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Arizona women’s soccer recap: Wildcats tie UC Irvine in home opener

The Wildcats couldn’t convert on a few key chances, but did post another shutout

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Neither Arizona nor UC Irvine found the back of the net Friday, as the teams battled to a 0-0 draw in double overtime on a warm, humid night in Tucson.

“Both teams were really up for the fight and it was a battle and it was physical,” UA head coach Tony Amato said. “Neither team really found any attacking combinations or really connected in any sort of way.

“I thought whoever either forced someone into a mistake or if somebody really had a moment of quality, that’s how the game was going to be won, and it just didn’t come about.”

The Wildcats outshot the Anteaters 12-3, but squandered a few key opportunities, especially in the second half when they tallied eight shots.

“The only thing we were really missing was that final shot,” said UA forward Jill Aguilera. “We were doing everything leading up to get that shot off, but the shot off just wasn’t happening.”

Arizona only recorded one shot in the first half (UC Irvine had none), but their offense threatened in the second half.

In the 54th minute, Aguilera made a run down the near sideline and fired a shot from the left side of that box that was deflected by diving UCI goalkeeper Maddie Newsom.

The rebound trickled to the top of the box, and was ultimately cleared by the Anteaters.

A few minutes later, the Wildcats were awarded a pair of free kicks after consecutive UCI fouls, but UA could not take advantage.

Then in the 71st minute, a corner kick by UA midfielder Cali Crisler landed at the foot of Hailey Mazzola after being deflected, but her shot sailed over the crossbar.

In the 79th minute, Morgan McGarry launched a free kick into the box which created several shots for the Wildcats, but they were blocked and the ball was finally scooped up by Newsom.

Perhaps Arizona’s best chance to score was early in the first overtime period when Charlotte Brascia had a breakaway after a well-placed through ball by Crisler.

But Brascia’s shot, taken at an angle from the left side of the box, was a frozen rope right at Newsom, who tallied four saves on the night.

“It just seemed like the physical confrontations were there and in those moments… we really needed to execute and have some quality and it didn’t happen,” Amato said. “It was a little off on a touch or a pass was a little off, or a shot wasn’t where it needed to be. It’s early in the year and some of those things are going to be a little off and I think that’s something we’re going to have to fine tune a little bit.”

UC Irvine’s scoring chances were virtually non-existent, but they did have a clean look from a few yards out in the 72nd minute. But that attempt was saved by UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett, who recorded her second shutout of the season.

The third-year starter did make things interesting in the final minute, though, when she had trouble corralling a header in front of a crowded net.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, Burdett was able to scramble and fall on the ball before any harm was done.

“When I knew it wasn’t in my hands, I knew I had to smother my body over the ball and not let it in,” Burdett said.

Aguilera, watching from the top of box, feared the worst.

“I saw it tip her fingers and leave and my eyes got so wide,” she said. “... I was like please, please, please get there, and she got there and it was so much relief.”

Arizona has not allowed a goal this season, but now sits at 1-0-1 after Friday’s result. They have outshot their opponents 28-8 through two games.

“We’re bummed, but on the other hand we didn’t let any goals in,” McGarry said.

“We had a few chances at the end that we wish we could have finished, but our defense played great at the end, Lainey had some big saves at the end to keep us in the game, and we’re still undefeated right now.”

Amato said not beating UC Irvine was disappointing, but it likely won’t be a blemish on UA’s resume come Selection Monday in November.

“I think you’ll see as the season plays out, they’re (UC Irvine) going to win a lot of games and it won’t be a bad result,” he said.

Arizona is back in action next Friday when they will face the UCF Knights in Tempe in their first of two games in the Sun Devil Desert Classic.

Other notes

  • A full box score can be found here.
  • UA freshman Amanda Porter made her first career start after racking up two assists in the team’s 2-0 season-opening win over Oklahoma last week.
  • UA midfielder Gabi Stoian led Arizona with four shots, most of which were free kicks.
  • UA midfielder Kennedy Kieneker exited in the 57th minute with a bloody lip, but returned in the 78th minute.
  • UA defender Samantha Falasco played the full 90, despite missing Thursday’s practice with an illness
  • The Anteaters were shown three yellow cards in the match
  • The announced attendance Friday was 915
  • But it should really be 916 because there was a giant moth that was the size of a bat. It landed on two people and scared several others.