Nov. 7, 2010
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By John Denton
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - As if losing the Conference USA Championship finals in heartbreaking fashion Sunday wasn't bad enough for the UCF women's soccer team, they had to look on as arch-rival Memphis celebrated on their home turf.
It's a bitter memory that is sure to stick with the Knights and motivate them in next week's NCAA Tournament.
The Knights will find out on Monday who and where they will be playing in the NCAA Tournament, and hopefully by then they will be able to get past the pain of losing 1-0 to Memphis in Sunday's C-USA title game at UCF. Memphis won when Melissa Smith scored on a controversial goal with 55 seconds remaining in the game.
``Seeing (Memphis) celebrate on our field - and rightly so because they earned it - it will give us a reminder that we cannot repeat this next week,'' said UCF standout Kim Newsome, who played 69 minutes despite suffering a nasty shin bruise in the second half. ``It will definitely give us motivation because we have to go into next week knowing that we're not going to fail, not going to lose.''
As the game's 90th minute approached, Memphis was awarded a questionable free kick some 30 feet from the goal off a shirt pull, and then Smith scored off a loose ball when UCF's All-C-USA First Team goalkeeper Aline Reis was contacted in the box and dropped the ball. UCF expected a foul call on the play, especially after the way goalkeepers were protected from contact all season.
``It just stinks to get a pretty soft call from the referee that gives them a free kick. You hate to see the refs have an impact like that,'' UCF coach Amanda Cromwell said. ``Early in the game they had a handball in the box that wasn't called so it's disappointing."
For the top-seeded Knights, the pain of losing to Memphis was familiar. UCF once again won the regular-season crown, but lost in the C-USA tourney to Memphis for the fourth-straight time. Three of those defeats have come in the C-USA title game.
Still, there's plenty to play for, star striker Tishia Jewell said.
``Last season, stuff happened and we lost, but we bounced back from that. We have to come back from this twice as hard,'' said Jewell, who had four shots and two shots on goal in 83 minutes on Sunday. ``There were some calls that we thought should have been made, but there's nothing that we can do about it now.''
Reis, UCF's standout keeper who has been playing for weeks with a partially torn posterior cruciate ligament and a sore shoulder, had three saves in the game. And she appeared to have secured the free kick in her hands before contact was made, allowing Memphis a chance for the game-winner.
``I got hit and the sun was right in my face. I didn't see the ball, but I put my hands there and caught it,'' Reis said. ``I got hit and usually when they hit the goalkeeper (in the box), that's a foul. It (stinks) because it cost us a goal and a championship.''
UCF missed several chances early in the game to score, but couldn't convert. The Knights had 15 shots, four of which were on goal. Swirling winds also affected the game and the strategy throughout the game.
``It was very frustrating because we had opportunity after opportunity but couldn't finish it,'' Jewell said. ``Our defense held strong the entire game. They shouldn't have scored and we should have scored.''
Cromwell, who has built somewhat of a C-USA dynasty at UCF, feels that the school did a good job of hosting the conference tournament and hopes that it will become a regular event on UCF's campus, especially when the renovations to the UCF Soccer Complex are completed.
And she hopes that the team will use the loss to Memphis as motivation in next week's NCAA Tournament.
"This game doesn't really hurt us in the RPI. But looking forward, having the loss can turn into a positive because you have that feeling in your gut that you're really upset," Cromwell said. "In years past, Memphis has beaten us and we've made it to the second round and they lost in the first round. So we'll carry a little bit of that anger with us to the tournament.''
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John Denton's Knights Insider appears on UCFAthletics.com several times a week. E-mail John at firstname.lastname@example.org.