No. 17 Arizona soccer defeats No. 23 Cal after game winning goal by Stevens

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Zi Yang Lai | The Daily Wildcat

Midfielder Gabi Stoian (9) takes the ball downfield toward the opposition's goal. Stoian made 13 goals last season, and her score is tied for the second-best total in UA history.

No. 17 Arizona women’s soccer defeated No. 23 California 1-0 on Friday night to improve to 8-1-1 on the season and 2-0 in the Pac-12 Conference.

As the Wildcats continue to climb the polls, they’re finding out that teams are scouting them more closely than ever and adjusting their game plans accordingly. Cal did just that on Friday night as the team came out in a 4-4-2 formation as opposed to its normal 4-3-3.

“It’s not very often that teams are changing things based on what we do, so it’s a compliment,” said Arizona head coach Tony Amato.

The unforeseen change had Arizona a little out of sorts in the first half. The Golden Bears were able to possess the ball for much of the first half, which allowed them numerous scoring chances.

“It was pretty frustrating,” said Arizona midfielder Hannah Stevens. “We practiced a certain lineup to matchup how they were going to play, and it changed, so we were just trying to figure out the best formation for us.”

In the 14th minute, Pac-12 goal leader Arielle Ship had an opportunity just a few feet away from the net, but an Arizona defender was able to get in the way and deflect the shot out of bounds.

A few minutes later, a shot by Cal’s Kelly Fitzgerald was headed toward the bottom-left corner of the net, but Arizona keeper Rachel Estopare made a diving save to keep the game scoreless.

In the 27th minute, Estopare made another acrobatic diving save on a shot that was taken from near the top of the box. Then in the 33rd minute, Estopare made a leaping save on a shot from the right side of the box. It was going toward the top of the net, but she was able to get a hand on it and pop it over the crossbar and out of bounds.

Estopare finished the night with a career-high eight saves.

Arizona, for the most part, struggled to find good scoring chances in the first half. In the 44th minute, a shot from Kaitlyn Lopez nearly found its way into the net, but Cal keeper Emily Boyd made a diving save of her own.

Cal may have controlled the first half, but Arizona was able to keep the game scoreless.

Arizona made some adjustments to Cal’s unexpected formation change at halftime and began dominating the ball in the second half.

“It took us a little bit to find out exactly what their setup was, because they changed their formation against us,” Amato added. “We game-planned for something else, and it took us a little bit to figure that out. Once we figured that out, I liked the way it looked. It was just a matter of regrouping at halftime, and getting out in the second half and finding a way to get a goal.”

Arizona found its goal in the 71st minute. A flip throw by Jaden DeGracie was lofted toward the top of the box, and Hayley Estopare was able to knock it toward the net. Stevens, who was right in front of the keeper, then headed it in for the game’s only goal.

“It was Jaden [DeGracie] on a flip throw, and every time we just try for someone to hit it, get the rebound, and Hayley got the first ball, and I was right there in front of the keeper, and I flicked it back and it went in,” Stevens said about her third goal of the season.

Cal nearly tied things up in the 80th minute when a powerful shot from the top-right corner of the box clanked off the crossbar. In the 84th minute, a Cal header got through the Arizona defense to the far post, but luckily for the Wildcats, no one was there to tap it in.

Cal made its last run in the 89th minute and was able to create an open look near the goal, but Estopare, once again, was in perfect position to make the save. The Wildcats were able to hold on and pick up their second conference win in as many games.

“The Pac-12 is hard, and we’re navigating a tough part of the schedule,” Amato said. “Cal every year is a really good team, and to get two wins — because wins are hard to get in this league — and to get two right off the bat goes a long way.”

Speaking of a tough schedule, the Wildcats’ next match will come against No. 5 Stanford on Sunday at 11 a.m. What would a win over the top-five team mean for Arizona?

“It would be massive,” Amato said. “‘One game at a time’ is the old cliche, but in my mind I’ve already been looking at Stanford. I’m prepared to give a game plan to the team tomorrow, and our team works really hard, and they’ll do their best on Sunday, and I like our chances.”


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