The Arizona women’s soccer team was victorious over University of Texas at El Paso on Sunday, Feb. 7 thanks to senior forward Jill Aguilera. She scored the team’s only two goals to cap off the 2-0 victory. Aguilera now has three goals in the Wildcats’ first two games.
Arizona didn’t miss a beat as its dominant play to start the season carried over in their second match against UTEP, a great first win at home and are now sitting on a two-game winning streak.
“A lot of teams prepare that we press,” Aguilera said. “At the same time, if you’re not a team that presses, you're not going to know how to defend that. They’re still never going to get used to the way and how hard we press. We caught them off guard and that is something we want to keep doing.”
Caught them off guard indeed as UTEP had no answers for Arizona’s aggressive and frequent defensive presses and struggled to establish possession all game.
This style of defense from Arizona dictated the tempo of the game and ultimately propelled them to victory.
After getting a feel for UTEP early in the first period, the Wildcats found themselves on the offensive and broke the tie with a stellar 20-yard strike by Aguilera in the 17-minute mark. The play was generated by a UTEP giveaway that resulted from Arizona’s smothering defensive press. Forward Iyana Zimmerman proceeded to waste no time as she delivered an excellent assist to Aguilera for the score and early 1-0 lead.
Aguilera’s early game heroics didn’t end there as she would quickly follow her first score with her second goal of the game that came at the 21-minute mark. Her second score would become the ultimate decider of this contest.
Despite her early production, Arizona head coach Tony Amato made an interesting decision to sub off Aguilera at the 28-minute mark.
“She had two goals and we wanted to make sure we had the intensity and a dynamic attack through 90 minutes,” Amato said. “It was about making sure that we can carry it through and not run her into the ground early. We know where she’s at fitness-wise; wanted to give her a break and then start the second half really strong.”
The second period was more of the same as Arizona dominated time of possession and UTEP could never establish a rhythm of their own offensively. To their credit, however, their play slightly improved as they produced one shot on target and were able to penetrate Arizona territory several times. Regardless, this very small sample size on offense wasn’t enough for them to ever pose as a threat throughout the match.
Arizona goalkeeper Hope Hisey registered a clean sheet for the match despite earning one save on only one shot on goal attempt by UTEP. This was largely due to UTEP rarely crossing Arizona territory and having no answers for the Wildcats’ defensive tenacity. It was smooth sailing for Hisey all game thanks to her side’s superb effort on defense.
Despite the final score reading 2-0, UTEP didn’t play badly by any means. They stepped up their intensity level early in the second period but not enough to mount a comeback. The silver lining in their performance came from the exceptional play of goalkeeper Mariah Scott who registered six saves on eight shots on goal. She gave a great effort to keep her team within striking distance, but it still wasn’t enough to salvage the game.
This victory marks Arizona with a 2-0 record and is now riding a two-match winning streak to start the season. Their high tempo offense was firing on all cylinders which were complemented by a steady dose of defensive pressures. A winning formula that the Wildcats will look to reciprocate in their next match against New Mexico State at home on Saturday, Feb. 13.
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