Women’s soccer set to face No. 15 UCF on Friday
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JU women’s soccer coach Brian Copham has talked consistently about scheduling difficult non-conference opponents to gear up for Atlantic Sun Conference play. The Dolphins will now face the toughest task of the season thus far when they travel to Orlando to take on No. 15 UCF on Friday at 7 p.m.

JU’s final non-conference tuneup marks the first meeting against a nationally ranked opponent since the Dolphins played No. 7 Florida last season. The Dolphins will make the trip down I-95 with momentum after winning three of the last four in a 4-3-1 start. UCF, ranked in the top-20 by Soccer America, is 4-1-1 and is one of only two Conference USA teams ranked along with No. 12 Memphis.

The Dolphins trail the all-time series, 9-2, with the previous victory coming in 2002 when UCF was an A-Sun member. After facing the Knights, the Dolphins close the regular season with nine straight league games.

“They are one of the more talented teams we’ll face on our non-conference schedule,” Copham said. “They do a great job of recruiting and they’re well coached. We expect them to be very good and we’re looking forward to a great game on Friday.”

The Dolphins split a two-game road trip last weekend, blanking Florida Atlantic, 2-0, and holding a lead into the 87th minute at USF before falling in overtime to the Bulls. JU has been strong defensively all season, limiting opponents to less than two goals in four of the last five games.

“We’ve been doing a good job of possessing the ball and creating good opportunities,” Copham said.

Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Sierra continues her hot start, recording 13 saves in the last two games. She picked up her third shutout of the season—and third in a five-game stretch—by keeping the Owls off the scoreboard. The second-year netminder has played every second in net for the Dolphins and carries a 0.85 goals-against average into the UCF contest.

Sierra’s counterpart on Friday has two shutouts on the young season. Aline Reis is 4-1-1 with a 1.10 goals-against-average. In UCF’s lone loss, Reis still held No. 17 Wake Forest to a single goal in a 1-0 Demon Deacons victory.

Defensively, junior Arianne Heaton and sophomore Alexandra Lee will be entrusted to help limit a UCF offense that is averaging 2.33 goals per game, more than doubling the total of average goals surrendered. The Knights are led by junior Tishia Jewell, who is tied for second in Division I for assists per game after compiling six through the first six games. Her 12 points (three goals scored) ties her for 24th-most in the country.

“We’ve had many players step up this season,” Copham said. “Our entire backline has stepped up and really anchored the defense and has done a great job in limiting the number of shots and scoring chances.”

The Dolphins will look to match UCF’s firepower. Sophomore Raquel Weckhurst registered her first career goal to give JU a temporary second-half lead against the Bulls.

Senior Liz Fink is the first JU player to score two goals this season. The midfielder’s four points is second only to freshman Adriana Rodrigues’ (one goal; two assists) team-leading five points.

- By Brian Bohl