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12 seconds cost Arizona soccer in exhibition loss to San Diego State

The 2022 Arizona soccer team
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

There’s a reason soccer might be one of the most difficult games to play. In a game in which they dominated in almost every statistical category, the Arizona Wildcats lost to San Diego State 2-1 due to mistakes made over a mere 12 seconds.

“It’s a game of mistakes,” Arizona head coach Becca Moros said. “There’s mistakes all over the field. There’s just certain ones that you’ll get punished for. And we’ll look at both the mistake, but more importantly, our reaction to it and whether there was an opportunity for us to respond properly and get out of that situation. It’s very important on a soccer team, that your teammates can bail you out. You’re going to make mistakes. Other teams are gonna do things well, and you can’t prevent that from happening all the time. So you need to have the right response to bail each other out and to pick each other up.”

The loss dropped Arizona to 1-1 in exhibition play ahead of its regular season opener against Iowa State on Aug. 18.

The Aztecs started quickly with the first three shots of the match, but they were unable to put any of them away. In the 36th minute, the Wildcats drew first blood when junior midfielder Megan Chelf was able to chip one over the head of SDSU goalkeeper Cameron Illingworth off an assist by Nicole Dallin.

“In practice, I like to chip the keepers a lot,” Chelf said. “It’s my little sneaky move. So once I saw her step off her line, I knew that it was probably a good time to catch her off her line.”

It was just the second goal Chelf has scored in collegiate play, both coming in exhibitions.

Arizona had nine shots to SDSU’s six and the 1-0 lead going into the half. In the second half, the Wildcats continued to dominate in shots and shots on goal as well as taking a 5-1 lead in corner kicks. UA ended with a 21-12 advantage in shots, an 8-4 advantage in shots on goal, and a 7-3 advantage in corner kicks.

None of those advantages mattered because mistakes made over 12 seconds in the 54th minute allowed the Aztecs to get both the equalizer and the go-ahead goals against reserve goalkeeper Hannah Mitchell. Rachelle Elve put the first one away in the bottom left off an assist by Trinity Coker with the clock at 53:37. At 53:49, it was Elve with the assist to Emma Gaines-Ramos to give SDSU the lead.

Despite the loss, both the players and their second-year coach feel that the team is progressing from where they were last season. They are grasping the new system she introduced when she took over the program.

“I think Becca is probably one of the best coaches I’ve been with,” Chelf said. “And she has a really good support system behind her and is building us to be the best team that we can be. I mean, by looking at the scoreboard you can tell we dominated the game on a bad day.”

Moros is also getting contributions from her newcomers. She has been able to play multiple freshmen in both exhibitions and is getting production from them. In the first friendly against NAU, freshman Sami Baytosh scored the only goal of the game for either team.

“Sami is a really good footballer,” Moros said. “She’s got a good engine, she’s always engaged in the play. She never shuts off. She’s always moving. So in that sense, she’s ready to help out wherever she’s needed, which is a really good quality in a midfielder.”

Another midfielder who is providing quality play in her first season at Arizona is Nyota Katembo, a sophomore who transferred into the program from Portland during the offseason. Katembo had five shots against SDSU, putting four of them on goal.

“Nyota’s very explosive and dynamic,” Moros said. “She’s got good feet. She’s doing a good job getting used to the way we play. Obviously, she came from a different system and she was only there for a year and came from a different system before that...She wants the ball. She wants to play the little passes in behind. She wants to make those movements. She’s gonna fit in really nicely.”

Arizona hopes to get off to a winning start when real games start on Aug. 18. Iowa State will come to Tucson to kick off the regular season. For Hisey, she hopes it’s the start of her younger teammates getting to experience some of the things she has already done.

“My freshman year we made the tournament and we got to host the game and...that’s probably the highlight of my career so far,” Hisey said. “So I want them to be able to experience that. The girls who came in during the COVID year and during the coaching transition, I want them to be able to experience going into the tournament because it is such a fulfilling thing. So that’s our main goal this year, just take one game at a time in hopes of making the tournament.”

Freshman Angela Baron and Colombia defeat Germany

Freshman defender Angela Baron has not been with the Wildcats during their exhibition season. The newcomer has been with the Colombian U20 team playing in the FIFA U20 Women’s World Cup. The Colombian side defeated Germany on Wednesday.

“We’re happy for her,” Moros said. “I’m proud of her. We’re happy for Colombia and their great performance against Germany. I think that’s a big win for them. The support of the country would be good for them. I noticed on their Instagram, they weren’t posting live stuff or anything about the game, which was disappointing, but I think that she’s done an excellent job there. She’s already in with a full team, so she’s getting exposure at a really high level. I expect she will come in very fit and ready to compete, and then hopefully, she’ll kind of learn how we like to do things.”

Arizona picked to finish last in Pac-12 preseason poll

After finishing last in the Pac-12 last season and then losing the program’s top goal-scorer to graduation, the coaches don’t expect the Wildcats to improve in the standings this year. The Pac-12 preseason poll was released on Wednesday and Arizona was picked to finish last again.