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Arizona soccer dominated by Gonzaga in non-conference finale

Photo by Mike Christy/Arizona Athletics

Madison Goerlinger found some open space at the top of the 18-yard box and unleashed a long shot on frame. The UA midfielder thought the ball was destined for the back of the net when it left her foot, but it had a little too much spin and tailed off the post instead.

She tilted her head back in frustration.

“Oh gosh, I wish it went in,” Goerlinger said. “We needed to take more shots, get anything we could get.”

That 82nd-minute foray was about the only scoring threat Arizona soccer could generate Thursday in a 1-0 loss to the Gonzaga Bulldogs.

Pinned in their own half for what seemed like the entire match, the Wildcats were outshot 30-9, their worst margin since Stanford outshot them 30-11 in 2019.

“We had a lot of turnovers,” said head coach Becca Moros. “We had zero possession in our front three. You can’t play with three forwards and not connect passes between them. Otherwise, you might as well have one because one cannot connect the passes themselves. But we conceded possession most of the game, and definitely in the final third we had very little.”

Arizona only mustered one corner kick and three shots on frame. Unfortunately, these kind of offensive struggles have been common this season. Thursday marked the third time the Wildcats have been shut out.

“We came out flat,” Moros said. “I don’t think we ever found a rhythm the whole game long. Haven’t quite figured out what that’s because of. We have been trending up week to week. This was definitely a turn downward for us, so we definitely have to take a hard look at it and take a hard look at ourselves and decide what kind of team we want to be.”

The Wildcats (3-4) were hoping to enter Pac-12 play on their first winning streak. Instead, they failed to win back-to-back games for the fourth time this season.

UA goalkeeper Hope Hisey made a career-high 14 saves to keep the game closer than it actually was. That was after she made 11 saves Sunday in a 3-2 win over Nebraska. She’s not exactly encouraged by those milestones.

“Yeah, I don’t think it’s a particularly good thing that the other team is getting shots on goal that much,” she said. “I think we’re giving away possession way too easily in dangerous parts of the field, and that’s what it’s leading to.”

Some stingy tackles by defenders Sabrina Enciso and Mariah Dunn helped Arizona keep Gonzaga (8-1) scoreless until the 59th minute. That’s when Erin Healy collected a failed clearance near the penalty spot and lined a shot past a diving Hisey.

“It’s an unfortunate circumstance considering we had worked so hard up to that point to keep them at zero,” Hisey said. “But at the end of the day, I think our clearances have to be better.”

Then again, the ball likely would have been pinged back into Arizona’s third anyway. Goerlinger lamented that the Wildcats failed to win many first- or second-balls.

“Obviously we all know that wasn’t our best performance, so we’re just going to have to let this one go,” she said. “Obviously, we have super big games coming up. So we’re gonna have to move on, practice hard, get back to it.”

Like Goerlinger, Hisey would have liked to see her team be more aggressive with its shot selection. The Wildcats have taken 10 shots or less in all four of their losses.

“Especially in games where maybe we’re not getting as many chances down the field or we’re not retaining possession that much down the field, just let one go,” Hisey said. “As you heard, Madi gave the crowd life when she made the shot because everyone thought it was going in.”

The announced attendance was 336, more than double what it was the previous game. It was one of the only positives Moros took away from the match.

“[The fans] were amazing,” she said. “It’s been one of the bigger crowds we’ve had. The cheerleaders came out, and they did a great job for us. It was a really good environment. I wish we put on a better performance.”

The Wildcats now face a daunting road ahead, starting with a road game Friday against a high-powered Washington State team, followed by home games against USC and UCLA, two traditional powerhouses.

The losses could pile up if they’re not careful.

“Obviously we have to be better at training, we have to continue to raise the intensity because [Gonzaga], all respect to them, they’re not a Pac-12 team,” Hisey said. “We’re about to enter Pac-12, where every team is good, every game is a battle. And so we have to raise our intensity or it’s going to be more of the same. And we can’t let it be more of the same.”

Postgame interviews