The Arizona soccer team was victorious over defending national champion Stanford 2-1 on Friday, April 2, at Mulcahy Stadium in Tucson, Arizona.
After falling short in yet another gut-wrenching loss, this time to the hands of USC last Friday, Arizona more than made up for it with a rousing and momentous win over the second ranked team in Pac-12 conference standings coming into tonight. A huge win for the program as it marks their first win against the Cardinal since 2005.
Arizona head coach Tony Amato said he understands the significance of what this win means for his team.
“I’m really happy for the team,” Amato said. “It’s a tough time with the pandemic and having a season in the spring; everyone’s lives are disrupted. It feels really good to have a big win and work towards getting that victory. I see their excitement and celebration. It feels like something that we all really needed.”
Arizona forward Jada Talley kept it plain and took tonight’s matchup against one of the top tier teams in the Pac-12 and the nation rather personal.
“If you asked me coming in here that you were going to beat Stanford in your four years, I’m going to say no,” Talley said. “We haven’t beaten them since I think 2005 so that’s huge for us. You kind of know that you’re not respected coming in and that they don’t prepare for you which is disrespectful to me. You want to be on the scouting report. We really prepared, we put in the time with film; put in the time on the field.
Stanford was the aggressor right out of the gate as the team accumulated two corner kicks in just the first four minutes of regulation. Fortunately for the Wildcats, none of the Cardinal’s set pieces were converted into goals early on. Stanford came into tonight's match with an identity in which they’re all about possessing the ball and beating teams methodically. These ingredients to their success came into fruition after a terrific assist by midfielder Amy Sayer that set up forward JoJo Harber’s first goal of the season perfectly.
After having several scoring chances of their own in the first 30 minutes of the first period, Arizona broke out of their 122-minute scoreless funk since their previous game thanks to a chip shot by forward Jill Aguilera that was set up beautifully by a Talley assist on a counter attack in the 33-minute mark. Talley couldn’t have laid the pass anymore perfectly in the box as it landed right in Aguilera's shooting pocket. Aguilera’s first goal since March 12 against Oregon State would tie the game up at one apiece heading into halftime.
Stanford was certainly on a mission in the first period to put Arizona away early. However, they could only convert their 12 shots on five shots on goal and 5 corners into only one goal. The Wildcats were able to weather the storm and were very fortunate to be tied at the half as they registered only four shots on goal and three shots on goal and one corner.
It was a tale of two halves as the Wildcats would turn the tables and become the aggressor in the second period. Talley had a great opportunity to put her team out in front but ended up rifling her shot right over the crossbar in the 53-minute mark. Aguilera soon followed as she delivered a strike from 20 yards out but would be denied thanks to a diving save by Stanford goalkeeper Katie Meyer that came eight minutes later. Despite coming up short on several scoring opportunities, Arizona out shot Stanford 7-1 in the first 15 minutes of the period.
Aguilera would not be denied again as she would deliver the decisive goal in the 63-minute mark thanks to Talley’s second assist of the night. It was a terrific 20-yard strike in which Stanford’s Meyer had no chance of stopping. Aguilera’s second goal of the night would mark her second brace of the season and put her at 21 goals for her collegiate career overall.
As much as Aguilera was thrilled to register a brace, she said she could honestly care less who scores for her team.
“What I always say, I don’t care who scores.” Aguilera said. “I really don’t, I just want the team to score. Whoever taps it in, a goal is a goal even if the other team puts it in for us. If I score it, fine, if Jada scores it, fine. If Hope scores it, fine — that would be pretty cool actually. I don’t care, it’s team first.”
In the 71-minute mark, midfielder Madison Goerlinger had a great scoring opportunity to stick a dagger in Stanford’s comeback hopes, however, she couldn’t quite cash in as her shot fell right into the mitts of Meyer. Despite the miss opportunity, Aguilera’s goal in the 63-minute would end up being more than enough to secure the Wildcats' victory.
A lot of credit goes out to the stellar performance of Arizona’s goalkeeper Hope Hisey. She delivered her best game of the season as she accumulated seven saves of eight shots on the goal. If it wasn’t for Hisey’s herculean efforts all game, it would have been a long night for the Wildcats. More notably, she made an incredible save in the 8-minute mark to deny Stanford from securing an early momentum. Hisey continues to be the fabric and most vital piece to this team.
Hisey and Arizona were complimented well by their defensive back line that delivered their third straight solid performance. They were led by Sabrina Enciso, followed by the strong performances from fellow defenders Ava McCray, Ava Hetzel and Jasmine Young. All four were big contributors in quieting Stanford’s offensive attack in the second period and provided efficient defensive pressures all night.
It’s interesting to consider after Arizona beat the defending national champion in Stanford, what are the odds that the Arizona Women’s basketball team will be taking on Stanford in the national championship game of the NCAA women’s basketball tournament this upcoming Sunday.
Amato said he feels that his team’s win against Stanford tonight is a good omen for the women’s basketball team.
“It definitely is,” Amato said. “I’m going to text Adia [Barnes] and say, ‘this is how it goes.’ We set it up for you to go in and knock it down. What a run they’re on, [I’m] so happy for their players and the program. It’s awesome to see and I think they’re going to bring it home.”
Arizona is now 3-4 in the Pac-12 and 7-4 overall as they look to build on their biggest win of the year heading into the final home game of the season against California on Sunday, April 4.
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