Another struggle in their cold streak left the Hurricanes high and dry Friday night as they fell to the University of Central Florida 5-3 at Cobb Stadium.
The unranked Knights (14-4-0) threw UM (9-7-1) for a loop as the NCAA tournament draws closer.
After UM honored their graduating seniors at the last home game of the regular season, UCF got right to it with senior Nicole Cieslak easing in a goal three minutes into the game.
Sophomore Britney Butcher, who leads Miami with 16 goals on the season, quickly retorted in an aggressive 10 second drive that put the ‘Canes on the scoreboard.
UM took control of the ball, making smooth transitions up the field, and sophomore Anik Huffman was able to find Butcher to give the Hurricanes their only lead of the night.
They hunkered down and kept it on the offensive for a short while, but the Knights eventually answered back, breaking through the ‘Canes weakening fort. Jennifer Montgomery slipped it to Allison Blagriff, setting up the goal. Blagriff was successful a second time late in the first half in a fast break with not a Hurricane in sight, posting a 3-2 lead that shifted the momentum as both teams headed into the locker room.
“When we do well, we jump ahead of ourselves and kind of get off track,” said Butcher. “In those few moments when we’re not all on the same page they really attack us ’cause we get confused, we’re so excited from the play before.”
The second half was even more dismal for the home team as Knight forward Nicole Cieslak delivered again, widening the lead on the Hurricanes. UM played aggressively but UCF’s powerful defense shut them down on each attempt.
Miami senior Allison McWhinney was able to set junior Mary Luke up with a successful shot opportunity after being fouled, in an effort to close the gap on the Knight lead. UCF defender Joanna Black would have none of it, helping the Knights to keep the ball in Hurricane territory. Allison Blagriff took advantage, scoring the final goal of the game.
“UCF was organized; they came out prepared, they were disciplined, and they did a nice job of finishing,” said Hurricane head coach Tricia Taliaferro.
Senior Rachel Elsby had four saves in the first half before being replaced by freshman Jessica Keller, who had one save during the second.
“When we got into the attack we did a nice job of movement off the ball, creating chances for ourselves and attacking wide,” said Taliaferro. “[But] we just have to do a better job of our communication and our team defending, which we’ve been working on in practice last week and will continue to do so next week.”
UM hosts the first round of the Big East tournament against Rutgers on November 2.
“I want more than anything to win it,” said Butcher, “but I also want the respect for this school and the women’s program that we don’t get. The girls really work their butts off-we deserve more.”
Coach Taliaferro, happy with the effort on attack, hopes to be ready defensively as well for the tournament.
“I want to continue to get the shot opportunities and the goals we’re getting right now. It’s just getting the discipline in our defending and being consistent [that we need].”
The ‘Canes play their last regular season game against Florida Atlantic in Boca Raton on Monday.
You can reach Melissa Teich at firstname.lastname@example.org.