Arizona soccer defeats Utah, loses to Colorado over weekend

Arizona soccer (10-6-2, 4-5-1 Pac-12 Conference) split its two-game set on the road this weekend when it defeated the Utah Utes on Friday before falling Sunday to the Colorado Buffaloes. The Wildcats entered the game as the No. 23 team in the RPI rankings and, despite the loss at Colorado, should still be good in standing for NCAA Tournament consideration.

Sunday’s match versus the Buffaloes saw the Wildcats trail for almost the entire game before eventually falling 3-1.

Colorado got on the board first in only the sixth minute when senior midfielder Darcy Jerman converted on a penalty kick after a foul by Arizona in the 18-yard box. Both teams created a handful of opportunities in the rest of the half, but saves from the two goalkeepers and a ball off the crossbar from Jerman kept it 1-0 going into the locker rooms.

Just after halftime, Colorado doubled its lead when Colorado freshman forward Brittney Stark broke away from an Arizona defender and beat Arizona senior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman one-on-one in the 53rd minute. The Wildcats were able to cut the deficit in half when a Colorado defender was called for a handball in the 18-yard box, leading to a perfectly hit penalty kick from Arizona freshman Gabi Stoian in the 72nd minute.

Arizona continued to press for the equalizer, and sophomore midfielder Jaden DeGracie’s flip throw-ins gave the Buffaloes some fits defensively, but Colorado goalkeeper Kate Scheele denied the Wildcats several times. A counterattack from the Buffaloes in the 88th minute put the game away as Arizona failed to defend its goal from Oregon junior forward Madison Krauser.

Friday afternoon’s game in Salt Lake City was more successful for Arizona, with the Wildcats pulling out a close 2-1 victory.

It was a slow first half for both teams, with neither being able to convert on a few quality looks at the goal. The Wildcats outshot the Utes in the first 45 minutes 6-4 with two shots actually challenging Utah goalkeeper Lindsey Luke.

Things began to open up in the second half, starting with a cross by DeGracie from the wing that found Stoian alone at the far post, where she easily finished in the 51st minute. Utah equalized a little less than 10 minutes later when a shot from Utah senior midfielder Avery Jenkins was tipped by Kaufman but clipped the crossbar and fell in. The Wildcats responded by way of Stoian, who received a pass from teammate junior defense Hayley Estopare at the top of the penalty area, feigned to her right and found enough room to shoot the ball into the corner of the net with her left foot in the 74th minute. Utah created a few more chances to tie the game late, but Kaufman preserved Arizona’s win.

“Our team has set the bar really high in terms of energy they bring every day,” Arizona head coach Tony Amato said in a press release. “It wasn’t that the team didn’t have any energy in the first half; I just know they can find another level. Overall, we are extremely happy for our players. They found a way to get a positive result, and that is what it takes in this league.”

With her three goals over the weekend, Stoian now has 13 on the season, which ties her with Kelly Nelson in 2002 for second-most goals scored in a season by a Wildcat. Stoian’s 13 goals also tie her for most in the Pac-12 as of Sunday afternoon.

The Wildcats conclude their regular season schedule Friday when they travel up to Tempe to take on ASU.

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Follow Brian Peel on Twitter.


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