The Arizona Wildcats’ offense was too much for the Oregon Ducks — and the Mulcahy Stadium scoreboard — to handle Saturday, tallying 20 shots and 15 corner kicks in a 3-1 win in front of a standing-room-only crowd.
The scoreboard said Arizona had nine corners in the match, but that’s because it literally couldn’t count higher than that.
“We haven’t really ever had that many corners,” said UA midfielder Cali Crisler, who took a majority of them.
“Your leg gets tired after a while,” she joked.
Crisler had two assists, using well-placed serves to create several scoring chances for the Wildcats.
Kelcey Cavarra, Samantha Falasco, and Maddie Bennett were the beneficiaries, each tallying a goal on a set piece.
“It all starts with the serve,” head coach Tony Amato said. “So if we don’t have a good serve in there then none of the runs or how we set it up matter, and [Crisler] does a great job with that.”
“They were spot on like every time,” Cavarra said of Crisler’s serves. “They were very dangerous today.”
After a couple dangerous shots by UA midfielder Kennedy Kieneker early on, Cavarra opened the scoring in the 17th minute by heading in a cross from Crisler — though there was originally a little confusion as to who scored because the ball appeared to ricochet off at least one person.
“All I know,” Cavarra said, “is I got a flick on the ball, I tried to hit it back, and I don’t know if it richocheted off somebody or.....”
“From my angle,” Falasco interjected, “it hit off Char, hit Kelcey, then hit the girl (an Oregon defender) in the back and went in. All I know is it went into the back of the net and that’s all that matters.”
Arizona had nine corner kicks in the first half alone, and took their 1-0 lead into halftime.
UA forward Charlotte Brascia appeared to score in the 31st minute, but she was ruled offsides.
“We definitely had our opportunities and I think that foreshadowed the whole game and how it was going to be,” Cavarra said.
Indeed. Arizona’s attack continued to pressure Oregon’s back line, and Falasco tacked on a second goal in the 48th minute, knocking in a rebound from close range off Amanda Porter’s shot on a set piece.
That two-goal cushion was short-lived, however, as Oregon got on the board seven minutes later when an unmarked Kyra Fawcett headed in a cross inside the box.
“It definitely shifted” the momentum, Amato said. “It didn’t feel like a goal was coming. Sometimes in a game you feel like the goal was coming, but it didn’t feel that way. It was a good cross and a good finish and then it felt like they had the momentum for the next 5-10 minutes.”
Oregon (6-3) had eight of their 12 shots in the second half, but Bennett ended their comeback bid in the 75th minute, scoring on a corner from Crisler.
“She’s not the tallest, not the biggest and she was in the box and was able to, off a set piece, get something on it and score,” Amato said of Bennett. “And it says a lot about her.”
It was the first goal of the season for Bennett, who has been an active member of Arizona’s attack this season.
“I’ve been working hard and I’m glad it finally showed,” the sophomore said.
The victory improves Arizona’s record to 4-2-2 (1-0 Pac-12), and it’s the UA’s third win in a row.
It’s a much-needed victory, too, since Arizona’s next four games are against No. 2 Stanford, No. 13 Cal, No. 10 USC, and No. 1 UCLA.
“We need these wins to make a run to the tournament,” Falasco said.
Arizona didn’t quite break their all-time attendance record Saturday, falling about 60 fans short, but over 1,200 people showed up nonetheless.
“I thought it was great,” Amato said. “It was really important to keep building the program in all aspects and that’s one that’s important to us, to continue to contribute to the brand of the athletic department and getting fans here is important to us.”
One security guard said he had never seen the parking lots as full as they were Saturday.
“I loved it,” Falasco said. “I thought it was really amazing and having a crowd like that really amps us up and lets us play even better than we already do.”
UA midfielder Gabi Stoian missed Saturday’s game with a leg injury, the second straight game she’s missed, but Arizona’s attack hasn’t skipped a beat.
The Wildcats have scored five goals in the last two games after scoring five goals in their first six games.
“That says a lot about the other girls and we’ll be able to plug Gabi back in at some point, and with the other girls playing how they are, I think we’ll be in a good place,” Amato said.
Amato doesn’t think it’s a coincidence that Arizona’s attack has improved without their top scorer in the lineup.
“Not at all,” he said. “There are times when we get in a ‘Go Gabi Go’ (mode) when she gets the ball. When you don’t have her on the field, it makes everybody else on the field chip in and take on some responsibility and I think that’s what you’re seeing.”
Crisler has carried her fair share of the load, setting up nearly every goal for the Wildcats in the last three weeks.
The left-footed midfielder has a team-high five assists this season.
“Being a senior, I want to have a big impact on the team and work towards our goal of getting to the tournament,” she said.
Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter at @RKelapire