the conference—a mere six over the entire season.
The Knights are led by senior forward Morgan Ferrara, one of the most talented players in the country. Ferrara has a team-leading 11 goals, including five game-winners, good for an astonishing .92 goals per game, easily tops in the conference and third in the country. She has also been awarded conference offensive player of the week the past two weeks.
Ferrara will undoubtedly be the primary focus of UConn’s defensive preparations, but UCF is as well-rounded as any team in the country. Redshirt senior Kayla Adamek has eight goals this year, and six different players have three or more assists.
Senior Kat Sousa is the reigning conference defensive player of the week and leads a defense that has allowed the fewest shots on goal in the conference. In net is junior Vera Varis, who has a .905 save percentage which is—you guessed it—best in the conference.
So how do the Huskies stop the red-hot Knights? It certainly won’t be easy, but UConn will essentially look to simply continue what they’ve been doing lately, winning four of their last five. Junior Vivien Beil has been the most effective forward as of late, now the co-leader in points with Kess Elmore. Freshman Yamilee Eveillard has also been playing very well recently but appeared that she may have sustained a minor injury in UConn’s last match, so her health will be something to keep an eye on.
A UConn win could catapult them as high as third place in the conference, depending on the results of Cincinnati and Memphis. Currently sitting at 6-6-3, it would also be the first time the Huskies have surpassed the .500 mark all season. And of course, it would play spoiler to UCF’s double-digit unbeaten streak. To say it’s a big game is an understatement.
The Huskies will look to accomplish all the above Thursday at 7 pm in Orlando.