The Arizona soccer team fell in heartbreaking fashion in the final minutes to the University of Oregon on Sunday, March 14, at Pape Field in Eugene, Oregon.
After a strong showing against Oregon State on Friday that saw the Wildcats secure their first Pac-12 conference win of the season, they couldn’t quite carry over that momentum and make a splash in Eugene. Arizona would go on to lose 1-0 in heartbreaking fashion thanks to a goal by Oregon with five minutes remaining in the match. A game that the Wildcats will wish they had back as it could potentially impact their NCAA tournament aspirations down the road.
A disappointing loss that came right after Arizona’s rousing 3-1 victory over the Beavers in Corvallis, Oregon in their previous match. The loss to the Ducks now puts the Wildcats at 1-3 in conference play and 5-3 overall for the season.
The first period saw both teams trying to figure each other out as the pace of the game started rather slow. Both teams had several scoring chances throughout the period but couldn’t quite find the back of the net. Arizona forward Hannah Clifford came inches away from putting her team on the scoreboard when she fired a shot that missed just wide of the left hash of the goal post in the nine-minute mark.
Arizona has continued its aggressive style of play as they registered 10 fouls in the first period alone while Oregon only committed three. The most fouls the Wildcats have committed in any period this season. This aggressive approach has hurt Arizona more than its helped them since their match against UCLA back in late February.
Arizona won the ball possession battle with a slight edge of 55-45 percent in the first period but only mustered one shot-on-goal to show for it. On the other hand, Oregon was able to produce two shots-on-goal but failed as well to break the scoreless tie at the half.
The second period had a bit of a different feel to it as both teams came out with more energy to start the half. This spark of energy wouldn’t really matter as the opposing sides still couldn’t generate any kind of momentum and fluidity on offense. It was one of those games that seemed destined to end in a draw.
After playing to a 1-1 draw against Arizona State on Friday, Oregon decided in the 85-minute mark that they had no plans of following suit against Arizona on Sunday. Oregon senior, Jordan Wormdahl, broke the scoreless tie with a good goal that went right past Arizona goalkeeper’s outstretched arms to steal the victory for the Ducks. Oregon’s scoring play was the result of an Arizona defensive collapse that couldn’t have come at a worse time.
Despite the Wildcats defensive miscue in the final minutes of a gut-wrenching loss, the defensive back line registered a solid performance against a team that beat No. 3 ranked Stanford only three weeks ago. The defense was led by senior Sabrina Enciso as she has quietly enjoyed a solid season and is one of the most vital pieces for Arizona. Her teammate, goalkeeper Hope Hisey, delivered a solid performance as well recording three saves on four shots-on-goal.
Defender Ava Hetzel continues to be a bright spot and is slowly blossoming into a star for coach Amato’s squad. In Arizona’s previous match against Oregon State, the freshman’s versatility was on full display as she was very stout defensively and delivered a goal and an assist to help her cause. In this game against Oregon, while being limited to only 62 minutes, she still made her presence felt as she had one shot-on-goal and produced a solid performance.
Arizona continues to be hampered by a lack of familiarity and cohesiveness between its veterans and 14 freshmen players whenever they play the top tier teams in the Pac-12. This is understandable considering that the younger players and veterans are still learning each other's skill sets and tendencies when on the pitch together. However, Arizona head coach Tony Amato and his squad must figure things out quickly if they are ever going to beat the UCLA, USC and Stanford's of the world.
The Wildcats will look to get back on track and aim for their second victory in conference play as they host heated division rival Arizona State for the battle of I-10 on Friday, March 19.
Follow Bryan Savic on Twitter