Central Florida Reigns Supreme, Rolls Past Pitt in QCTU Final

UCF was simply overpowering.

Central Florida's Shayna Brock. Photo: Christina Schmidt -- UltiPhotos.com
Central Florida’s Shayna Brock. Photo: Christina Schmidt — UltiPhotos.com

The Central Florida Sirens closed their weekend the same way they started it: dominantly. They entered as the top ranked team and the number one seed at the tournament and left with no doubt as to the accuracy of those accolades. Through their seven games, UCF went almost entirely unchallenged, decimating their competition. The weekend’s final statement was a 13-6 blowout of an impressive Pittsburgh team.

“It felt like we performed well. There were a few instances where I felt like we made bad decisions,” said Central Florida coach Joe Tilley after the final. “I felt like we cut down on that a lot in the second half.”

It took a few points for UCF to assert themselves versus Pittsburgh in the final. Danger’s Linda Morse and Carolyn Normile each factored into the team’s first three goals, including connecting for Pitt’s opening hold, but the Sirens still snagged the first break, capitalizing on a short field drop. The game was opened up by UCF’s second break, led by Shayna Brock and Alexa Wood’s speedy upline cuts, which pushed the lead to 6-3.

Throughout the game, even when Pittsburgh wouldn’t fold, UCF remained relentless. They’d break, Pitt would hold, UCF would hold, and then there’d be another Sirens break. They rarely got away from their zone defense, forcing Pittsburgh into long possessions that exposed them to influences of the wind. The defensive prowess of UCF also pushed Normile, Danger’s biggest thrower, to play a lot of consecutive points. While the eight woman rotation of Central Florida was plenty used to consecutive points, Pittsburgh’s top end didn’t seem as prepared to march out point after point. That may have contributed to the four-point run that the game was closed with to make the final 13-6.

“Every time, every point, everybody on the field knew what their role was and what they were supposed to do in any given situation,” said Pittsburgh coach Ben Banyas of UCF. “They executed.”

The advanced chemistry and understanding Central Florida has of their gameplan comes from a small rotation that has played together for two seasons. While they practice with their B-team, the A-team often plays together leading up to tournaments, sometimes against men’s players. What the strategy lacks in flexibility, it makes up for in clarity and effectiveness.

Is that enough to run with the west coast powers, like they did two years ago?

“It’ll be hard to tell without really seeing them, but that was the goal that we wanted to accomplish – to prepare for the trip out west,” said Tilley. “You never know until you actually face [the top west coast teams].”

There are many similarities between this team and the UCF team that nearly made the National Championship game in 2014. This group advances to 13-0 after two tournaments, with a trip to face the west coast powers at Stanford Invite on tap; the 2014 squad was 13-1 at this point. The 2016 iteration has, in fact, been even more dominant, winning by an average margin of almost 10 goals per game, even though the majority of their opponents have been ranked teams. They’ve earned a chance to fight their way into the title conversation or a number one ranking at Stanford in March.

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