With a record-setting crowd on hand for Senior Night, it seemed like a perfect storm for No. 23 Arizona soccer to win its regular season finale against rival ASU.
Unfortunately for the Wildcats’ seniors, it will be a night to forget as the Sun Devils were able to handily defeat Arizona, 4-1.
“You want to win every game, and on Senior night you want to have a good performance,” Arizona head coach Tony Amato said. “We had a great crowd and we were against our rivals, but we didn’t get it done tonight.”
It couldn’t have been a worse start for the Wildcats. Less than a minute into the game, a mental lapse by Arizona’s defense would result in ASU’s star player, Cali Farquharson, getting behind the Wildcats’ defense. Farquharson would finish rather easily to put the Sun Devils up 1-0.
“We ask our players not to play square passes because it can cut out a whole line at a time,” Amato said about the play. “We played a square ball, they won ball, they cut out a line, and their best player, who has been a prolific goal scorer, got behind us. We have some general guideline we have in place that we didn’t follow in that moment, and she punished us for it.”
The Wildcats, who were down a goal before they could blink, responded and started to take control of the ball and the pace of the game.
In the eighth minute, Kennedy Kieneker nearly had an equalizer when she put a header on net, but ASU’s goalkeeper, Chandler Morris, was there to make the save.
In the 25th minute, a cross by Hannah Wong was perfectly timed to Paige Crouch who was sprinting up field. Crouch’s volley was on goal, but went right to Morris.
A few minutes later, an Arizona free kick bounced to Haley Silverberg in front of the net, but Silverberg’s point blank shot would also be right to the keeper. The Wildcats had created plenty of opportunities, but they just couldn’t convert.
The Sun Devils certainly didn’t have that issue, though. Shortly after Silverberg’s shot was saved, a cross from Aly Moon was headed in by McKenzie Berryhill to give ASU a 2-0 lead heading into halftime.
“I thought we did a good job of getting back into the game,” Amato said. “And we had a clear-cut chance that we didn’t finish and that led to them countering us and getting three corners in a row, that we couldn’t clear. One of their better players scored on a header, and from that point it was going to be very difficult [to comeback].
The second half would have nearly an identical start to the first half as Cali Farquharson would score in just 61 seconds to put ASU up 3-0.
Four minutes later, Farquharson would score her third goal of the game to make it a 4-0 game.
The Wildcats would finally get on the board in the 58th minute on a goal from Hayley Estopare. It was Estopare’s fifth goal of the season.
Normally a senior scoring a goal on Senior Night would be a nice moment, but with the game already out of hand, Estopare admitted that it didn’t mean a whole lot.
“It kind of takes it away when you lose, so it doesn’t mean as much,” Estopare said after the game.
Jaden DeGracie was credited with an assist in the loss, tying the most career assists in UA program history.
One thing to note is that the Wildcats were without two of their better players in Gabi Stoian and Charlotte Brascia due to injury. They both have missed the last three games.
Amato mentioned that while both are obviously important to team, it’s no excuse for the poor performance.
“We got to have other [players] elevate, and we didn’t do it tonight,” he said.
Despite the rough loss, the Wildcats are still in a good spot. If all goes right, they’ll be hosting an NCAA Tournament game next weekend for the first time in program history.
“It sucked tonight, but you got to look at the body of work and to keep things in perspective,” Amato said. “We’ve won 12 games this year, we’re in the NCAA Tournament for the second straight year and it wasn’t too long ago that this program didn’t have much of a heartbeat. We’re in good shape overall and we’ll be able to bounce back moving forward.”
The NCAA Tournament selection show will air on Monday, November 9 at 2:30 p.m.