As the No. 20 UCF women’s soccer team huddled before taking the field in Sunday’s Conference USA Championship matchup against Tulsa, senior captain Nicolette Radovcic pulled her teammates in close.
She looked at the group in earnest and said, “We’re playing for each other, but more importantly, this is the last time Coach (Amanda Cromwell) is going to be in Conference USA, and she’s never won this championship before. Let’s play for her.”
UCF (17-4-1) kept good on its promise. The four-time C-USA regular season champions won their first conference tournament title in a 2-0 win over the Golden Hurricane at University Field for an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
“Coming here and wining is an awesome experience. By far, this is my favorite team that we’ve had,” Radovcic said. “We have a really great coaching staff, and I think it’s awesome to get this win for coach and the rest of the coaching staff.”
C-USA Defensive Player of the Year Marissa Diggs was named the tournament’s Defensive MVP and Radovcic was selected as the Offensive MVP. The duo were joined by defender Ashley Nicol and forward Kristina Trujic on the All-Tournament team.
With their 15th shutout, the Knights matched Memphis (2011) and Cincinnati (2001) for the C-USA single-season shutout record. UCF will enter the NCAA Tournament riding a seven-consecutive shutout-win streak, having outscored its opponents 23-0 over the last three weeks.
“I feel like this award is for our whole defense,” Diggs said of her Defensive MVP honor. “We have seven (straight) shutouts now, so we take pride in limiting other team’s shots. It’s an award for all of us.”
The Knights took the lead in the 12th minute when midfielder Andrea Rodrigues sent a cross from the left to Nicol in front of the net. Tulsa’s goalkeeper deflected her header and Radovcic was there to rebound for her 12th goal of the season.
With the score, Radovcic jumped into the program’s top-five leaders for both single-season game-winners (5) and career game-winners (10).
Forward Jennifer Martin added an insurance goal in the 59th minute after midfielder Madison Barney sent a ball to defender Bianca Joswiak in the left corner of the field. Joswiak’s cross found Martin’s head near the far post for a 2-0 advantage.
With an automatic bid secured to the NCAA Tournament, the Knights will hold a selection show watch party at Buffalo Wild Wings on University Blvd. at 4:30 p.m. Monday when it is broadcast on NCAA.com.