Not only did Arizona soccer beat UCLA for just the second time in program history Thursday, the 3-0 win was the Bruins’ largest margin of defeat in a conference game since 2015 when they lost 7-0 to Cal.
While it was arguably the most impressive win in program history, the Wildcats (7-2, 1-1) cannot revel in it for too long. They have another top-10 team in town Sunday in the form of No. 6 USC.
“I think we just proved when we’re committed to the process, trust the game plan and the coaches get the game plan, right, and the players have good training sessions, and then lay it all on the line that we can beat anyone on the day,” Arizona coach Tony Amato said after the UCLA game. “But we got to put that together moving forward, we got to learn from it and find a way to replicate that game in and game out because every game is a challenge.”
USC (8-1-1) barely beat Arizona State on Thursday in Tempe, using a 90th-minute goal, then saving a penalty kick, to escape with a 2-1 win.
The Trojans’ only loss is to No. 3 Stanford. They have a 25-11 goal differential, and are led by the dynamic forward duo of Tara McKeown and Penelope Hocking, who have eight goals apiece.
Hocking is the fraternal twin sister of Arizona midfielder Iliana Hocking. They are very different players, which I wrote about earlier here. This will only be the second time they have faced each other.
Kickoff is at noon MST on Arizona Live Stream 2.
Hisey settling in as starter, Burdett makes mark in NWSL
The Wildcats split goalkeeping duties between sophomore Kendyll Humphreys and freshman Hope Hisey for most of the season, but Hisey has made two straight starts since replacing Humphreys for the second half of the TCU game, seemingly claiming sole possession of the starting role.
Arizona has not allowed a goal in the run of play with Hisey in net. She surrendered two goals in the loss to Colorado, but one came via free kick, the other via penalty kick.
The Tucsonan has made 10 saves over the last two games, but has been the first to credit her backline for making her job easier.
“When you have a freshman come in, especially in goal, it’s one of the hardest transitions and you just don’t know how comfortable they’re going to be, and I’ve been really, really pleased with how comfortable she’s been,” Amato said. “If she gets something wrong, she bounces back. ... Her mental toughness is really good for a freshman, and that’s what we’ve seen and why we’ve gone to her of late, and she’s responded.”
Speaking of goalkeepers, former Wildcat Lainey Burdett made her first career save with the Orlando Pride on Saturday.
She is the first UA product to play in the NWSL. Burdett completed her college career last fall as Arizona’s all-time shutouts leader.
The win over UCLA carries extra weight when you consider the alternative. Arizona entered that match 0-1 in Pac-12 play with three top-10 opponents—UCLA, USC and Washington State—next on its schedule, meaning an 0-4 start was a real possibility.
Now, Arizona can go no worse than 1-3, and a draw or win vs. USC and Washington State could put them on track to finish in the top half of the conference.
There’s also this: Arizona’s RPI was 55 heading into the week, a mark not good enough to reach the NCAA Tournament. Playing three straight top-10 opponents will boost that number (RPI factors in strength of schedule), but even more so when you’re getting favorable results on top of it.
Zimmerman suffers leg injury
Iyana Zimmerman was on crutches and had her right leg strapped with a heavy brace by the time Thursday’s match ended. The sophomore forward exited in the second half after suffering an MCL injury. It is expected to sideline her for at least a few weeks.
The speedy Zimmerman has started eight of nine games this year, recording an assist against UC Irvine on Sept. 8. She distributes from higher up the field.
The Arizona soccer Twitter account used her image with the caption “let’s do it again” to promote the USC game, which probably wasn’t the smartest decision: