PHOENIX — Arizona soccer’s potent offensive attack reached a crescendo Saturday when it scored three goals in each half to beat Grand Canyon 6-0 at GCU Stadium to complete the spring season.
“I think over the course of the spring till now we got a lot better and that’s very important to us,” said UA head coach Tony Amato. “Some individual players stepped up in roles, we looked at some different formations over the course of the spring and over the last three games we scored a lot of goals. That’s very positive overall.
“I thought today, the first 10 or 15 minutes, we didn’t start the game on the front foot. (GCU) battled and were ready to go. We knew they would come out, and then once we settled in, we put together some really nice things going forward, caused some turnovers in good spots, scored some goals and I thought overall it was a very, very good performance by our team.”
The Wildcats finish the spring with a 3-1 record and on a three-game winning streak. Arizona beat Arizona State, New Mexico and GCU after falling to BYU in its opener, a game in which the Wildcats were forced to use two field players in goal.
It was a tough schedule — ASU is in the Pac-12 while New Mexico and BYU finished in first in their respective conferences last season — so it helped the Wildcats identify what their strengths are.
Scoring is definitely one of them. The Wildcats netted 16 goals in the spring.
“During practice we’ve worked on combining in and around the box, and that’s what we did really well and what led to most of the goals today,” said UA forward Jill Aguilera, who scored twice Saturday, including a rare right-footed goal. “That’s major.”
Sophomore Jada Talley, freshman Brooke Wilson, sophomore Hannah Clifford and junior Dana Dalton poured in the other four goals Saturday.
Freshman goalkeeper Kendyll Humphreys made a save and picked up her first-ever shutout in her third career start.
Pretty much every freshman shined, it seemed.
“Iliana (Hocking) played almost the whole game today as a defensive center midfielder with Kelcey (Cavarra) being out, and so she took some big steps,” Amato said. “Iyana (Zimmerman) took some big steps, Brooke scored again, Emily (Knous) is becoming more and more confident, Dorian (Goodwin) got some good minutes the last couple games, Kendyll is getting great experience. So all of our young players have gotten some time that they really needed, and my guess would be if you asked them, they’re feeling really confident going into the fall.”
“I think it helps us with our team confidence overall and how far we’ve come from the beginning of spring to now, which is what Tony mentioned after this game,” Aguilera said. “So I think keeping up our confidence (is key) and knowing how well we can play and using that heading towards the fall.”
Arizona’s top playmaker a season ago, Amanda Porter, transferred to Texas Tech, making it fair to wonder how the Wildcats will replace the left-footer’s production. She posted a team-high seven assists and four goals in 2018.
Early returns say Arizona will do it by committee. Arizona’s 16 goals were scored by eight different players. Wilson and Talley netted four. Clifford and Aguilera scored two. Dalton, Zimmerman, Brynn Moga and Leah Carillo had one apiece.
The Wildcats, who return eight starters, will have even more options at their disposal in the fall when their top-25 recruiting class arrives on campus.
“You’re always going to have players graduate and move on, and you got to have other players step up and that’s why you have to have a deep roster and I think we’ve put together a really good roster,” Amato said. “And we got nine more players coming that we really like this summer, so I think we’re projecting out to be in a pretty good place.”
When asked how next year’s roster stacks up to previous rosters, Amato said a lot by saying very little.
“We’re pretty excited about the fall,” he grinned.
Tony Amato was extremely pleased by the way @ArizonaSoccer finished its spring season Saturday by drubbing GCU 6-0: “My guess would be if you ask (the players), they’re feeling really confident heading into the fall.” pic.twitter.com/y6bcKUdBKx— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) April 14, 2019
.@jill_aguilera had two goals in @ArizonaSoccer’s 6-0 win vs. GCU, as the Wildcats continued to score in bunches: “In practice we’ve worked on combining in and around the box, and that’s what led to most of the goals today. That’s major.” pic.twitter.com/HWD5ZqxOwE— Ryan Kelapire (@RKelapire) April 13, 2019