UA soccer splits pair of games to open season
The Arizona soccer team practices before the start of the 2014 season. The Wildcats opened the season with a 2-0 win over Florida International University.
Kicking off its season in the state of Florida for the second time, Arizona soccer had mixed results over the weekend when it coupled a season opening win with a disappointing loss in its two-game road trip. The Wildcats (1-1-0) opened the weekend with a 2-0 victory over Florida International on Friday night before dropping Sunday afternoon’s matchup with Florida Gulf Coast 2-1.
Last season, Arizona won both its matchups in the “Sunshine State” with victories over Florida International and Florida Atlantic.
On Sunday, the Wildcats were matched up with four-time defending Atlantic Sun Conference Champions Florida Gulf Coast. Living up to the men’s basketball team nickname “Dunk City,” FGCU dunked the UA by a 2-1 win.
The Eagles scored the game’s first goal when sophomore forward and last season’s Atlantic Sun Freshman of the Year Tabby Tindell shot the ball past Wildcat senior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman in the 18th minute. Despite several quality chances, Arizona could not find the equalizer and trailed 1-0 at the half.
Things changed for the Wildcats early in the second half as freshman forward Charlotte Brascia showed impressive touch when she controlled a ball off a header from sophomore midfielder Lexe Selman and hit a nice shot into the corner of the net in the 50th minute.
The rest of the match was back and forth between the Wildcats and Eagles, but FGCU took advantage when Tindell scored for the second time, slicing through the Wildcat defense for a 30-yard run that culminated in a 72nd minute goal for the Eagles.
Arizona made one final push in the waning moments of the match, but despite what looked like a game-tying goal with no time left from sophomore Selman, the referee had apparently blown the whistle, and the Wildcats were saddled with their first, albeit controversial, loss of the season.
“I thought we struggled in the first half,” head coach Tony Amato said in a press release. “But we regrouped at halftime and played well in the second half. We did a good job of getting back in the game. I thought in the second half we were much better, but over the course of 90 minutes, we didn’t do enough to get the result.”
For the game, the Wildcats outshot the Eagles 15-14 with nine shots on goal.
The season opener on Friday night was a better result for the Wildcats, who rolled the Florida International Panthers in Miami and won by a final score of 2-0.
Despite a 20-minute lightning delay, senior forward Ali Doller got things going from the start for Arizona, giving the Wildcats the early 1-0 lead in the fifth minute when freshman midfielder Gabi Stoian calmly avoided charging FIU goalkeeper Nevena Stojakovic and passed the ball to Doller. Despite the half’s only goal, the Wildcats were outshot 6-4 in the opening 45 minutes.
The second half was more of the same from Arizona as the game’s only other goal came off the foot of a Wildcat — this time, sophomore Paige Crouch. With a little help from Doller, the Wildcats intercepted a Panther goal kick and Crouch easily put away her first career goal in an Arizona uniform in the 76th minute. This came only a few minutes after FIU midfielder Sara Stewart was sent off after assessing her second yellow card of the match.
FIU managed to fire 10 shots in total with two shots on goal, but Kaufman stopped both and collected her tenth career shutout, which is third most in Arizona soccer history.
“Any time you win, you gain confidence,” Amato said. “I think some players got a game under their belt other than the New Mexico game; this is the first game that goes on the record and they got that out of their system. Any time you get a clean sheet and a win, you build confidence.”
This was the Wildcats’ third straight victory over Florida International with last season’s 4-2 victory and a 2-0 shutout in Tucson in 2012.
Arizona returns to Tucson this Thursday to take on Northern Arizona in the Wildcats’ home opener at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Stadium.
Follow Brian Peel @WildcatSports