ORLANDO, Fla. (UCFAthletics.com) - As a former hockey goalie, UCF director of athletics Todd Stansbury can relate to the defense of the No. 18 women's soccer team.
At Monday's NCAA Tournament Watch Party at Buffalo Wild Wings, Stansbury thanked the team for not only its hard work in bringing home the Conference USA Tournament championship, but the way in which the Knights clinched it. UCF did not allow a goal in its three outings in El Paso, Texas.
"I appreciate seeing those zeroes -- what a feat," Stansbury said. "A lot of time the goal scorers get all the glory, but when I see those shutouts, that warms my heart as an old goalie."
In fact, the Knights have not allowed a goal in their past seven matches and have recorded shutouts in 15 of their 17 wins this season. Moreover, the team ranks second in the nation for goals-against average (.487) and fourth for shutout percentage (.682).
How long can UCF keep this up?
"I'm confident we can keep it going at least the first round of the NCAA Tournament," UCF captain and senior defender Bianca Joswiak said. "Hopefully as long as possible."
Joswiak, who will match the program record for most games played in a career (93) this Saturday, is part of a defensive unit that works so well together, the group is practically telepathic.
"From the start we've just meshed really well," sophomore Carleigh Williams said. "We communicate and it's just like we can read each other and know what the other is going to do. We back each other up."
It is also a plus to have the Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year in their corner. Marissa Diggs has helped command the corps to a record-breaking year as the Knights hold the school and conference single-season records for shutouts.
Along with Conference USA All-Tournament team member Ashley Nicol, the back four have gained the confidence of the rest of the team. One of UCF's mottos this year has been if the Knights score, they'll win.
"Marissa, and Ashley, Bianca, and Carleigh -- they've all been so consistent and dependable; they're very good in the air and we don't give away any balls," UCF head coach Amanda Cromwell said. "It's not just those four. Madison Barney and Sophie Howard, as defensive midfielders, they clog up holes for us and they don't allow balls to get in, so really it's a defensive team effort. Those six deserve a lot of credit along with (goalkeeper) Lianne Maldonado."
The Knights will face Miami, who they shut out in a 1-0 overtime win earlier this year, on Saturday at home at 7 p.m. Tickets are available for purchase now, and for those who cannot attend, a free webcast will be available.