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Jada Talley, Jill Aguilera lead Arizona soccer past Oregon on record-setting night

Jada Talley
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Jill Aguilera and Jada Talley have become incredibly close since becoming teammates in 2017. They like to grab lunch, hang out in the locker room, and crack corny jokes together.

That camaraderie was evident on the pitch Thursday on a record-setting night. Aguilera and Talley each netted two goals in Arizona’s 5-2 win over Oregon, UA’s highest scoring output ever in a Pac-12 game.

Whether it was a pinpoint cross, through-ball or ball out wide, “everything” was working between them, Aguilera said.

Talley set up both of Aguilera’s goals and Aguilera returned the favor on one of Talley’s.

“We’ve been getting closer as friends and I feel like that is carrying over to the field,” Talley said. “I really do. We’re similar. We’re both fast, we’re both get-behind-the-defense type players, so I feel like what I would do off the ball like Jill’s gonna do on the ball, so it’s good. We work together really well.”

The juniors were the headliners for the Wildcats on Thursday, but it was far from a two-woman show. Arizona peppered a season-high 26 shots and seven corner kicks, getting contributions from several players.

Iliana Hocking scored from distance in the 76th minute, while forward Brooke Wilson and outside back Morgan McGarry fired four shots apiece. McGarry unleashed a rocket off a diving goalkeeper in the 12th minute, then curled a ball off the far post in the 43rd minute.

Midfielder Kelcey Cavarra twice appeared to score on a header, but one was cleared at the goal line while the other was waved off by the linesman.

So while Arizona finished with five goals, it could have easily had nine.

“I thought our total movement, from our backs all the way up to our forwards, was pretty dynamic and dangerous,” said coach Tony Amato. “We just kept moving the ball, we kept combining. Sometimes you can get in a little bit of a rut where it’s one person doing a job at a time whether it’s attack or defense. And throughout the game, we were able to make sure that everyone at one time was defending, everyone at one time was attacking, and that worked out well for us.”

And yet the Wildcats were not comfortably ahead until Hocking provided them a 4-2 cushion with 15 minutes to play.

Arizona held leads of 1-0 and 2-1 thanks to 35th- and 52nd-minute goals by Aguilera, but the Ducks found an equalizer both times—and rather quickly in one instance.

Oregon’s Jordan Wormdahl snuck a shot inside the far post less than two minutes after Aguilera had made it 2-1.

Then it was Talley’s turn.

In the 57th minute, Aguilera made a deep run into the right side of the box and centered a pass to Talley. She calmly tapped it in with her right foot to give Arizona a lead that, this time, it would not relinquish.

Hocking provided some insurance by one-touching a shot into the back of the net, and Talley put the game completely out of reach in the 86th minute by executing a give-and-go with Ava McCray for her team-best seventh goal of the season.

“We’re a team that fights to the end and we never shut down,” Talley said.

“We knew we could get [the game-winner],” Aguilera added, “and then once we got in that rhythm again, we were able to find those extra goals in there.”

With her brace, Aguilera pulled even with Wilson with six goals on the season, the second-most on the team. Not that she cares.

“We’ve been working together a lot and it doesn’t matter who scores,” Aguilera said. “We’re playing well, we’re working together, and that’s all that matters: to get the win.”

Thursday’s was a big one for the Wildcats, who improved to 9-4-1 overall and 3-3-1 in the Pac-12 with four games to play.

A loss or draw to the Ducks (4-6-5, 0-5-2) would have been a black mark on their postseason résumé, though it wouldn’t have come as a huge surprise given the competitive nature of the conference.

This, after all, was more or less the same Oregon team that beat the Wildcats in Eugene last year.

“Every game is going to be a tough, tight battle, but I was proud of how the team kept responding every single time,” Amato said.

The Wildcats conclude their homestand Sunday against eighth-place Oregon State, another critical game. Arizona entered the week 37th in RPI, a mark good enough to make the NCAA Tournament but probably not good enough to host the first round.

A win Sunday would certainly change that.

“I told the team tonight that I don’t think we’ve hit our ceiling yet,” Amato said. “And I think they believe that as well. And we’ll get right back at it tomorrow to get better, train for Oregon State over the next two days, and know that we have another tough one Sunday.”

Postgame interviews

Tony Amato

Here’s Tony Amato on Arizona Soccer’s 5-2 win over Oregon

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Thursday, October 24, 2019

Jill Aguilera and Jada Talley

Jill Aguilera and Jada Talley each had two goals in Arizona Soccer’s 5-2 win over Oregon

Posted by AZ Desert Swarm on Thursday, October 24, 2019