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Arizona soccer scores two late goals to beat TCU, advance to second round of NCAA Tournament

The Wildcats are still alive as they keep finding ways to win

Photo via @ArizonaSoccer on Twitter

The Arizona soccer team has played in so many close games this season, head coach Tony Amato jokes that it’s causing his hair to gray.

They were in another one Friday with their season on the line, and maybe that will be the case next weekend, too.

The Arizona Wildcats scored twice in the final 17 minutes to come back to beat TCU 2-1 and advance to the second round of the NCAA Tournament.

No gray hair this time, though.

“Honestly it felt like (we) were going to find a way to win the game, so it didn’t stress me,” Amato said. "I thought we were going to get it done because this team has had that so far this year. That belief goes a long way.”

The Wildcats have won four straight and are unbeaten in their last eight games, as they continue to do just enough to win.

With 17 minutes left in regulation, UA defender Samantha Falasco knocked in a corner from Gabi Stoian for the equalizer.

Just seven minutes later, Cali Crisler tucked a shot from distance inside the far post for the game-winner.

It was reminiscent of Arizona’s comeback win over Washington two weeks ago when they scored twice in the second half to win 2-1.

“I felt confident that we would get the tying goal and then regroup and figure it out from there. That’s a credit to them to how they’ve made me feel this year, that they’ll keep plugging away and get the goal,” Amato said. “I haven’t always felt that way with teams. I’ve had really good teams before, but they didn’t have that conviction that they’ll get the goal. This team has made me really believe that they’ll find way to get it done in those moments.”

Arizona is 8-4 in games decided by one goal this season, improving to 11-4-4 on the season. This is just the fourth time in program history the Wildcats have made it past the first round.

They will face fourth-seeded Florida State in Palo Alto, Calif. next weekend.

“To be able to come back like that ... was fantastic for us,” Falasco said.

Both teams tallied four shots in the first half, but TCU led 1-0 at the break, thanks to a well-timed header by Emma Heckendorn in the 31st minute.

“I thought we started the game well and then the last 30 minutes, TCU started to win the first balls, win the second balls, and any physical confrontation,” Amato said. “You can’t be successful doing that, so we talked about that at halftime. If we’re going to go down, it’s not going to be that way.”

The message was received, and Arizona outshot TCU 9-1 in the second half, eventually breaking through for a pair of goals, while the Horned Frogs’ attack was non-existent.

“It’s just having heart and knowing that we’re going to give everything that we have to win the game,” said UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett, who had three saves. “We’re going to keep moving forward until we get the job done.”

Falasco’s game-tying goal was the third the defender has scored this season and the fourth of her career. Two of those four have been game-winners, but none were bigger than Friday’s goal.

“She’s good on corners and that’s why we move her up there,” Amato said. “She’s someone who will get on the end of things. In her club career, she scored off a corner in the finals of their national championship game. She’s just that kind of player who has that kind of pedigree and is able to get on the end of things on the box in key moments. She was able to come up big again tonight.”

Crisler’s tally was a senior moment. Playing in her final home game at Mulcahy Stadium, the forward laced a shot past the diving keeper to keep Arizona’s season — and her career — alive.

“I just took the opportunity and knew we had nothing to lose at that point and we needed a goal to win it,” Crisler said.

“That strike seemed unbelievable when it left her foot,” Amato added.

What wasn’t unbelievable was that Arizona found a way to win. They’ve been doing it all year.

“[Amato] said this game we didn’t give him grey hair because he had faith in us the whole time,” Crisler said.

“I have a bunch,” Amato added, “but they didn’t add to it tonight. I just had a belief they would find a way.”

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire