Arizona women’s soccer looks for first conference win against USC and UCLA
Arizona women's soccer gets ready to host USC and UCLA this weekend in what could be the toughest two-game stretch on the Wildcats' 2019 schedule as both teams are ranked in the top 20.
The first game of the weekend is set for Thursday, Oct. 3 against No.16 UCLA. The Bruins suffered their second loss of the season to No. 20 University of California, Berkeley last week and are now 6-2-1 with a 0-1 conference record.
The Bruins are led by senior Jessie Fleming and junior Ashley Sanchez, two of the most dominant players in the country. Fleming has scored 24 goals in her collegiate career, 11 of those as a freshman, all while playing for the Canadian national team in the 2019 Women’s World Cup and the 2015 Women’s World Cup when she was only 15 years old. Sanchez is coming off a 2018 campaign that included scoring 10 goals and 15 assists. She enters Thursday’s game with three goals and four assists in 2019.
Sunday’s matchup against USC will be even tougher as the Trojans are ranked No. 5 in the country. The 2016 national champions are 7-1-1 this season with their only loss coming from No. 2 Stanford. USC has strolled through their non-conference schedule, taking down Florida and the 2018 national champions Florida State while outscoring their opponents 23-10.
The Trojans have a dynamic duo of their own in Penelope Hocking and Tara McKeown. The two have combined for 16 of the team’s 23 goals and each rank in the top 25 in total points, McKeown with 22 and Hocking with 20. They can also spread the ball around as McKeown has six assists to her name while Hocking has four.
Arizona is coming off a heartbreaking double-overtime loss to No. 17 Colorado last Friday and are searching for their first conference win. The Wildcats hold an overall record of 6-2 with a conference record of 0-1.
What to watch for this weekend:
Can the defense get back to their old ways?
Brooke Wilson and Jada Talley continue to be the cornerstone of the offense, but the defense will need to get back to their dominant selves if Arizona has any chance of winning these games. They started the season allowing zero goals and just 13 total shots in the first four games but have since allowed nine goals and 41 total shots in the last four. The 'Cats have surrendered too many free kicks and penalty shots that have allowed their opponents to hang around in games, an example of that being against Colorado, where the Buffaloes' only goals came from a free kick and a game-ending penalty shot.
The platooning of the Arizona goalkeepers
The Arizona coaching staff will once again be dealt with the difficult task of choosing which goalkeeper to play in net this weekend. Both Kendyll Humphreys and Hope Hisey have had solid seasons and have been splitting playing time all year. Hisey made six saves in her first Pac-12 game against Colorado, including a couple of athletic diving stops to keep the Wildcats in the game. Humphreys has also been lights out, as she’s allowed just one goal in her four games this season.
The action begins at Mulcahy Stadium in Tucson, Thursday at 7 p.m. against UCLA. The weekend action continues on Sunday at 12 p.m. against USC. Both games will also be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
Follow Jacob Mennuti on Twitter.