Arizona soccer advances to the second round of NCAA tournament with Friday's win
Arizona women's soccer player Jill Aguilera (14) kicks a power ball to a teammate from across the field in the Arizona-Washington game at Murphy Stadium on Thursday, October 18, 2018, in Tucson, AZ. The Wildcats won the game 1-0 in double overtime.
The Arizona soccer team once again will be advancing to the second round of the 2018 NCAA Tournament after defeating Denver 3-0 on Friday night.
In front of 1,015 fans at Mulcahy Stadium, what may have turned out to be the play of the game happened with two minutes left in the first half.
Denver forward Samantha Feller broke loose from the Arizona back line as she dribbled her way toward the box with Arizona goalkeeper Lainey Burdett standing in the way between her and the back of the net. As Feller inched closer to potentially putting the Pioneers up 1-0, Arizona freshman Hallie Pearson’s hustle saved the night as she was able to catch up to Feller and put her foot on the ball, deflecting Feller’s kick and keeping the match scoreless.
“I had a feeling she kind of didn’t seem as confident as she was heading towards the goal so I was just going to give it my all and hope that I get something on it to keep it out,” Pearson said.
Denver head coach Jeff Hooker praised Pearson for her effort and ability to keep his team off the scoreboard.
“Just a great job of resilience on the defender to get a toe in because obviously [Feller] had the keeper beat and the keeper did a great job of not taking her down and relying on the defender,” Hooker said.
Arizona head coach Tony Amato also had some kind words for his young freshman.
“It was a dicey moment and she did a good job of recovering and blocking it,” Amato said.
Coming out of the half, Amato made some minor adjustments that ended up paying off as the Wildcats were finally able to score, finding the net on three separate occasions.
“We changed formations so I think that was kind of a big thing,” senior Kennedy Kieneker said. “We got a lot more numbers forward.”
The ‘Cats scored the first goal of the night in the 53rd minute as Kieneker found the back of the net off a cross from teammate Jill Aguilera. Five minutes later, Amanda Porter added to the lead as she sent a rocket over Denver goalkeeper Brittany Wilson on a free kick from the top of the box.
Arizona’s aggressive attack in the second half was too much for the Pioneers. In the 73rd minute the Wildcats were pressing once again looking to deliver the knockout punch and they did just that, as they were able to draw a penalty in the opposing box earning themselves a penalty kick. Arizona’s Kelcey Cavarra did the rest as her PK goal gave the ‘Cats a commanding 3-0 lead.
The Wildcats outshot the Pioneers 17-5 with 13 of those shots coming in the second half. Credit Amato and his staff for making adjustments at the half in what looked to be a game where a single goal from either team could have been the difference in either moving on in the tournament or the season coming to an end.
Last season, the Wildcats were eliminated in the second round, and this year Amato sees no difference in preparation and overall game plan as he and his team know what has to happen in order to move on.
“Every game is different, every year is different,” Amato said. “We’re going to have to play well.”
The Wildcats have less than a week to regroup and prepare as they will hit the road and visit No. 2 Tennessee in Knoxville on Thursday, Nov. 15.
“Tennessee is good. We are going to have to go to their place and find a way to get a result,” Amato said.
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