Amanda Cromwell left the University of Central Florida last April after 14 seasons to become the head coach of the UCLA Bruins. In her first season in Loa Angeles, her Bruins won the national championship.
For 11 of those 14 seasons, UCF advanced to NCAA postseason play. Cromwell didn’t leave a cupboard bare of talent when she departed.
Tiffany Roberts Sahaydak moved South from VCU in Richmond, Va., to take over Knights’ head coaching job. Her first season would finish 16-3-4 overall, and with another trip to NCAAs.
The Knights won the first American Athletic Conference tournament championship in dramatic fashion, outlasting Rutgers in a penalty kick shootout (8-7) that was extended to nine rounds. That was after the two played scoreless for 110 minutes of regulation and overtime.
That came on the heels of another 110 minutes of scoreless soccer in the semifinals with South Florida, again won by the Knights in a shootout.
Sophomore Connie Organ (Atlanta, Ga.), normally the backup goalkeeper, came in for the PKs and made crucial saves to keep the Knights in the shootout. Sophie Howard’s (Germany) kick proved to be the championship game-winner.
That extended the Knights unbeaten streak to 18 games, a streak that would end in the first round of postseason play with a 3-1 loss to St. John’s.
“I’m proud that the team stuck together and perservered,” said Roberts Sahaydak, after the conference title victory.
“The two times Connie needed to come up big, she did. Connie is going to get all the attention for that, which she deserves, but Lianne (Maldonado) got us to that point. I have to say both of our goalkeepers, although they had two different roles, they both were outstanding.”
Maldonado, a Clifton, NJ senior, had two saves through regulation and overtime. Organ was named NSCAA Player of the Week for her performance in the shootout.
When postseason honors were handed out, Roberts Sahaydak was named The American
Conference Coach of the Year. Senior Marissa Diggs (Rowlett, TX) earned her second All-American honor, as well as her second conference Defensive Player of the Year award.
Freshman Lena Petemann (Germany) was named the league’s Rookie of the Year.
The Knights set a new school record with the 18-match unbeaten streak and posted their first undefeated conference season since 1999.
A lot to be proud of, but the Knight’s new head coach made it clear that the season did not end as everyone hoped it would.
“Obviously, we’re happy with what we accomplished this year, but our ultimate goal was to be in Cary (College Cup),” said Roberts Sahaydak after the loss to St. John’s. “So we’re gutted that our season ended tonight.”
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