With only two and a half weeks between the start of training and the regular season, Arizona soccer’s two preseason exhibition matches mean a bit more than your typical scrimmage.
And their first exhibition went about as well as they could’ve hoped, as Arizona routed GCU 3-0 on Friday night in Tucson.
“I thought it was a good first opening match for us,” head coach Tony Amato said. “We’re in the middle of training and putting in a lot of work, so our legs were not always going to be the sharpest, so I think with that in consideration, we saw some pictures of some things that we can be really good at this year, and we saw some things we can tweak and get a little better at.”
Charlotte Brascia scored in the seventh minute, and the Wildcats never looked back, outshooting the Lopes 21-2, creating a flurry of scoring chances.
Freshman Amanda Porter notched her first (unofficial) career goal in the 59th minute to extend UA’s lead to 2-0.
“It was really exciting,” Porter said. “It helps get the nerves out and helps my team.”
Porter knocked in a cross from fellow freshman Hannah Clifford.
“The first time out in a college game — sometimes it doesn’t go so well,” Amato joked. “And I thought Porter looked really sharp, I thought Clifford looked really sharp in our attack and those two definitely showed that they can handle stepping into a college game in a college atmosphere.
“Kudos to them.”
Senior midfielder Cali Crisler added an insurance goal in the 76th minute, dribbling to her right before lacing a shot from the top right corner of the box into the right side of the net.
“I saw a player on my right and I’m left-footed, so I thought about cutting it back, but I saw the near post open,” she said.
Brascia, Porter, Crisler, and Kennedy Kieneker each had a team-high three shots.
Cali Crisler takes you through her goal that put the Cats up 3-0. pic.twitter.com/Y3h3AmXvvN— Arizona Soccer (@ArizonaWSoccer) August 12, 2017
Lainey Burdett was in net for the Wildcats in the first half, and Meredith Reinhardt played the second half, though neither recorded a save as GCU did not have a single shot on net.
The Wildcats leave for El Paso on Saturday for a Sunday exhibition match against UTEP. Arizona then opens the regular season against No. 16 Oklahoma in Norman on Friday, Aug. 18.
“These (exhibition) games are really important because if you look at it, you don’t have a lot of time to get ready and sometimes in training it’s really hard to get a picture of how it’s going to look in a game,” Amato said. “And I thought playing this game tonight (against GCU) was way better than a training session.”
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Aguilera, Painilainen return and start
Redshirt freshman Jill Aguilera, who sat out last season with a torn ACL, started at forward and played 42 minutes against GCU, taking two shots and creating several others.
She was expected to make an immediate impact as a true freshman last season, and now her presence is already being felt on the Wildcats’ attack.
“Jill is so athletic and so fast,” Amato said. “You think about it, that’s her first game in over a year. Coming off that injury, she’s in a good place and we’ll just keep fine tuning some of the details.”
Redshirt freshman Tia Painilainen, who also missed last season with a torn ACL, started Friday, too.
The Finnish defender played 60 minutes.
“They’re full speed ahead,” Amato said at the team’s first practice on Aug. 2. “They’re not worried about anything. It’s more from a coaching standpoint that we don’t bury them in the first couple weeks of the season. ... But they’re fit. They’re ready to go, I just need to manage some of that because they are two players that go 100 miles per hour all the time.”
Wildcats are ‘hungry’
Arizona missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in three seasons last year, finishing 9-9-1 overall and 4-7 in the Pac-12.
Six of the Wildcats’ losses were by one goal.
“The first couple of years, we were building and growing and everyone was really hungry and we had great success, and last year we didn’t get any momentum going, and had a few injuries, and an illness,” Amato said after the team’s Red-Blue game Sunday.
“It just seemed that we couldn’t get anything really established for long stretches of time and I think this year everyone is more hungry, and we have some players coming off injury, and those things will all make a difference.”
Arizona was picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12 by the conference’s coaches this season.
“The lower rankings motivate us to work hard and prove people wrong,” Crisler said. “And I think to not make it (to the NCAA Tournament) last year makes everyone want to work harder.”
Stoian looking to make history
Senior midfielder Gabi Stoian enters the 2017 season just eight goals and five assists away from breaking the UA’s all-time records.
“It’s crazy,” she said. “Freshman year, I just came here wanting to make an impact on the team, wanting to help this program rise and I’ve contributed that, and I can’t wait to see what the season has in store for me.
“And the more I score, the more assists (I have), the better the team will be as well.”
- Arizona softball coach Mike Candrea was in attendance for Friday night’s game vs. GCU
- The announced attendance Friday was 793. “I thought it was great,” Amato said. “The students aren’t even back in school yet, so if we can find a way to win some games early and get some momentum and get some students out, I think the crowd will keep growing.”