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Taylor Kornieck leads Colorado past Arizona soccer in double OT in Pac-12 opener

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Hope Hisey dove left. The ball whizzed right.

The freshman goalkeeper was well-prepared for the biggest moment of her young career, but got outwitted by a savvy senior.

Going against the grain, Taylor Kornieck netted a penalty kick in the 107th minute to propel 24th-ranked Colorado to a 2-1 double-overtime win over Arizona on Friday to open the Pac-12 season.

“We actually scouted her and she had gone left twice already,” Hisey said. “So I went left and I think her teammate went over and whispered to her and maybe she changed it up, but I mean, we scouted her and we did the best we could.”

The golden goal capped a brilliant night for Kornieck, who tied the game in the 39th minute by bending a free kick into the upper left corner from 20 yards out.

The All-American was responsible for eight of Colorado’s 17 shots, as the Buffaloes utilized her 6-foot-1 frame with a hoard of long throws and corner kicks. Kornieck’s brace accounted for her 91st and 93rd points of her career, putting her in a tie for CU’s all-time lead.

“They’re really tough to deal with on set pieces and we had to defend a lot of them, whether it was long throws or fouls from their own half, kind of serving big balls into our area,” said UA coach Tony Amato. “Dealing with that was a handful and she’s a really good player. She won them the game tonight...and we knew that coming in that 80 to 85 percent of what they do is that, and it was very effective.”

The Wildcats fall to 6-2, dropping their Pac-12 home opener for the first time since 2016 when they lost to the Buffaloes, 1-0.

Who scored the game-winner that night? Also Kornieck. On a free kick.

“We grinded, we were tough, they weren’t able to play through us at all, they were just playing for set pieces like Coach said just now after the game,” said UA outside back Morgan McGarry. “They kept trying to aim for 22, Kornieck, she’s one of the best players in the nation. And we did our best on trying to stop her.”

As Kornieck was being mobbed by her teammates for burying the game-winner, Hisey sat alone on the goal line with her hands cupped over her knees and tears rolling down her face.

While the night ended with heartache, it was an impressive Pac-12 debut for the Tucson native. Hisey stopped a career-high six shots, including a diving save on a rocket from Kelsey Aakens in the 24th minute and a leaping save on a header from Kornieck in the 31st minute.

“She came up big for us and they just happened to have two great shots,” McGarry said.

Hisey praised the resiliency of Arizona’s backline, which only surrendered seven shots in the second half and overtime periods.

Left back Sabrina Enciso blocked Kornieck’s header at the goal line in the 52nd minute to preserve the tie. Center back Hallie Pearson made a potentially game-saving tackle along the edge of the box in the 82nd minute.

Fellow center back Samantha Falasco made several key stops and fought through a leg injury in overtime after being badly shaken up on a tackle.

“I mean, they were throwing their bodies in front of the ball, doing anything they could to stop it,” McGarry said.

Added Hisey: “You saw Sam down, she’s literally crawling to get up... so I’m really proud of them. And I know that you can’t do anything about those free-kick goals.”

The Wildcats struck in the sixth minute when Colorado’s Kayleigh Webb—who was fouled from behind by Enciso to set up Kornieck’s PK—knocked in an own goal on a corner kick, but were held in check the rest of the night, only mustering 11 shots, their second-lowest total of the season.

Only four were on-goal and none were fired in the overtime periods.

“I think they were tough defensively,” Amato said. “As soon as you get the ball, they drop, so there’s not a lot of space behind and you have to be able to break them down in front of them or draw them into wide areas. And we just didn’t do that enough tonight. There were times we did it and just the final product wasn’t there. And I think that’s an area where we’ll learn from and get better and we’ll have to if we’re going to score some goals in the Pac.”

A 50th-minute free kick from McGarry from just outside the 18 appeared to be a decent scoring chance, but her angled attempt was blocked by a wall of Buffaloes.

Jada Talley, who drew the foul to set up McGarry’s shot, made another long run down the left side in the 88th minute, but a Buffalo defender rode her hip the whole way, forcing her into a difficult shot.

The Wildcats found some space near the top of the box in the first overtime period, but oddly traded passes before having the ball knocked away.

“I’m not sure what that’s about,” Amato said. “I mean, we saw the same thing and I’ll have to look at the film to see if there were just no lanes to shoot. But yeah, you gotta be hungry and dangerous to score there. And I know our players are. It must have just been in the spur of the moment that there was just nowhere to go. At least that’s what they were seeing. But yeah, you got to step up there and let shots fly and see what happens.”

The schedule only gets tougher from here, as the Wildcats host No. 7 UCLA and No. 3 USC next weekend before a road game at No. 21 Washington State, but they walked away from Friday’s loss with solace in their defense.

“We’re going up against a top-25 team in the country and to not give up any goals in the run of play is definitely a testament to how good our defense is,” Hisey said. “(It’s) showing teams you’re gonna have to have luck bounce your way in order to beat us.”

Postgame interviews