Dec. 3, 2013
UCF Athletics Social Media Directory
By Jennifer Clark
ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFKnights.com) - UCF men’s soccer concluded its 2013 campaign at 8-5-5 overall and 5-1-3 in the American Athletic Conference, highlighted by an impressive third-place finish in The American.
Picked to finish seventh in The American’s preseason polls, UCF played a roster that relied heavily on a slew of underclassmen and included just three seniors in Omar Vallejo, Steven Lamberta and Gabriel Zapponi.
The young squad rose to the occasion as the Knights faced a challenging regular-season schedule, which included matches against numerous opponents with top 40 RPIs and six NCAA contenders.
With a tough strength of schedule in hand, UCF remained present in the RPI rankings throughout the regular-season, while stringing together a nine-match unbeaten streak. The Knights finished their 2013 campaign ranked ninth in the NSCAA South Region polls.
“Overall, we were pleased with our team’s performance,” said head coach Bryan Cunningham of the Knights’ 2013 run. “After a shaky start, the team settled in nicely and put together a nine-match unbeaten streak. We attained one of our goals, which was to finish among the American Athletic Conference’s top four teams and advance to the conference semifinals in FC Dallas, but our goal of winning a conference title and reaching the NCAAs fell short. We are looking forward to reloading and rebuilding for 2014. We’ll return 80 percent of our team, and we look forward to a new season.”
Here is a look back at UCF's top moments from the year:
The Knights’ First Victory
Looking to start the season off right, UCF was hungry for a victory which it found against FIU. The Knights scored a pair of late goals to post their first victory of 2013, 2-1. Fernando Laverde tallied a goal in the 70th minute, while Romario Williams notched the game winner in the 76th minute. UCF improved to 1-0-1 following the win.
An Impressive Draw
The Knights scored two first half goals in their 2-2 draw at No. 17/24 UConn. Playing their third-straight road match, UCF became the first team to score multiple goals against the Huskies in Storrs since Sept. 5, 2009. Romario Williams scored in the 14th minute and then assisted on Vallejo's score in the 35th minute. UCF was facing a ranked team for the second time after opening their conference schedule against No. 11 Louisville on Sept. 22.
A Comeback Victory
The Knights pushed their unbeaten streak to three matches when they handled Memphis with a 1-0 victory. UCF used a goal from Romario Williams in the 49th minute to take the win, as the sophomore striker notched his team-best sixth goal of the season on a free kick from 20 yards out. UCF keeper Sebastian Evers stopped five shots, including a close attempt from the Tigers’ Mark Sherrod with three minutes to play, to preserve the shutout against a Memphis team receiving top-25 votes.
The UCF men’s soccer team extended its unbeaten streak to seven matches after playing Temple to a 2-2 draw. The Knights had not seen a loss since late Sept. UCF controlled the pace early and held Temple to a scoreless first half, but both teams strung together multiple scoring opportunities as the Knights battled their way back from a 2-0 deficit. The Owls struck first in the early minutes of the second jump ahead, 1-0, and increased their edge to 2-0 minutes later when redshirt-junior Chas Wilson found the back of the net. UCF quickly responded when Omar Vallejo fired to the back of the net from 20 yards out to bring the Knights within one (2-1), while sophomore Romario Williams’ capitalized on a successful penalty kick to end the match with a 2-2 draw.
A Senior Night Score
UCF men's soccer scored a big win in its final regular-season match on Nov. 2, when the Knights defeated Rutgers, 2-1, and extended their unbeaten streak to eight matches. Senior Gabriel Zapponi registered his first goal of the season when he used an assist from Omar Vallejo and Mason Miller to fire straight into the back of the net in the 33rd minute to record the Knights’ opening goal. Romario Williams increased the score to 2-0 when he slotted a pass from Matthew Gaskins in the 52nd minute. The win improved UCF’s league record to 4-1-3 and positioned them third heading into The American’s inaugural postseason tournament.
A Quarterfinal Rally
In a must-win for the Knights, freshman Abdi Yusuf secured the team victory with his first goal of the season when he slotted a shot in the 7th minute of sudden victory overtime against Memphis in The American quarterfinals. UCF defeated Memphis, 2-1, to advance to the semifinals of the league’s inaugural championship, while extending its unbeaten streak to nine matches to tie the program record.