Taryn Siegele used to watch Arizona soccer games from the stands, longing to be part of the action.
So she tried out for the team as a freshman, but was told she wasn’t good enough to play in the Pac-12. Disappointed, but not discouraged, the Houston native tried out again as a sophomore.
That time, she made the roster.
“I knew how badly I wanted it,” she said, “that’s a reason I tried out again.”
Now a junior, Siegele is not just on the team, but contributing in key spots in crucial games. She scored her first career goal Friday when the Wildcats beat Boise State, 2-0.
“There’s no words to describe it,” Siegele said. “And having my teammates support me and hug me, and even on the bench (they were) all screaming my name. It shows you how close our team is.”
After drawing a foul, Siegele headed in a well-placed free kick from Hallie Pearson in the 80th minute. It gave the Wildcats (5-1) an insurmountable two-goal lead, allowing them to secure their fifth straight win.
“It’s a cool story,” said Arizona coach Tony Amato. “And she’s gotten better and better and she’s worked hard, and she played really well from the minute she went out there and scored a good goal and it was on the (Pac-12) Network and everything so you couldn’t be happier for her.”
“She’s been so close and she finally got it, and I’m so happy for her,” added UA defender Sabrina Enciso. “She deserves it so much. … It was good that she was patient, because she came up with a really good goal.”
It was the second of two delectable goals Arizona had in the match.
In the 40th minute, Jill Aguilera floated a beautiful ball in front of the net to Brooke Wilson, who effortlessly headed it in for her third goal of the season.
“If I wouldn’t have made that, it would have just been sad,” Wilson joked. “It was a great ball by Jill.”
A brilliant cross from Aguilera leads to a sensational finish from Brooke Wilson to put us on top at the half! pic.twitter.com/wlxhVGfAyi— Arizona Soccer (@ArizonaSoccer) September 8, 2018
Wilson, who came in off the bench midway through the first half, noticed Boise State’s defenders weren’t following the Wildcats’ runs, so she took advantage by sneaking past their backline.
Once Aguilera’s cross was on target, it was over.
“Both balls on both goals were right where you would want them and Brooke did a great job,” Amato said. “She’s not the tallest, but she did a great job to free herself in the box and then was so open that she was able to put it in with her head. And then Taryn, on the ball Hallie gave her, set up the free kick and then made a great run, attacked the ball, (had a) good header. So the balls were great, the finishes were good and I’m happy for both of them.”
While the Wildcats’ offense has been potent this season, they had not had much success on set-pieces before Friday’s match. But Wilson said they have been a point of emphasis in practice, so it was “super exciting” to see their training pay off.
“Sometimes it goes in spells. ... I think sometimes you’re able to get on the end of them,” Amato said. “They’re hard. The service has to be good, the runs have to be good, you have to time it, you have to attack it, so it was great to see that we scored on one tonight and we’ll have to do that moving forward.”
The Wildcats outshot Boise State 17-5, but the match was not as one-sided as that differential would suggest. The Broncos were extremely competitive in the first half, presenting the kind of challenge Arizona had not faced over the past two weeks when they played lesser opponents.
But UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett made three saves and Enciso made some key tackles en route to their school-record fifth straight shutout. Arizona has only allowed one goal all year.
“Last week, we didn’t have to fight a lot defensively over those two games and I thought tonight it took us a little bit to get back into that fight,” Amato said. “Boise State was up for it from the beginning. They won some headers, they won some tackles and we needed to make sure that we got into the flow of that. It probably took us a half and a change of some personnel to get into that.”
Siegele, once cut from the team, was part of the solution.
“Two years ago I was sitting on the bleachers and had that passion of wanting to be back on the field,” she said, “so it’s really crazy to look back.”
The Wildcats will go for their sixth straight win Sunday against Baylor. The Bears (5-2) beat ASU 1-0 on Friday in Tucson.
Baylor is coming off a season in which they won the Big 12 Tournament and reached the Elite Eight, so they represent Arizona’s toughest challenge to date.
Last season, TCU head coach Eric Bell compared the Bears to the Wildcats before his team battled Arizona in the NCAA Tournament. Amato chuckled when reminded of that comparison.
“I think what he meant is that they work really hard, they fight, they grind, they’re good in the air, they’re good on set-pieces,” he said. “That’s what Sunday is going to look like. We’re going to have to deal with how hard they work and play.”
Junior forward @TarynSiegele scored her first career goal in @ArizonaSoccer's 2-0 win vs. Boise State. She tried to walk on to the team as a freshman, but was told she wasn't good enough. She tried again as a sophomore and made the roster. Awesome story. pic.twitter.com/c75HVtMR0M— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) September 8, 2018