After a loss on the opening week of the season, first-year head coach Becca Moros was able to lead the Arizona soccer team to a 2-1 win over Northern Arizona on Friday at Mulcahy Stadium.
Arizona came out of the gates aggressive and looking to score their first goal of the season. NAU forward Sam Larberg started things off with the game’s first shot on goal at 2:16. Arizona goalkeeper Hope Hisey turned the ball away from the goal. Not to be left out, Arizona forward Jill Aguilera tried for a shot on goal at 3:45 which went out right of the goal.
After a foul committed by Kylie Kapustka on NAU, Aguilera was given a free kick and went for the top of the net but had the shot deflected by NAU’s goalkeeper. This shot also went out right of the goal but led to an Arizona corner kick.
Aguilera continued to make an impact by with an assist from the corner as sophomore forward Kayden Heinrich was able to direct the ball into the net at 8:48. This was not only Arizona’s first goal of the season, but Heinrich’s first goal for Arizona.
Arizona and NAU continued a physical battle after the goal, with Arizona enjoying lengthy trips into NAU territory. Arizona was able to get off three shots following an attack from forward Megan Chelf at 26:25 which led to unsuccessful shots from Aguilera and Jordan Hall.
Both teams had opportunities to get the ball into the net, with Arizona being the typical aggressors. Around the 30-minute mark, it looked as though NAU was gaining some confidence and playing tighter defense on Arizona. At 31:55, Arizona goalkeeper Hisey had a massive jumping block to save a tying goal from NAU forward Madison Montgomery. Arizona then led a counterattack which led to another corner kick for Arizona.
Looking to capitalize, at 36:25 Arizona forward Olivia Briede took the corner kick and sent it right into the penalty box where Arizona midfielder Tianna Sidtikun shot the ball through the chaos past NAU’s keeper to extend Arizona’s lead 2-0. This was Sidtikun’s first goal for Arizona and led the team into halftime.
After halftime NAU came out looking much more driven and put together defensively. Arizona seemed to become a little sloppier after halftime, leading passes into NAU players and going for crosses that had no one ready to receive the ball. Taking advantage of this, NAU went on a breakaway which resulted in Madison Montgomery scoring off an assist from Maddie Shafer at 55:33.
Arizona was able to respond to the goal and become more put together defensively. Arizona was able to find shots on goal throughout the second half but was unable to connect. In the 75th minute, Arizona had a breakaway opportunity that resulted in a missed shot. For the remainder of the game, NAU and Arizona went back and forth into each other’s halfs, NAU unable to score and Arizona holding onto the lead to gain the team’s first win of the year.
After the match, Arizona goalkeeper Hisey said, “I think we took a big step in the right direction. Coach [Moros] was telling us this is the most she’s seen us play like ourselves, the style we want to play come out. Obviously, we made some mistakes here or there or some things didn’t work right but we are all about taking baby steps into achieving our eventual goal which is playing how we are when we are at our best all the time.”
On the biggest improvement she saw, head coach Moros said, “Our quality of play went up big time. This looked more like the way we have been training. Last week was an anomaly for us.”
Moros cited the use of building the attack from the back with center backs to get the ball into the midfield which helped Arizona create more successful attacks.
In the end, Arizona started the game off strong, looking to make up for the lack of offense from the first game, scoring quickly and extending the lead late in the first half of play. NAU was able to score but was not able to gain momentum after their goal, with Arizona’s defense helping to take away scoring opportunities and put the game away to open the first home game of the season with a win.
Arizona next game is against LSU on Thursday, Sept. 2 in Tempe at Sun Devil Stadium at 1:00 PM MST.
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