Heavy rain throughout the evening gave way to a wild finish as the No. 23 UCF women’s soccer team prevailed over East Carolina, 5-3, Friday in Orlando in the Conference USA opener for both teams. A total of five goals were scored in a span of 9:23 late in the second half, and the Knights (6-2-1, 1-0-0) would ultimately end a 3-3 tie in the 81st minute to seal the win against the Pirates (5-4-0, 0-1-0).
“The conditions were tough. It was pouring pretty hard in the first half and then again in the second half. It definitely affects possession teams, but I thought we did have great play-making despite the weather,” said head coach Amanda Cromwell. “We came out alright at the start of the second half and created a lot of chances, but we didn’t have the mentality to put those away. And ECU is very good on corners and set plays. After they tied it at 2-2 we still were able to come back a minute later and take the lead. We didn’t hang our heads when they scored.”
Playing in their road black uniforms, UCF scored five goals in its second-straight game, marking the first time it produced at least five goals in back-to-back matches since 2004 (9-0 over Lipscomb and 5-0 over Belmont). It also was the most goals by the Knights in a conference game since a 6-0 win vs. Houston in 2008.
Nine different Knights picked up at least one point Friday, led by Tishia Jewell and Kim Newsome who each had a goal and an assist. UCF finished the night by outshooting ECU, 24-7.
The Knights almost snuck one in three minutes into the contest as Katie Jackson tried to angle in a 23-yard shot over ECU keeper Christiane Cordero but it struck the crossbar.
After ECU had a chance of its own moments later, the Knights used three perfect passes to take a 1-0 lead in the 14th minute. Crossing midfield, Nicolette Radovcic found Jewell who ultimately sent it back over to Radovcic as she raced down the right side. As she got deeper towards the endline, the forward delivered a cross into the box where Newsome was waiting right in front for the easy goal. It was Newsome’s fourth of the year.
UCF almost made it 2-0 with 12 minutes to go in the frame but Jewell’s shot off a corner kick also clanked off the crossbar. But the Knights kept at it and indeed doubled their lead in the 38th minute. A footrace developed where Amanda Martorana tried to beat Cordero to the ball at the top-right of the 18, however both arrived at the same time and a scramble was on. Martorana eventually managed to get a foot on it and she touched it over to Jewell who hammered it home from just over 20 yards out for her fifth of the season.
As time ticked down in the first half, UCF had a free kick with 10 seconds left. Jackson sent it over to just outside the top of the box, where Kristen Poulton found the loose ball and fired a shot towards the lower left-corner only to have Cordero make a last-second save right before the horn sounded.
The Knights opened up the second half where they left off by dominating the shot total, yet could not get the third goal they needed. That ended up playing a huge factor as the Pirates scored twice midway through the final half, the first from Chrissy Gratz in the 61st minute and the equalizer from Caty Butler in the 73rd minute.
With the ECU bench still celebrating, it took just 49 seconds for UCF to go back in front. Bianca Joswiak found Newsome heading down the left flank, and Newsome then sent in a cross right to sophomore Katie Bolinsky who one-timed it in the air into the far left-corner in the 74th minute. Bolinsky’s first-career goal as a Knight made it 3-2.
However in the 80th minute, the Pirates’ Jessica Woodward scored on a perfect corner kick from Amanda Malkiewicz to once again even things up. Yet just like ECU’s previous goal, the visitors’ emotions died down in only 45 seconds, and it came at the hands of a UCF freshman. Winning the ball approximately 41 yards away from the net, Kristina Trujic decided to hammer a shot from long distance. The result was her second of the year as it curled into left portion of the goal for what would be the eventual game-winner.
Not wanting ECU to have a chance at another late tally, just 1:16 after UCF’s fourth goal Jackson received a pass from Brianna Schooley and ripped off a 22-yard shot that got past Cordero for the final 5-3 margin.
UCF will now wrap up its weekend Sunday when it hosts Marshall at 1 p.m. live on Bright House Sports Network.