Playing an NCAA Championship game at home for the first time since 1988, the UCF women’s soccer team rolled to a 2-0 first-round win over FIU Friday at the UCF Soccer Complex. The Knights, who improved to 12-4-5, advance to the second round of the championship for the fifth-straight year.
The Knights dominated FIU (13-7-3) for 90 minutes Friday, and received goals from junior Tishia Jewell (Satellite Beach, Fla.) and redshirt freshman Emily Grider (Fort Worth, Texas). UCF finished with a 20-8 shot advantage, and only allowed two shots on goal.
UCF will face Florida on Nov. 18 in Gainesville.
“I think we played pretty well. It was one of our most complete games of the season,” UCF head coach Amanda Cromwell said. “But I think we pretty much dominated the 90 minutes with shots and corners. I can’t say enough about the leadership. It was a very complete game. I think we have that feeling that we are peaking at the right time.”
Jewell was active all evening and recorded nine shots in 81 minutes. She gave the hosts a 1-0 advantage 14 minutes into the match when she took a pass from senior Aline Reis (Campinas, Brazil) and sprinted past several FIU defenders and blasted a shot past Kaitlyn Savage. The assist was the first career helper for Reis, who is in her fourth year as UCF’s starting goalkeeper.
“I did not even believe it,” Reis said. “That was the first time I ever got an assist here and it was amazing. It was a great goal. Tish knows how to finish that.”
Jewell also assisted on Grider’s goal in the 76th minute. After a long shot from Jewell was knocked away by Savage, a cutting Grider tapped in the rebound for her second score of the year.
Reis totaled a pair of saves in the win. FIU rarely threatened to score, but Reis did make an excellent, leaping save on long free kick from April Perry in the first half.
The Knights started the match aggressively, and totaled nine shots in the first half. Reis, sophomores Marissa Diggs (Rowlett, Texas) and Ashley Nicol (Jacksonville, Fla.) and freshman Madison Barney (Sammamish, Wash.) played all 90 minutes in the victory.
Savage totaled six saves in the losing effort.
The Knights are making their 16th appearance in the NCAA Championship, which is the most among any program in Florida.
UCF improved to 27-4-3 all-time against FIU with the win. The Panthers earned a spot in the tournament after claiming the Sun Belt Championship title.
The Knights were one of 32 teams nationally selected to a host a first-round contest. A year ago the team was shipped to California for the first two rounds. In 2009, the Knights headed to Wisconsin for postseason play.
“It is huge,” Cromwell said of having the chance to host. “The program has so much history. You saw the alums after we scored the second goal, they were running out onto the field. They were in the bleachers right behind the goal. We have a lot of support from the alums.”