By Sarah Kelliher, known for the most-viewed author page in internet history
The 2016-2017 athletic year was certainly one to remember in UCF sports history. Throughout the entire sports season, players shined, records were broken, and championships were won. This athletic year was the first year that UCF participated in the War on I-4 Rivalry Series with in-state rival USF as well. This competition featured a points system in every head-to-head contest between the two universities’ sports teams. After baseball’s huge win, the Knights took home the War on I-4 trophy on May 20th, with an overall score of 51-33. Success followed in academics as well, where the student-athletes had a record high grade-point average (GPA) of 3.27.
In a year surrounded with so much success, here are the Knight Sports Now Top 10 moments from the 2016-2017 season:
10. Cross Country’s Anne-Marie Blaney Dominates the NCAA South Region
Redshirt senior Anne-Marie Blaney was no stranger to winning in her final season at UCF. Blaney, who won the NCAA South Region with a season-best time of 20:07.2, was also named the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association (USTFCCCA) South Region Athlete of the Year. She is the first athlete in the cross-country program to receive this honor in almost twenty years. In addition to her honors, Blaney also won five races throughout season, including the American Athletic Conference (AAC) Championship.
9. Men’s Tennis Returns to the NCCA Tournament
For the first time since 2005, UCF men’s tennis team returned to the NCAA tournament. The Knights earned their first ever at-large bid ranked at 31st in the nation. This was just the fourth time in program history that the team has found themselves competing in the big dance. The Knight’s 16 regular season wins were the most since 2003, and they defeated five top thirty programs throughout the season.
8. Women’s Soccer Coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak Reaches 100 Wins
In a thrashing 4-0 win over UMass, the UCF women’s soccer team treated their coach Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak to her 100th school win in perfect fashion. An Olympic gold medalist, World Cup champion and two-time NCAA champion with the University of North Carolina, Roberts Sahaydak is no stranger to winning as a player. Now as a coach Roberts Sahaydak is finding ways to win as well. Under her leadership since 2013, the Knights have made three NCAA Tournament appearances and won three AAC championships.
7. Rowing Captures Third Consecutive Conference Championship
With a clean sweep in all six events, UCF Rowing glided their way to their third straight AAC title. It was the first time since joining the AAC that the Knights swept all six events, totaling 217 points on the day. It was also the third consecutive year that the UCF rowing team made it to the NCAA tournament. They finished 18th overall in the team standings, the best finish ever in program history.
6. Men’s Basketball Star Matt Williams Breaks 3-Point Record
Redshirt senior guard Matt Williams saw nothing but net in his last season as a Knight. Scoring in double figures in 31 out of 36 games, he made the second most three’s in the nation with 126 on the season. His 126 threes however are the highest ever in AAC and UCF basketball history. In addition to his threes this past season, he also set a UCF record for total threes in a career with 274.
5. Men’s Soccer Matias Pyysalo Makes ESPN’s Top 10 Plays
All season long, junior forward Matias Pyysalo was a consistent playmaker for UCF. Whether he was scoring or assisting, he always seemed to be the main man for the Knights. Often showcasing his skill on the field, he was even featured on Bleacher Report and ESPN’s well known “Top 10 Plays” on Sportscenter after bending in a corner kick against Jacksonville this year. Pyysalo returns for his final season in the black and gold this fall.
4. Women’s Basketball Competes in NIT
For the first time in six years, the UCF Women’s Basketball team got a chance to compete in post season play. It was the first time ever in program history that the team was selected to play in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT). Under first year coach Katie Abrahamson-Henderson, the Knights advanced to the second round of the tournament before falling to Georgia Tech. Overall, the Knights finished 21-12 in their best season since the 2010-2011 athletic year.
3. Football’s Comeback Season
With an 0-12 record just a season ago, the Knights football team looked as if it would take years to improve. But with new coach Scott Frost at the helm, the Knights bounced back in just one season with a 6-7 record and bowl game eligibility. UCF got a chance to play in front of their home crowd as well, when they faced Arkansas State in the Cure Bowl at Camping World Stadium. Although they fell in the bowl game, the Knights are still well on their way to rebuilding their program.
2. Baseball Clinches Regular Season Conference Championship
After finishing at the bottom of their conference just a season ago, UCF baseball had a tremendous turn around, finishing at the top of the AAC in regular season. As if the number one ranking in the conference was not enough, the Knights clinched the number one seed in The American Athletic Conference Tournament with a 3-2 win over USF, claiming the War on I-4 rivalry series trophy.
1. Men’s Basketball Makes it to NIT Final Four
In his first year as head coach at UCF, Johnny Dawkins and his team made a trip to the big apple for the first time in school history. Before reaching the Final Four this season, the Knights had not won a single game in NIT competition and it was the first time UCF returned to post season play in five years. Although the Knight’s fell short to TCU, it was still quite an accomplishment for the program. The Knights also had the top field goal percentage defense in all of NCAA basketball with just 36.5%. UCF ended its season with a 24-12 overall record, the second-best record in a season in the Knight’s Division I era.