Arizona soccer wrapped up their season on Friday, Nov. 17 suffering a 2-0 loss to Florida State in the second round of the NCAA Tournament. The Wildcats ended their rollercoaster season with a record of 11-5-4, and several individual accomplishments.
The ‘Cats started their season with a 2-0 win over then ranked No. 18 Oklahoma, on the road in Norman. Many of the Wildcats likened the season opening win to the win at the start of their campaign two years prior over Santa Clara. Arizona made this comparison because the team that was to beat Santa Clara was selected to host the first home tournament game in program history, and made it to the round 16. Those players were onto something with an equally impressive victory over the Sooners.
Arizona sophomore centerback Samantha Falasco was named Pac- 12 defender of the week after the victory, the first of two player of the week awards for the Wildcats.
The ‘Cats, riding the momentum of the win over OU, then went winless over their next four games. They drew UC Irvine at home, and then traveled to Tempe for the Sun Devil Desert Classic
UA played both Central Florida and Boston University in Tempe. They lost their first match against Central Florida, and scored late to earn a draw against Boston in the second match. The defeat at the hands of Central Florida, a team that made this year’s tournament, was upsetting because they led the game going into the final minutes.
The ‘Cats returned home for their next two matches to play Florida Gulf Coast, another tournament team, and Texas Tech.
Arizona played their best soccer of the season in the matchup against FGCU, but dropped the game 1-0. Senior forward Charlotte Brascia stated after the game that she thought UA deserved the win because they simply outplayed the Eagles. The Wildcats bounced back after the defeat by beating Texas Tech, 1-0. The game against the Red Raiders served as the turning point of the season and the Wildcats were then 2-2-2 on the season.
The ‘Cats hit the road to play Brigham Young University where Arizona’s Amanda Porter was able to score in overtime to bring home the victory, 2-1.
Pac-12 Conference play
To open Pac-12 play, the Wildcats hosted Oregon with a record of 3-2-2. The ‘Cats beat the Ducks in front of a nearly record-breaking crowd at Mulcahy Stadium and had goals from Kelsey Cavarra, Falasco and Maddie Bennett for a 3-1 win
Arizona then traveled to the Bay Area to play two top 15 teams, Stanford and Cal. Arizona fell to Stanford, 1-0,who, at the time, was the No. 2 team in the nation. Arizona’s Lainey Burdett made 11 saves on the night, and the Cardinal’s single goal came off a rebound. The ‘Cats went on to upset the No. 11 Cal Bears in Berkley, 1-0,with Jada Talley netting the game winner.
Burdett was named Pac-12 goalkeeper of the week after the series split.
The following week UA hosted the Los Angeles schools, USC and UCLA. Arizona lost to USC 1-0 after Brandi Park conceded a penalty in the 109th minute. UA bounced back, however, three days later against UCLA. The ‘Cats played the top ranked team in the nation to a 2-2 draw, despite conceding two penalties and being down 2-0. Arizona was able to earn goals from Hannah Clifford and Amanda Porter, two freshmen, to equalize and earn the draw.
Arizona takes off running
The Wildcats didn’t lose a game the remainder of the Pac-12 season going on to beat Oregon State (2-0) and Utah (3-2, before playing Colorado to a draw on the road.
Back at home, Arizona came back from 1-0 down against Washington to win 2-1 followed by defeating Washington State, 1-0. The ‘Cats closed out Pac-12 play at home with a 2-1 victory against in-state rivals ASU Sun Devils to end the season with a 10-4-4 record
‘Cats earn awards
A rizona had three players given All- Pac 12 honors. Sophomore right back Morgan McGarry and Burdett were named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team. Only four players not on Stanford, Cal, UCLA, or USC were named to the first or second team, and Arizona had half those players. Additionally, senior midfielder/forward Gabi Stoian was named to the Third Team.
Arizona hosted the TCU Horned Frogs in the first round of the tournament at Mulcahy Stadium and were quickly down 1-0 after UA conceded a goal on a ball that took several deflections off a free kick thirty minutes in. That score line held for 45 minutes, until Falasco found that ball at her feet after several players got their head on Stoian’s corner service.
Falasco was able to redirect the ball into the back of the net for the equalizer. Cali Crisler scored an absolute howler to take the lead. Crisler received a pass from left back Sabrina Enscico and got the ball on her left foot before unleashing from 25-yards out, with a curling, low shot that beat the keeper far post. Arizona won the match, 2-1, advancing to the second round.
The Wildcats traveled to Palo Alto, Cali. for their second round match up against Florida State. Arizona and FSU were scoreless as time wound down in the first half until Venezuelan national and FIFA Player of the Year nominee, Deyna Castellanos, poked a ball in that was bouncing around the box.
Arizona’s performance was stronger in the second half, but continued to play with five defenders. Their conservative style allowed FSU’s midfield to toy with the undermanned Wildcats, who couldn’t sustain any really threatening attack. Castellanos added a brace in the 79th minute, scoring off a free kick. Castellanos’ second put a dagger into the hopes of the Wildcats, whose season ended with the final buzzer.
The ‘Cats had a successful season by many measures, including setting a program record with seven Pac- 12 wins. They had three Wildcats named to All- Pac 12 teams. The ‘Cats also had great production from underclassmen, setting themselves up for success in the future. Head Coach Tony Amato’s team should hold their heads up high after this season.
Arizona is losing five very valuable seniors. Center back Brandi Park transferred to Arizona as a junior, and made an immediate impact. She formed a great partnership with Falasco, and their work anchoring the defense was paramount to Arizona’s success.
Left midfielder Crisler was crucial to Arizona’s success at the beginning of the season, assisting on most of the goals scored. She also anchored the midfield against the California schools, and was important in securing those two results and keeping the other two games in reach.
Goalkeeper Jackie Bollinger was a backup goalkeeper for the ‘Cats for all four years of her career, and was a strong leader as an upperclassman.
Finally, midfielder and forward Stoian will go down as one of the best players in program history. She finishes her career second in the program record books in goals in a season, career goals, assists in a season, career assists, career points, points in a season and is one a handful of athletes in program history to record a hat trick.
The Wildcats have a bright future. There were times over the course of the last few conference games where there was only one senior on the field, and UA was dominating. Arizona expects to have a strong recruiting class coming in, and will continue to build upon the standard set as of late; UA has been to the tournament three out of the past four years. That trend looks like it should continue.
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