Nagging injuries have prevented some of Arizona’s best players from practicing this season, senior forwards Jada Talley and Jill Aguilera among them. It has hindered them from building rapport with an otherwise inexperienced roster.
Last Friday, after a listless loss to Washington, Talley vowed to return to training in hopes of “fixing our foundation.”
She did, and it played a big part in Arizona bouncing back for a 3-1 road win over Oregon State this Friday.
“They were back in training all week and we were able to link some good training sessions together,” head coach Tony Amato said after the game. “And when you link good training sessions together, it leads to being able to go out and execute in the game. And I thought our team understood that and did a really good job this week.”
The victory snaps a two-game losing streak and serves as Arizona’s first Pac-12 win of the season. They are now 5-2 overall and 1-2 in league play.
While it wasn’t a must-win match, it sure felt that way. A loss may have totally dashed UA’s NCAA Tournament hopes. (Remember, only 48 teams will play in the postseason this year.)
The way they came out of the gate, they seemed well aware of that. Aguilera scored a header in the ninth minute off a short cross from Ava Hetzel and Hetzel made it a two-goal lead just five minutes later by tapping in the rebound of a penalty kick, the freshman’s first career goal.
Talley, the one who missed the PK, wound up converting a much more difficult look in the 56th minute, netting a long angled shot with a defender on her hip, a goal you might see on SportsCenter’s Top 10.
More importantly, it came just a few minutes after Oregon State knocked in a free kick to cut the deficit to 2-1.
“Big time players step up in moments like that,” Amato said. “We had lost the momentum and they had grabbed the goal. We didn’t start the second half as well as we started the game and Jada answered back with a spectacular goal. And it’s really a credit to her because she missed the penalty, which some forwards can hang their head about, and it can unravel for them. And she just kept at it and had a great game, scored a great goal and was a big factor in the game.”
The Beavers (2-5) actually outshot the Wildcats 14-10 including a 7-3 differential in the second half. OSU earned three corner kicks plus several free kicks in the late goings, partly because Arizona was carded four times in the final 17 minutes.
The Wildcats even played the final seven minutes with 10 players after defender Mariah Dunn was shown a red card in the 83rd minute after being assessed a yellow in the 74th minute. (By rule, she is suspended for the next game.)
Arizona managed to ward off several scoring chances and saw a shot ring off the post. Hope Hisey had four saves.
“It’s a Pac-12 game, so we knew they were gonna throw the kitchen sink at us down the stretch, which is all you can do, right?” Amato said. “You’re down two goals, you have to get back in the game and so we changed our shape a little bit. And I thought Jenna Studer and Jazzy (Young) and Ava McCray and Sabs (Enciso) in the back did a really good job to limit their dangerous chances even though they were throwing so much at us. Full credit to them. And Hope did a really good job of keeping it organized and making sure that we didn’t give up the goal late in the game. Because had it gone 3-2, then it’s a real struggle down the stretch.”
The Wildcats will go for the road sweep Sunday at Oregon, another winnable but critical game. The Ducks (2-3-2) tied ASU 1-1 on Friday in Eugene.
“It’s gonna be a really tough turnaround on the road, Friday-Sunday, so we’re gonna have to recover and look at all the film that they played tonight and come up with a game plan for Sunday, but it’ll be a big challenge,” Amato said. “I don’t know when the last time we as a program have come up here and won both games on the road.”
The answer? Never.
Talley now 0-2 on PKs
Talley has missed both of her PKs this season. She clanked one off the right post against GCU and saw OSU goalkeeper Bridgette Skiba stop a shot heading that way Friday.
Both misfires wound up being tapped in by Arizona anyway, but they should be a learning lesson.
“Teams scout you as a penalty taker, and when you have a penalty, and you miss one, and that’s the way you went, you have to have some variety in your penalty,” Amato said. “And so the keeper was already going that way as she ran up, so she’s got to understand that and learn from that and she’ll get better at that for the next time.”
Amato said Aguilera and Hannah Clifford are next in line in the penalty-taking order.
Sisters Jenna (Arizona) and Sydney Studer (Oregon State) both started at center back for their respective teams Friday, the first time they have faced each other in a college game. (You can read more about them here!)
There definitely wasn’t a storybook ending. Sydney, the older sister, tallied two shots before being helped off in the 73rd minute with an ankle injury. She did not return.
9' - GOAL!— Arizona Soccer (@ArizonaSoccer) March 13, 2021
Jill SKIES over the top and gets us on the scoresheet first!
Dream start. pic.twitter.com/O2Go5QlaYe