'Cats tie game against No. 1 UCLA
Arizona defender Sabrina Enciso (16) keeps the ball away from a UCLA player on Oct. 8.
The Wildcats finished up a challenging week of play by tying top ranked UCLA, 2-2. The Bruins came to Tucson Sunday afternoon with a total of 11 wins and one tie, enough to earn the number one spot in NCAA soccer.
“Them being the number one team in the country, I think that a tie to us almost feels like a win because we poured our hearts out. We’ve been working hard every game,” said junior goalie Lainey Burdett.
The Bruins got off to a quick and hot start in Tucson. At the 20:37 minute mark, junior Hailie Mace buried the first goal of the game putting the Bruins up 1-0. Shortly after, UCLA sophomore Anika Rodriguez put the Bruins up 2-0 scoring on a penalty kick from inside the box.
In search of a spark for the ‘Cats head coach Tony Amato made some substitutions to the lineup. A group of freshman players including Hannah Clifford and Jill Aguilera entered the game for the Wildcats and immediately lifted the team. In the 35th minute Clifford got the ‘Cats back on track with her first career goal, but UCLA was still up 2-1.
“Within thirty seconds of them coming on we scored the goal and that kind of gave us an up tick. If we kept plodding along, didn’t make those changes and they scored the third goal we would have been in some big trouble," Amato said.
Amato noted the importance of Clifford’s goal explaining that if the team had gone down 3-0 going into halftime then it would have been hard to recover.
“Just going out there whether it’s off the bench or starting, being the one to make a difference in the game really pumps up the team. Once you get that first goal the momentum keeps building and building," Aguilera said.
Going into halftime the Wildcats found themselves right at the heels of the Bruins. As the second half continued both teams had there chances to add to their score. At the 64:32 marker the ‘Cats tallied the first goal of the second half and tied the game 2-2. Freshman Jada Talley crossed the ball to freshman Amanda Porter to tie the game.
In the 73rd minute the Bruins had the chance to take back the lead with a penalty kick. UCLA’s Hailie Mace stepped up to the ball to face Burdett with a chance to put the Bruins up 3-2, but Burdett blocked the shot and saved the ‘Cats once again. Burdett totaled eight saves on the day including several “doorstep” shots from the Bruins.
“You just get really hyped out there, you have a 50/50 chance of saving it and they are supposed to make that shot. When you make that type of save you just feel awesome about it," Burdett said.
After 90 minutes the game headed to overtime. Early in the second half of overtime Burdett made another huge save keeping the game tied. With the announcer counting down from 10 to signal the end of the game UCLA took one final shot. The ball sailed in the air and was caught by Burdett. In a moment of relief Burdett hugged the ball and brought it to the ground the game ended shortly after still tied 2-2. The ‘Cats walking away with a tie against the number one team in the country.
“We’re not the Arizona team that people think we are, we’re a lot better than people think,” Aguilera said.
Within the last week and half, Arizona completed a stretch in their schedule where they saw No. 1 UCLA, No. 2 Stanford, No. 6 USC and No. 11 Cal. Arizona will continue their season against Oregon State Friday, Oct. 13 in Corvallis, Ore.
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