SAN JOSE — After a gut-punching loss to Santa Clara on Friday, Arizona soccer returned to the win column Sunday with a 1-0 victory over San Jose State.
Jill Aguilera delivered the game-winner in the 30th minute by collecting a short pass off a corner, taking a few dribbles to her left, and rifling a shot into the upper corner.
“The corner kick we work on, a short is one of our options and to be able to hit it far post, serve it to Sam (Falasco) or Kelcey (Cavarra) or whoever’s back there,” Aguilera said. “I saw the space in front of me and I was just able to take a touch inside and hit it.”
Other than that, it was a quiet day offensively for the Wildcats, who had 10 shots and seven corner kicks, but looked out of sync. Crosses often failed to find feet in the box and balls were played out wide without anyone there to run onto them.
“I think we did a good job getting into those spaces, and I think this week we have a couple extra days of preparation coming up against TCU, and that’s something that we’re going to work on and get a lot better at,” said Aguilera, who had seven shots and almost added a second goal in the 79th minute when she booted a free kick from atop the 18 past the far post.
In fairness, San Jose State (2-3-2) is known for its defense, and did a nice job marking Arizona’s attackers. Aguilera’s goal was the first tally the Spartans have allowed at home this season.
“I mean, we knew going into this game that San Jose State was a really tough team,” said outside back Morgan McGarry. “They’re physical and have some great players that were able to be dynamic, so we knew it wasn’t going to be a walk-in-the-park for us.
“It seemed like when we were playing well, we were able to combine in the attack, get the ball moving forward a little bit quicker, that we could have scored a little bit more. I mean, they dropped a lot of people back, had a lot of numbers behind the ball, so it was difficult to get a good opportunity.”
Arizona (5-1) held SJSU without any dangerous scoring chances until the 84th minute when a corner was headed on frame. UA keeper Kendyll Humphreys was there to glove it to complete Arizona’s fifth shutout in six games, the lone exception being the 4-0 defeat to Santa Clara.
“We have our identity, we have a good defensive structure, our attackers know what they want to do, what the coaches want them doing, so it’s really just fine tuning those little things,” McGarry said.
While not the prettiest win, coach Tony Amato thought Arizona did what it needed to Sunday—prevent the Santa Clara loss from sending the Wildcats into a potentially costly tailspin.
“It’s a hard game on the road and Friday-Sunday set up, so we knew it was always going to be difficult from the beginning, and we just had to find a way to get the goal and win the game and Jill scored a great goal,” he said. “And that’s something that we thought she’d step up with this weekend and find a way to score and she did. And we defended well in terms of keeping a clean sheet, so I don’t think we should walk away not feeling good about this.”
Arizona wraps up non-conference play Saturday at home against TCU. The Horned Frogs are 6-2 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season.
“Leading up and leaving for the Santa Clara game, we weren’t our sharpest, we weren’t connecting and stuff like that,” McGarry said. “TCU is a great team that we’re facing, so we need to make sure we’re training hard and ready to go.”