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Arizona falls to No. 6 USC on penalty kick in double overtime

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The Wildcats were victims of a “trash call”

Photo courtesy Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics

After a 99-minute battle against a pesky Arizona Wildcats team, Alex Anthony had a golden opportunity to lift the No. 6 USC Trojans to victory.

USC had earned a penalty kick in overtime, and the redshirt senior was called on to take the potential game-winner.

But she missed. The score remained 0-0.

Anthony’s shot sailed over the crossbar, and she immediately put her hands over her face in disbelief.

The Wildcats had new life.

“That meant the game was going for us,” said UA forward Cali Crisler.

“I definitely felt that way,” agreed UA head coach Tony Amato. “Sometimes some things go your way and it’s just your night. And we’ve had some things this year where we felt like we should have won a game and it wasn’t our night, so it felt like maybe this was going to be the payback for that.

“Unfortunately it didn’t play out that way.”

USC would earn a second penalty kick in the 108th minute, and that time Anthony didn’t miss, as the sixth-ranked Trojans escaped with a 1-0 victory Thursday in Tucson.

“It was an unlucky result,” said UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett.

Unlucky because the Wildcats were victims of a “trash call,” Burdett opined.

With 90 seconds left to play, USC’s Savannah DeMelo made a move past UA’s Brandi Park into the left side of the 18-yard box, before the two got tangled up (it appeared Park hooked her), leading the referees to blow their whistles — something they had been reluctant to do throughout a physical game.

“We had a bunch of fouls in our box, too, that could have easily been called,” said UA forward Jill Aguilera. “We had the same exact opportunities, the same exact trips, pushes, jersey pulls, but it just didn’t go our way.”

Anthony’s first PK was centered, but far too high. Her second PK was centered, too, only this time with the right trajectory.

Burdett, who dove to her right, was unable to get a piece of it.

“You just think ‘I gotta be a hero’ here, but at that point, they’re supposed to make that shot from there,” Burdett said. “It’s a 50-50 chance and she happened to get a good shot on the last one.

“I didn’t think she would end up going the same way, but you never know with PKs.”

The Wildcats immediately turned and chastised the officials after the ball hit the back of the net, but they left Mulcahy Stadium with their heads held high.

“(USC) just won the national championship last year, so the fact we just took them into double overtime and they had to beat us on a PK, that’s a huge accomplishment as it is,” Burdett said.

USC outshot Arizona 15-8, but it was a much closer game than last year’s match when the Trojans drubbed the Wildcats, 4-0.

Burdett — the reigning Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week — made five saves to keep the game scoreless through 108 minutes, while the Wildcats had several opportunities to score.

Aguilera had two shots from the top of the box at the start of the second half.

Charlotte Brascia had a breakaway in the 68th minute, but appeared to be held from behind, allowing USC keeper Kaylie Collins to come forward and secure the ball

In the 86th minute, UA midfielder Gabi Stoian was taken down inside the 18-yard box.

No call.

Then, one minute into the first overtime period, Crisler had a screaming shot from 40 yards out that forced Collins to make a leaping save.

“We had a chance to win and we needed to create the opportunities to score and I think we did a good job of creating opportunities,” Crisler said. “It was just unlucky with the PK at the end.”

The loss drops Arizona to 5-4-2 overall and 2-2 in the Pac-12. USC improves to 9-1-1 and 3-0-1, respectively.

Burdett said losing on a PK is “pretty crappy,” but it’s an encouraging sign of progress for a UA team that believes it’s being overlooked.

The sixth-ranked Trojans had outscored the Wildcats 10-1 in the previous three matches.

“We don’t like the result, but I told them we want to be proud of our team and we’re proud of our team tonight,” Amato said.

“You always want to win the game or least get a draw, but we played a defending national champ — the sixth-ranked team in the country — and if a moment or two had gone our way, we could have won it.

“It was unfortunate the way it ended … but that’s the result and we have to live with it.”

Arizona hosts No. 1 UCLA on Sunday at noon — the fourth top-15 team UA has faced in a row.

The Wildcats lost to No. 2 Stanford and beat No. 11 Cal in the Bay Area last weekend.

“I definitely feel good about where the program is,” Amato said. “We’ve come a long way and this stretch is playing four of the best teams in the country and we’ve been tight in all those games.

“It definitely feels like we’re in a good place, we just have build off that and get a little better.”


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire