The Arizona soccer team defeated their in-state rival Arizona State 2-0 on Friday, April 16, at Sun Devil Football Stadium in Tempe, Arizona.
After a sub-par road trip that saw Arizona only post a 0-1-1 record in games against Colorado and Utah last week, the Wildcats bounced back in a big way as they defeated the Sun Devils in a very convincing fashion to complete the season sweep over their heated rivals.
After tonight’s win, Arizona is now 6-4 in their last 10 head-to-head matchups against Arizona State. They are currently riding a six-game winning streak against the Sun Devils dating back to 2016.
Arizona head coach Tony Amato and his squad came into this game knowing that they had to come out on top of the NCAA tournament selection committee were going to be considered for a spot in the postseason. They more than delivered after turning in arguably the best performance of the season.
Once again, as it's been a common narrative all year for this team, the Wildcats were led by their star senior duo Jada Talley and Jill Aguilera. Talley proved that she was too much to handle as she was consistently beating opposing defenders with her speed and quickness downfield.
Aguilera followed suit as she constantly found herself in the attacking third and being a reliable playmaker for her teammates. Talley finished the game with a goal and an assist on three shots-on-goal while Aguilera registered a goal on one shot on goal in only 68 minutes of playing time.
Tonight’s match against Arizona State was very reminiscent of their first meeting back in mid-March. From the first whistle, Arizona came out as more of the aggressors to start the game in what became a very physical affair. The Wildcats controlled the tempo early on and really dictated their own terms.
Talley set the tone for Arizona just 10 minutes into the game when she drove an efficient shot to the bottom right corner of the goal post, but Arizona State’s goalkeeper Giulia Cascapera made a nice play on the ball for a save.
Talley would not be as she delivered a beautiful chip shot from outside the box with multiple defenders in her face to give the Wildcats the 1-0 advantage in the 16-minute mark. The Sun Devils had no answers for Arizona’s offensive ferocity and speed in the attack as they were making a living in their attacking third for the entire first period.
Arizona went into halftime with a 1-0 lead thanks to fluid ball possession and proficient offensive execution. The Wildcats were also paced by the dominant play of their defensive backline which held the Sun Devils to only two shots-on-goal and zero set pieces. Not to mention, they were able to hold Arizona State’s star Nicole Douglas in check by not permitting her to ever get in rhythm. Arizona outplayed the home team in the first period as they logged in six shots on four shots-on-goal and four corner kicks.
The second period mirrored the first as Arizona would remain the aggressors. Off a free kick, Aguilera served a great ball into the golden zone of the attacking third which was headed by Iliana Hocking. However, Hocking couldn’t quite angle her shot as it was directed right into the hands of Cascapera.
Considering that tonight’s match was a rivalry game and that Arizona had so much at stake, it’s no surprise that the foul tally eclipsed double digits. In just 59 minutes of play, both teams had already combined for 13 fouls committed.
In the 60 minute-mark, Aguilera would go on to deliver the game-sealing goal off a stellar chip shot thanks to an excellent assist courtesy of fellow senior Hannah Clifford to give Arizona a comfortable 2-0 lead. Her stats this year may be misleading and not tell the whole story, however, Clifford has been a huge playmaker and has made her presence felt in many games for the Wildcats this season. She serves as a great compliment to the dynamic play of Talley and Aguilera and as a viable third scoring option.
The Wildcats were aided by yet another superb performance by their defensive backline, which was led by Sabrina Enciso, Mariah Dunn, Ava McCray and Ava Hetzel. They all logged in 90 minutes apiece and played instrumental roles in making the Sun Devils’ offense look very pedestrian for the entire game. Arizona State was held to only four shots-on-goal and a single corner kick. In contrast, Arizona finished with eight shots-on-goal and a whopping eight corner kicks.
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Arizona goalkeeper Hope Hisey would go on to register her sixth clean sheet of the season after tonight’s shutout victory. It was mostly smooth sailing for Hisey as Arizona State rarely found themselves in the attacking third thanks to struggling against their opponents’ defensive pressures and failing to match their physicality all game. Hisey delivered a strong performance in which she finished with four saves on four shots-on-goal.
If the Wildcats were going to deliver their best performance of the season, they picked the right night to do it. Completing the season sweep and registering two clean sheets against a very formidable team in Arizona State is no small feat. Not to mention their biggest win of the season which came against the defending national champion in Stanford just two weeks ago. Arizona has built themselves a respectable resume that will make it hard for the NCAA tournament selection committee to ignore.
Will the Wildcats’ big wins against several top-tier Pac-12 teams outweigh some of their bad road losses to Oregon, USC and Utah?
Arizona will learn its fate come Monday, April 19, to see if the NCAA tournament selection committee announces them as one of the teams that receive a bid to play in the 64-team tournament.
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