After making a career-high 11 saves against No. 2 Stanford and shutting out No. 11 Cal, Arizona’s Lainey Burdett was named the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week.
It’s about time, her teammates say.
“We have a lot of a good players that don’t get credit sometimes,” said UA forward Jada Talley. “Lainey just got credit this week and she saves us so many times.”
Burdett has four shutouts this season, and the fourth-best goals-against average in the Pac-12 (.67).
Stanford tallied 32 shots against the Wildcats, but only one found the back of the net — the Cardinal’s lowest offensive output of the season.
“She was really good against Stanford and had to be,” UA head coach Tony Amato said of his junior goalkeeper.
“You have to have a goalkeeper that can make saves, and she showed what she’s about Thursday, and then to get a shutout on Sunday (against Cal) proved to be crucial since we missed a penalty (kick) and had a goal called back, so it was really important that she kept the ball out of the net. That’s why she’s a legit Pac-12 keeper.”
Burdett and the Wildcats have only allowed seven goals in 10 matches this year, and only once have they allowed more than one goal in a game (a 2-1 loss vs. No. 10 UCF).
Last year, Arizona surrendered 25 goals in 19 games.
UA returned two starting center backs from last season — Brandi Park and Samantha Falasco — while redshirt sophomore Morgan McGarry, who has emerged as one of the team’s best players, and freshman Sabrina Enciso have been strong on the outside.
Burdett thinks the unit’s communication has improved from a year ago, leading to a stingier defense.
“Now we’re more in tune together and adding [Sabrina] and Morgan on the side… we just really have formed a group,” she said. “I think that helps, knowing that I’m not going to let you down, I got your back, you got mine.”
Amato thinks Arizona’s defensive improvement stems back to Burdett. Not just her penchant for making key saves, but also her ability to direct the defense in front of her.
Burdett can always be heard yelling “up! up!” and “away! away!” among other things during Arizona’s matches.
“I think it allows the players in front of her to trust that they can step and press and try to win the ball,” Amato said. “And a lot of times they get rewarded for that, but if they don’t, they know they have someone behind them…that has a pretty good chance of keeping it out of the net.
“And when you don’t have that is when you really notice it. Your whole team in front of them becomes a little timid, untrusting, and it impacts the whole team and we’re obviously not in that place.”
Arizona hosts No. 6 USC and No. 1 UCLA on Thursday and Sunday, respectively. Our preview for the USC game can be found here.
Talley’s first tally
UA freshman Jada Talley scored the game-winner vs. Cal, following up her own shot in the 75th minute for her first collegiate goal.
“It was cool because we were fighting the whole time,” she said. “It was a lot of us working together, so when you finally get rewarded, it feels real nice.”
Amato said he was happy for Talley, whose playing time has been sporadic this year.
“It’s hard — you’re a forward and a freshman and you’re getting not 90 minutes and thrown sometimes 10 minutes here, 20 minutes there, 15 minutes here, and you feel like as a forward that’s not enough time to get all the chances you want,” he said.
“You might only get one or two chances and if you don’t score them, it’s not coming back your way. She got the chance and scored and I think that will help motivate her over the next four weeks.”
Talley has played in eight games this season, averaging roughly 24 minutes per appearance. She’s made one start, but usually comes off the bench.
“You gotta just stay up, keep cheering the team on and keep the energy up, and you’ll get your time and it’ll pay off,” she said.
A tall, athletic forward, Talley said the biggest difference between high school/club soccer and college is the size of opposing players.
“It’s how big the girls are. I’m only 18 and playing against 21-year-old seniors, that’s different,” she said. “But once you get out there, you gotta show what you got.”
“If the season ended today, we’d be in”
After splitting the Bay Area road trip, Arizona improved to 5-3-2 overall and received five votes in the latest Coaches Poll.
Amato “felt good” about the split, and said he took a lot away from the loss to No. 2 Stanford, despite the Wildcats losing 1-0.
“Our kids are committed to being successful,” he said. “Stanford are really good, and we didn’t get really intimidated by them and we defended hard. We blocked stuff, we sprinted hard, we had good performances from a lot of people. It could have been better when we had the ball, yeah, but it got better for Sunday (vs. Cal) and that was why we won the game.”
Arizona rose to 30th in RPI this week, putting the Wildcats in a great spot to make the NCAA Tournament.
“If the season ended today, we’d be in,” Amato said. “If you’re at 30 or below, you’ll get in. That’s a really good mark. Teams that are about 50-ish, as long as they have top-50 RPI wins, they’ll get in.”
Going up against a Stanford offense that led the nation in six offensive categories, Amato opted to start an extra defender, one who could block shots and help limit the Cardinal’s quality of chances.
His choice was sophomore Leah Carillo, who earned her first career start.
“We trust Leah to do that and she did a good job,” Amato said.
Carillo played 33 minutes against Stanford, more than she logged in the previous four matches combined.
“And that experience (against Stanford) set her up for the Cal game,” Amato said of Carillo, who played another 33 minutes against the Golden Bears on Sunday.
“She played well in the Cal game, too.”
Indoor facility a “game-changer”
Last week, the UA received approval to construct the Indoor Sports Center, a mulitpurpose facility that is expected to be available to all Arizona teams, not just football.
Amato wasn’t sure how the soccer team would use that facility when I asked him about it a couple weeks ago, but UA forward Charlotte Brascia said it will be a “game-changer” for the program.
“It’s so hot in the summer here when we’re working out,” she said. “I think it will help a lot. Those summers are rough.”
The ISC is expected to be completed in October 2018.