All Jada Talley could do is shrug.
The Arizona forward tried to send a cross into the box to give a teammate a scoring chance, but her chip floated over the diving goalkeeper’s hand and into the top right corner of the net instead.
“I’m not going say I tried to shoot it, because I didn’t,” Talley joked, “but a goal is a goal.”
It was that kind of night for the Wildcats, who trounced Houston Baptist 6-0 on Sunday. They outshot the Huskies 30-3 and scored three of their six goals in a 10-minute span in the first half.
“We were combining super well,” said UA forward Brooke Wilson, who had a goal and assist.
It’s Arizona’s second straight win and another encouraging performance after they dropped their season-opener to Albany last week.
“It’s a matter of building confidence,” said UA head coach Tony Amato, whose team is 2-1. “The younger players always need that, but the older players need it too. And tonight I think you saw that after we settled into the game, after about 15 to 20 minutes, we upped our confidence and our play and things just got better and this will help us push us forward in what we’re trying to accomplish this year.”
Talley’s fortuitous chip, scored in the 37th minute, was her second goal of the match. Her first goal came just eight minutes earlier when she tucked a shot from distance inside the far post.
Sabrina Enciso (39’), Gabe Jillings (66’), Wilson (73’), and Michaela Rentner (88’) all notched their first career goals later to put the match well out of reach.
Enciso is the only starter in that group.
“That just shows we have depth,” said Talley, who played 38 minutes off the bench. “We can replace people who come out really easily and Tony can count on us to come off the bench and get a new spark, get some fire into the game. We have depth and it shows.”
And a lot of talented young players. Talley and Enciso are sophomores. Jillings, Wilson and Rentner are freshmen. The Wildcats only start two seniors.
“Even though we’re a really young team, people know that and they underestimate us thinking they’re coming in playing freshmen and sophomores,” Talley said. “People think ‘oh, we can take them.’ Nope. And Tony lets us know it’s not about your age. If you show it out on the field, you’re going to play.”
With the win, Amato becomes the winningest coach in Arizona soccer history. The team tried to douse him with water after the game but he evaded the attempt.
“The team was congratulating me and I told them I felt a little silly in the sense that the wins get credited to me, but we have to have players that are committed to the cause, buy into the vision and work really hard for the wins to happen and I think we’ve been fortunate from the moment we’ve got here that we’ve (had that),” he said.
“I think it’s a celebration of them, our support staff, our assistant coaches. I feel really fortunate to have the group I have and we have a lot more that we want to do moving forward, so I think this is a milestone so to speak, but we’re going to enjoy it tonight, enjoy the performance, but we’ve got a lot more we want to do.”
Amato, who turned around an Arizona program that was once a perennial bottom-dweller, has compiled a 56-35-13 record as he enters his sixth season. Enciso and Talley look around at the youth on the team and believe the Wildcats are set up to raise Amato’s win total well beyond where it is now.
“It’s going to go farther,” Talley said, raising her hand higher and higher above her head. “We still have two years left. We’re going to rack it up for Tony.”
Wilson, the highest-ranked recruit Arizona has ever landed, sees Amato’s milestone as validation that she chose the right school.
“I joined this program because I wanted to be part of a program on the come-up, and this proves it is,” she said.