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Arizona soccer uses three second-half goals to beat TCU in non-conference finale

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Jill Aguilera
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Samantha Falasco has a knack for scoring big goals against TCU.

Two years ago, the center back headed in the equalizer late in an NCAA Tournament game against the Frogs, which the Wildcats proceeded to win in dramatic fashion.

Saturday, she burned them again by calmly slotting a penalty kick in the 61st minute to give Arizona a 2-1 lead it would not surrender in a 4-3 victory.

“That was really exciting to be able to play them here again and beat them again,” said Falasco, who was once recruited by TCU coach Eric Bell. “I was very confident in myself. ... “I’m usually in the back when penalties happen and so I was kind of excited that I finally got to be up there.”

A handball along the goal line led to the PK and resulted in a red card, helping the Wildcats (6-1) stay on the front foot and hang two more second-half goals on the undermanned Frogs.

Those tallies came courtesy of Jill Aguilera, who netted two goals in 26 seconds—yes, 26 seconds—to put the Wildcats ahead by three in the 80th minute.

Aguilera rocketed a free kick from well beyond the box for her first goal, then completed the brace by finishing with her left foot in the box after collecting a cross from Jada Talley and spinning away from a defender.

“I think it was crazy...just to keep playing hard and we’ve been playing for each other, that’s what we talked about a lot at halftime,” Aguilera said. “And I think that’s a definite good thing that came out of that.”

Even down a player, TCU didn’t go away quietly. Yazmeen Ryan netted a long free kick in the 83rd minute, then was on the assisting end of a give-and-go in the 87th minute to bring the Frogs within one in the waning moments.

Messiah Bright one-timed a shot past Arizona keeper Hope Hisey, who entered in the second half after Kendyll Humphreys got the start.

“I think we took our foot off the gas a little bit,” said UA forward Brooke Wilson. “And I think that in big games, especially starting Pac-12 next week, that’s something that we can’t do, and it’s just definitely a learning curve for us.”

A game with a wild finish also featured an scintillating start. Wilson put the Wildcats on the board in the second minute by winning a header over a taller defender, before making a long run and placing a shot in the lower left corner—her team-high fifth goal of the season.

TCU answered nine minutes later off a distant goal from Grace Collins.

The first half was fairly even, with TCU recording four shots to Arizona’s five. The Wildcats found another gear in the second half, eventually finishing with a 19-8 shot differential, including several looks from distance that required TCU keeper Emily Alvarado to make a diving save.

“I think that it was known that they were a tall, brutal team,” Wilson said, “and so we just knew that we had to bring out the same energy and battle, and I think that at halftime we kind of got drilled a little bit for not having enough grit and that’s one of our core values. So to come out there and start the second half with a lot of that I thought was really good.”

Things got chippy midway through the second half when a TCU defender exchanged pleasantries with UA forward Iyana Zimmerman after a hard tackle. The Wildcats managed to keep their cool, choosing to let their game do the talking instead.

“We just gotta stay composed and not say stupid things or do stupid things,” Aguilera said. “And I think that we did a really good job of that. No yellow cards for us. They had a red card and a yellow.”

Falasco made sure the Wildcats capitalized. Ironically, she isn’t Arizona’s usual penalty taker. That job belongs to her best friend, roommate, and fellow senior Kelcey Cavarra. Both wanted to be the hero, but Cavarra eventually relented and let Falasco have the moment.

“We were going back and forth, saying I’m gonna take it, no I’m taking it,” Falasco said. “Then she was like, ‘OK, don’t miss.’”

Both sport the same french braid, so Wilson initially thought it was Cavarra who converted the PK.

“So when I saw Sam was the one who turned and celebrated, I was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so exciting,’” Wilson said.

Arizona coach Tony Amato was surprised Falasco took it too. Not that it matters.

“As long as it finds its way into the back of the net, I don’t care,” he said.

Falasco thought Arizona could have played better, but outlasting an NCAA Tournament-caliber team is a sweet way to cap the non-conference season no matter how you slice it.

That it came against TCU only made it sweeter.

“I mean college soccer, you gotta find ways to win games, and credit to our group for doing that,” said Amato, who notched his 200th career victory. “I thought in the first half, there were some little things from the grinding bit, the competitiveness stuff that I wanted to improve on, and I thought we did in the second half.

“There was some soccer stuff that we needed to do a better job to give up those two late goals, but credit to TCU down 4-1 to come back and score those two goals and really put us under pressure at the end. But I’m proud of the team to find a way to win, and ultimately that’s what we’re trying to do.”

Animals on the loose

As if the game wasn’t crazy enough, Arizona soccer went viral on social media before the match after it announced its petting zoo promotion had to be put on hold after sheep and goats escaped at a previous event and were roaming the streets of Tucson.

“I didn’t even know that was real. I thought it was a joke,” Wilson laughed. “That was the craziest thing ever. But I was really excited to have a petting zoo. I hope there was a pig.”

There were no pigs, but the unruly sheep and goats did make it to Mulcahy Stadium eventually. Here is exclusive video proof:

Postgame interviews