A new fall semester is right around the corner, which means soccer soon returns to the UCF Soccer and Track Complex. When the women’s soccer team takes the pitch to start its regular season on Aug. 19, it will have plenty of high expectations to deliver on.
The Knights received a lot of praise on Tuesday, with the United Soccer Coaches Poll and American Athletic Conference preseason honors being announced. UCF opens up the 2018 season ranked No. 16 in the poll after winning 13 games last year, which was the program’s highest win total since 2014.
The Knights are the only AAC team ranked in the top 25, so it’s fitting that they were also voted as the preseason favorite to win the conference. They received 76 points overall in the preseason poll, with six first-place votes. The rest of the poll unfolded as follows: USF (73 points, three first-place votes), Memphis (68, one), Cincinnati (54), SMU (53), UConn (39), Houston (34), East Carolina (24), Tulsa (18) and Temple (11).
UCF captured the regular season conference championship last season before losing the conference tournament final in penalty kicks. Despite losing that heartbreaker to USF, the Knights had done enough to earn a berth in the NCAA Tournament. However, their postseason run was cut short by a 1-0 loss to Washington State in round one.
A couple of standouts on the team received individual preseason accolades of their own on Tuesday. Vera Varis was named the conference’s Preseason Goalkeeper of the Year ahead of her senior season. Varis won the AAC Goalkeeper of the Year award last year after putting together five shutouts in conference play. She allowed just four goals on the year, which was good for a 0.27 goals against average. Just one of the four came against an AAC opponent. Her performance also earned her 2017 All-American honors from the United Soccer Coaches Association.
Joining Varis on the 2018 preseason all-conference team is sophomore Dina Orschmann. Her 20 points (six goals, eight assists) in 2017 earned her the AAC Rookie of the Year award, as well as a second team all-conference spot. With Morgan Ferrara and Kayla Adamek gone, Orschmann is the team’s top returning goal-scorer.
The Knights will play two exhibition games, Thursday at home against Wyoming and Sunday at North Florida, before hosting Florida Gulf Coast on Aug. 19 to open the regular season.