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Jill Aguilera’s late goal lifts Arizona soccer past Nebraska

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Jill Aguilera and Madi Goerlinger
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Jill Aguilera doesn’t like talking about her place on Arizona soccer’s all-time scoring list. She knows she’s climbing it quickly, but she’s more interested in winning games.

Sometimes, the two can go hand in hand.

Aguilera scored in the 89th minute on Sunday to lift the Wildcats to a 3-2 win over Nebraska. It was the sixth-year senior’s second goal of the day, which mark the 27th and 28th goals of her career. She needs one more to tie Gabi Stoian for second-most in Arizona history and four more to match Mallory Miller’s all-time record.

More importantly, Sunday’s win improved Arizona to 3-3 on the season and was their first victory over a major-conference team in the Becca Moros era.

“Being part of celebrations is obviously one of my favorite parts about being on this team, but it’s great to score goals, celebrate, and finally do what you’ve been doing on the training field in the game when it’s high stakes,” Aguilera said. “It’s nerve wracking but really exciting.”

Both of her goals shifted the momentum of a back-and-forth affair. After Nebraska scored on a header in the sixth minute, Aguilera netted the equalizer in the 17th minute, collecting a pass from Madison Goerlinger at the top of the box and taking a turn before looping a shot into the upper corner.

The two connected again after Nebraska tied the game at 2-all in the 86th minute. Aguilera gathered a long ball from Goerlinger at the edge of the six-yard box and somehow squeaked a shot between Nebraska keeper Sami Hauk* and a pair of Cornhusker defenders.

A beaming Aguilera celebrated by raising her hands before leaping into Goerlinger’s arms.

“That was pretty nuts,” Aguilera said. “The game played a lot on the right side and I kept telling everybody, ‘hey, look for the switch when you can.’ ... Becca always talks about making really hard slanted runs in the middle, and so that’s what I did. Madi played a perfect ball, and I don’t know how. I swear it’s like what we do in practice now, but I was able to see Sami, the ball and the defender and just try and slot it in there and make it precise.”

It was also a milestone day for sophomore Nicole Dallin, who scored her first career goal in the 52nd minute. She ran onto a long ball from Maddy Koleno and placed a powerful shot inside the far post to give the Wildcats a 2-1 lead.

“It was emotional. I’ve been waiting a long time for that,” Dallin said. “I didn’t play last year because of injury, and it felt good to finally score.”

Dallin only played 33 minutes off the bench, but always seemed to be buzzing around the ball. She tallied four of Arizona’s 16 shots, three of which were on frame.

“Nikki has been playing really well for us,” Moros said. “Nikki holds the ball up better than anybody on the team. She had injuries last year, and lost a little bit of fitness, so her fitness base isn’t as deep as it needs to be to be able to play two games in a weekend and to compete every day, so she’s been working hard to deepen it.”

For a while, it looked like Dallin’s goal was going to serve as the game-winner. Especially when Arizona goalkeeper Hope Hisey came off her line to successfully deter a breakaway in the 72nd minute, one of her career-high 11 saves on the day.

Nebraska forward Reagan Raabe had other ideas. The sophomore dribbled around a couple of UA defenders before bending a powerful shot from 25 yards out into the upper corner.

With only four minutes left, overtime felt imminent. Aguilera’s left foot saved the day.

“That was a bad time to concede,” Moros said. “You’ve been winning 2-1 for a while, you think you’re gonna get out of the game and you concede a sloppy goal in terms of the midfield letting the ball get into that attacking position in the first place. But we could have folded a little bit, and I think the energy, the momentum kept going. And then obviously it’s an amazing final ball from Madi G and finish from Jill. You’ve got to have big-time plays like that and they really came through for us.”

Sami Hauk returns to Tucson

The Nebraska goalkeeper actually began her college career with the Wildcats, spending the 2020 season at the UA before transferring away last summer.

The Texas native only played 16 minutes as a freshman at Arizona, but is thriving with the Huskers, already earning two Big Ten Goalkeeper of the Week honors this season. She started and made two saves Sunday.

Low attendance numbers

Only 133 fans were at Mulcahy Stadium for Sunday’s scorcher. That isn’t much less than the 192 who took in this Thursday’s 2-1 loss to No. 21 Texas Tech.

Zimmerman out for the season

Senior forward Iyana Zimmerman recently underwent knee surgery and is out for the season. She had not played since last spring. The San Diego native has one goal and four assists in 47 career games (16 starts).

Gonzaga up next

Arizona will wrap up their brutal non-conference schedule Thursday with a home match vs. Gonzaga. The Bulldogs are 7-1, including a win over Georgia and loss to Purdue.

A win would boost Arizona’s NCAA Tournament résumé and mark the first time they have won consecutive games all season.

“We have a lot of resilience,” Aguilera said. “We’re learning every single day and we’re getting better every single day.”

Postgame interviews