Nov. 13, 2009

Courtesy UCF Athletics

MADISON, Wis. - Senior Courtney Whidden tallied two goals and earned an assist to lift the No. 3 seed UCF women's soccer team past UW-Milwaukee, 3-0, in the NCAA Tournament First Round in Madison, Wis. The Knights (17-4-1) will now make an appearance in the Second Round for the third-straight season and the fourth time since 2004 when they play either Arizona State or host Wisconsin Sunday afternoon.

"Getting used to the field in the first half was hard," said head coach Amanda Cromwell. "But the first-half goal was a typical Courtney Whidden goal, she just cleaned up the mess. But I thought we had to make adjustments on defense, and adjusted our formation a little bit to try to get more possession in the second half. And even against a strong win in the second half we had some good possessions.

"The second goal was just a big-time goal with Courtney finishing it from Becca Thomas and Yvonne George. And Alex Brandt showed great composure by a rookie on the third goal. But Whidden is just a goal scorer. That's what she's been doing in her whole career."

Whidden set a career-high with her five-point affair against the Panthers (12-6-3). Already ranked in the top six on UCF's career goals chart with 33, she moved into a tie for eighth all-time with 77 points.

While Whidden was busy lighting up the scoreboard, sophomore keeper Aline Reis was dominant once again. The Brazilian amassed seven saves to post UCF's first shutout victory in the NCAA Tournament since 1999 (1-0 over Furman). She was faced off against UWM's Sarah Hagen, the nation's leading goal scorer, and Hagen placed four shots on goal, all saved by Reis. It was Reis' seventh shutout in 2009 and her 13th in two campaigns in a Black and Gold jersey.

Although Milwaukee took the first three shots of the match, UCF's first attempt hit the mesh as the Knights grabbed an early 1-0 lead. Taking a corner kick in the 18th minute, Becca Thomas sent it to the far post and a Panther defender tried to clear it. However it went straight to Whidden who capitalized from short range.

After UCF was outshot 6-1, scoring chances were slim for the first 15 minutes of the second half until Thomas sent a shot off the cross bar from 22 yards out with 29 minutes remaining. That seemed to spark the offense, though, and Thomas came right back to find Yvonne George on the left flank. The senior delivered a perfect ball to Whidden who was waiting right in front. The forward settled it down and easily found the back of the net in the 64th minute.

The Panthers were still putting pressure on the UCF backs after the goal, and Reis kept it 2-0 by stopping Sarah Hagen from point-blank range with a huge save in the 65th minute. Meanwhile, senior Emily Maynard negated a UWM opportunity as well by heading a ball off the goal line to clear it on a Panther corner kick.

With Reis making clutch stops and the defense stepping up, the Knights' offense returned in the 77th minute to stretch the lead to 3-0. Gaining possession in the middle of the pitch, Whidden passed it over to Alex Brandt on the left side. The freshman dribbled around a defender, was all alone with the keeper in the box and ripped her second goal of the year past a diving Jamie Forbes.

UCF will now be attempting to get past the Second Round for the first time since 1987 when it meets the Sun Devils or the Badgers Sunday at 2 p.m. ET.