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Arizona soccer shut out by No. 15 UCLA

The Wildcats couldn’t avoid a sweep on the L.A. road trip

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

The Arizona soccer team was shut out for the second straight game Sunday, as they fell to No. 15 UCLA, 2-0, in Pasadena.

The Wildcats also lost 2-0 to No. 3 USC on Thursday, as they were unable to avoid a sweep on the arduous L.A. road trip. Arizona drops to 8-4-1 overall and 1-3-1 in the Pac-12.

The UA held UCLA scoreless in the first half and even outshot them 6-5, thanks to a stellar defensive effort, but the Bruins controlled the entire second half.

Olivia Athens broke the scoreless tie in the 49th minute when she deflected in a cross from Kennedy Faulknor. UCLA nearly added a second goal less than a minute later when they earned a penalty kick, but UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett made a big save to keep the Bruins at bay.

UCLA eventually added an insurance goal in the 86th minute, when a close-range shot by Viviana Villacorta richocheted off Burdett, before spinning into the net.

The Bruins outshot the Wildcats 8-4 in the second half and finished with 13, nearly three shots below their season average. Arizona’s backline was swarming and blocked several shots, thwarting some dangerous chances for the Bruins.

But UCLA possessed seemingly the entire second half, so UA’s offense was unable to generate much of anything after a strong first half. They finished with 10 shots, four in the second half.

UCLA goalkeeper Teagan Micah, who finished with three saves, only had to make one stop in the second half. Burdett finished with five saves.

Jada Talley paced Arizona’s offense with a team-high five shots. Kennedy Kieneker added two, including what was probably UA’s best scoring chance.

In the 16th minute, Kieneker headed a corner kick from Jill Aguilera on frame, but it was knocked away at the goal line by a UCLA defender.

It’s the first time Arizona has been shut out in consecutive games since 2016.

They return to action Saturday when they have a big home game against Cal. The Bears (5-7-1, 1-4) have not been their usual dominant selves this season, but they did come from behind to beat Oregon on Sunday for their first Pac-12 win.

More importantly, Arizona needs to start winning games and making up some ground in the conference standings now that the Pac-12’s elite teams — Stanford, UCLA and USC — are in the rearview mirror.

Arizona was 18th in RPI after Friday, meaning they are in great shape to make the NCAA Tournament, but that can quickly change. And while Arizona’s schedule is set to ease up, nothing is given in the Pac-12.

Other notes

  • UA head coach Tony Amato was recruiting in Southern California on Saturday, per the Pac-12 Network broadcast. That seems like a good use of time, considering how much talent is in that area.
  • UCLA was without two of their top players in Hallie Mace (USA) and Jessie Fleming (Canada), as both are playing for their respective national teams in the CONCACAF Women’s Championship. The Pac-12 Network asked Amato if that makes it more difficult to prepare for the Bruins, to which he predictably disagreed. “If you’ve ever coached against some of those players, no, it’s not harder,” he said. “Preparing for them is super hard, but UCLA are always good so it’s a tough task any time you play them.”
  • UA defender Sabrina Enciso missed both games this weekend with an ankle sprain. She had started every game the past two seasons before the injury.
  • Arizona is 1-23-1 all-time against UCLA. The Bruins lost to Stanford in the national championship game last season.

Pac-12 standings

Arizona has played five of the top six teams in the Pac-12 already.