Arizona Wildcats soccer loses 2-1 to No. 4 UCLA
Arizona’s historic start to its season had a glitch following a 2-1 loss yesterday afternoon to No. 4 UCLA.
The Wildcats (5-2-3, 0-1-0 Pac-12) have lost two out of their last three games after achieving the program’s best-ever start, falling to No. 24 Texas Tech on Sept. 15 and now No. 4 UCLA (9-1-0, 1-0-0).
Yesterday was Arizona’s conference opener, and it was treated with a test. The Bruins, who were picked by many to win the conference, brought a stout defense to Tucson, limiting the Wildcats early in the game.
“We came out a little slow,” senior forward Jazmin Ponce said. “We let them score early, but our mood definitely changed after that.”
Keenan Turner/The Daily Wildcat UA Forward, Justene Kesterson, escapes a UCLA defender on Sundays game against the Bruins. The Wildcats lost 2-1.
The Wildcats allowed the first goal of the match just five minutes in. UCLA sophomore Taylor Smith found the back of the net on the Bruins’ first shot attempt.
The early one-goal lead was huge for UCLA that, entering Sunday, had only given up three goals all year and had yet to give up more than one in a single game. The Bruins controlled the momentum and tempo for most of the first half.
Ball control allowed them to put pressure on Arizona and give multiple shots on goal. The Bruins padded their lead with another goal 25 minutes later.
Trailing by two, Arizona flipped the script on the Bruins by playing more physically.
The gritty determination paid off when Arizona forward Hannah Wong scored in the box on an assist from Ponce to bring the Wildcats within one goal late in the half.
“We had more bite, attacking more as a team,” Ponce said. “We caught them off guard.”
The Wildcats took the new attack mentality into the second half, where the game was more balanced.
Arizona controlled the ball better but just couldn’t get that one last goal to tie the game.
“[UCLA] was scared. They didn’t know what to do,” Ponce said. “We just needed one good shot.”
As the game progressed, the reality of losing became evident, forcing the Wildcats to turn up the pressure even more. With just a few minutes remaining, Arizona got the chance when an open Alexandra Doller passed it up field to a wide-open Ponce. However, the referee called a close offside infraction.
But the loss comes with a grain a salt.
“If we can give [UCLA] a battle, we can give anyone a battle,” Ponce said. “If we can play like we did at the end of the game for the entire game, we can beat any team.”
— Follow Luke Della @LukeDella