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Arizona soccer rallies to earn draw vs. Cal

The Wildcats came back from a two-goal deficit in a 3-3 tie

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

The Arizona Wildcats rallied from a two-goal deficit to earn a 3-3 draw against Cal on Saturday on the rain-soaked field at Mulcahy Stadium.

The Wildcats were trailing 3-1 in the 52nd minute, when Jada Talley scored from distance to make it a one-goal game, then Morgan McGarry notched the equalizer in the 76th minute by netting a corner kick.

Arizona outshot Cal 31-7, including a 19-3 advantage in the final 65 minutes, but were unable to net the game-winner, despite controlling possession for most of the match.

“We had over 30 shots and sometimes those aren’t great shots, but I was proud of the way the team fought back from being down 3-1 because it could have been lights out,” said UA head coach Tony Amato. “But we didn’t quit, got the second goal, battled back for the third goal. It felt like we had some chances to get the fourth, but being 3-1 down, we’re proud of the team for getting back into that game.”

Arizona is now 8-4-2 overall and 1-3-2 in the Pac-12. They wrap up their home schedule next weekend against Washington and No. 11 Washington State.

“We were focused on getting three points out of this weekend, but … clawing back from 3-1, we can at least hang our hats on that,” McGarry said.

Still, midfielder Kelcey Cavarra said the result is “disappointing.” Cal (5-7-2) was 1-4 in Pac-12 games entering the match, the kind of team Arizona needs to beat to maximize their chances of reaching the NCAA Tournament.

“We gave up three goals, which sucks, but I feel like we had more possession of the game,” said Cavarra, who laced a season-high five shots. “We played better and we could have gotten a better result, but a tie is not the worst thing.”

Cal grabbed an early lead in the 16th minute when Abigail Kim headed in a cross.

Arizona’s Amanda Porter knocked in a rebound from close range to tie the game just seven minutes later — her first goal of the season — but the Bears answered with another header in the 42nd minute to re-take the lead.

Cal added their third goal early in the second half when Miranda Nild drilled a penalty kick after Kim drew a foul in the box.

All three of Cal’s shots on-goal found the back of the net. UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett went saveless for just the second time all season.

“The game looked pretty similar in both halves, but they had seven shots and scored three goals, so I thought they were opportunistic and scored their goals, and we didn’t do very well on the chances that they did create,” Amato said.

It’s the third straight game Arizona has surrendered a penalty kick, which Amato said is “painful.”

“We gotta look at why that’s happening,” he said. “We entered a spell last year where we did that. Sometimes you get put in a bad position because of a bad shape of the defense, or a bad decision and then you become desperate in your defending or clumsy in your defending. We’ve got to do a better job there. It’s going to be hard to win games when you’re giving up penalties and three goals.”

It’s also the third straight Arizona home game that has required overtime, typifying how difficult it is to win in the Pac-12 in general.

And while the Wildcats were satisfied when they beat Utah and tied Colorado in their first conference homestand, they were noticeably dejected after Saturday’s draw.

“We’re not OK with mediocrity,” Cavarra said. “We want to be the best.”

Almost called off

Saturday’s game, which was delayed by 10 minutes, was almost postponed because of the rainstorms that drenched Tucson throughout the day.

“There was a lot of talk, a lot of discussion,” Amato said. “There were puddles of water and they were saying more rain was coming, so there was a time when it was 4:45 when I don’t know how we were going to play this game, and then all of a sudden the sun came out and the wind started to blow a little bit, there was a rainbow and it was like, ‘we might be able to get this in.’”

Coaches consulted with Pac-12 officials and referees, before making the decision to go ahead with the game. The likely alternative would have been playing at 11 or 12 the next morning.

“Our grounds guys did a really good job of getting some of the water off the field, and looking at the field now, it held up pretty well,” Amato said.

Here’s a look at just how soaked the field was before kickoff:

Water splashed with every step and bounce of the ball, but Cavarra said the wet field was not a factor in the game.

“It was pretty sloppy. It was definitely different than Arizona conditions, but it’s just something we have to acclimate to,” she said. “We do this in Washington and Oregon so it’s just something you have to play with.”

Postgame interviews