UCF Men's Soccer Team on Their Way to the Sweet 16

For the first time in the program's history, the UCF men's soccer team has made it to the Sweet 16. They've made it into the NCAA Division 1 Championship three times before — but they've never made it this far until now. The No. 8 Knights went head to head with the No.12 Missouri State Bears on Sunday, Nov. 24 and came away with a 2–1 victory overtime.

In the first three minutes of the game, Missouri State sophomore Aadne Bruseth made a goal. After a few minutes of the ball going back and forth, UCF took possession and gained advantage. Freshman Gino Vivi made a beautiful pass to Yoni Sorokin who made the first goal with a shot off his head. UCF's goal gave the Knights confidence and the first half of the game ended with a tied score of 1–1. 

The Knights dominated the second half of the game, maintaining possession for the majority of the time. In the first minute, Missouri State committed a foul with a handball, earning UCF a penalty kick. Junior Louis Perez stepped up the pitch, but his kick sent the ball high. The Knights quickly recovered and picked up momentum. UCF made many shots, but Missouri State's goalie saved each and every time. As time dwindled away, the Knights tried to play it safe until the dreaded overtime once again arrived.

This was the ninth game UCF has seen go into overtime, and each time they have come out victorious. The Knights stepped on the field calmly and overtime started. 42 seconds in, Vivi passed across to senior Cal Jennings who scored the golden goal. Jennings has scored 45 goals in his collegiate career. The game ended with UCF victorious and advancing to the next round against the Southern Methodist University Mustangs. Jennings concluded the game by saying, "The team is extremely excited about the result last night and advancing in the tournament. It's great to be a part of a group that is confident and can conquer adversity. We look forward to a great performance this Saturday representing Knight Nation." 

The Knight's journey in the NCAA D1 Championship has just begun. The match against SMU Mustangs, who previously beat UCF in the American Athletic Conference Championship, will take place on November 30. Sorokin comments, "We're very excited to make it this far in the competition, but we are not done yet. We will face SMU on Saturday and we feel that we have unfinished business with them this season after they celebrated on our home field. We know that the game will be challenging because both teams know each other really well, but the history between the two programs is what gives us the motivation to fight even harder." 

All images courtesy of the UCF Men's Soccer Instagram.