SANTA CLARA — Arizona’s early-season dominance came to a screeching halt Friday in the form of a 4-0 loss to Santa Clara.
It is UA’s largest margin of defeat since 2016, and a shocking turn after the Wildcats (4-1) began the year with a 15-0 goal differential.
“If we don’t learn from this, I don’t know what will teach us,” said Arizona coach Tony Amato. “I thought this week in training we could have done a better job overall and the connection between training and now showed up. And I think we’ll learn from that and make sure that we coach better in practice, we train better overall, and we have a better performance. ... We have to make sure this doesn’t turn into more than one loss.”
Arizona started well, locking Santa Clara into its half for the first 20 minutes with some physical play, but Broncos goalkeeper Courtney Ogren turned away dangerous shots from Emily Knous and Jill Aguilera in the 40th minute, before Santa Clara finally cracked Arizona’s high press.
Less than two minutes after Ogren’s saves, Kelsey Turnbow collected a throw-in deep in UA’s half and looped a shot over goalkeeper Hope Hisey to break the scoreless tie.
Santa Clara (4-3) ended any chance of a comeback with a scorching second half.
Just a few minutes in, Kelcie Hedge one-timed a shot from inside the 18 to the far post.
Turnbow flashed again in the 65th minute, beating Hisey to a through ball before calmly slotting her second goal of the night. Izzy D’Aquila added SCU’s fourth goal in the 83rd minute by bending a shot from the left side past a diving Hisey.
“It’s one of those nights you gotta give Santa Clara credit,” Amato said. “They finished the chances they had, we had some chances in the first half that I thought we were creating and causing some problems. We didn’t score, and then they got the one before halftime, then they got the one coming out of halftime and it felt like an uphill challenge from there.”
The stat sheet wasn’t nearly as lopsided as the scoreboard. Santa Clara only had one more shot than Arizona (9-8) and both teams peppered six on frame. But the Wildcats struggled to connect passes in the box, and none of their three corner kicks were dangerous.
Ogren finished with six saves, another masterful performance after she helped Santa Clara shut out UCLA last week.
“We were defending our asses off, so were tired and it just sucks that we didn’t put one in the back of the net because I think that could have changed things,” said UA midfielder Kelcey Cavarra.
Cavarra attributed Arizona’s offensive woes to bad luck—the Wildcats were averaging nearly four goals per game coming into the match—but Amato referred back to the team’s lack of preparation.
“I’m a big advocate that you make your luck with the work you do, preparation you do,” he said. “We just gotta do a better job of that and the luck will go our way.”
Hisey, not sophomore Kendyll Humphreys, started in goal as the Wildcats continue to split playing time between their keepers.
Amato has said their opponents’ tendencies will determine who he starts, and when asked why Hisey was given the nod against Santa Clara, he said “it was really just taking into account today and Sunday (vs. San Jose State).”
“They’re both good and we’re coming down to minute details to decide who’s going to play,” he said. “When we weighed it all up, we thought it was a good option. We’ll have to go back and watch the film, but I don’t blame Hope on the top of my head for any of those goals.”
Friday was the first time Arizona’s goalkeepers have been put under duress all season. The Wildcats had only allowed six shots on goal in their previous four matches.
A freshman, Hisey made a couple headsy plays on set pieces in the first half, and a diving save in the 40th minute, before allowing the quartet of goals.
“She’s an athlete, she knows you’re going to have good days and bad days,” Amato said. “I’m sure she’s lost 4-0 before and she’s responded and gotten to this level, so she’ll do the same again.”
Senior center back Samantha Falasco was in tears after the match, but was able to crack a smile by the time her postgame interview ended.
It helps that the Wildcats don’t have to wait long to make amends for Friday’s loss. They return to the pitch Sunday at San Jose State.
“It’s a good test for us,” Falasco said. “I mean, it’s gonna show our resiliency and how we react to situations like this.
“It’s bound to happen. You can’t have the most perfect season, and so I think it’s good for us to be able to get this under our belt, so now we can just move forward and have an even better season.”
Since this was Arizona’s first official road trip, it was the first time they were forced to leave some players at home.
Those that did not travel to the Bay Area: freshman defender Sabrina Hillyer, freshman defender Molly Shannon, and senior forward Dana Dalton.
Santa Clara’s student section was trash-talking UA players all night, often referring to them on a first-name basis. Other times things got uglier.
“The only thing good about your game is your tan!” one fan yelled at UA forward Jada Talley.
“You suck, 18!” one screamed at UA defender Madison Goerlinger.
“Number 0, get off the field, they’d be better without you!” another shouted at Hisey after she allowed her third goal.
A couple Arizona players couldn’t tune it out. One flipped off the crowd. Another told the fans to shut up in a not-so-PG way.