UCLA soccer has been dominant this season. Coming into the match against the Arizona Wildcats, the third-ranked Bruins had only given up one goal all year. Could a 3-5 Arizona team that had been outscored 14-9 hope to stay with them?
The answer to that question was a resounding ‘yes.’ The Arizona players believed that they could play with anyone—and they proved it. It just wasn’t quite enough as UCLA escaped with a 2-1 victory.
“Teams that are very good teams, that are considered the best teams in this country, they have to get lucky to beat us,” said Arizona goalkeeper Hope Hisey.
UCLA dominated in most statistical areas. They out-shot the Wildcats 21-14 on the night, putting 13 of those on goal to seven for the home team. They also got 13 corner kicks to just two for Arizona. While Arizona was whistled for six fouls, the Bruins had none called on them.
That wasn’t the entire story of the game, though. Although they fell to 3-6 on the season, the Wildcats showed a kind of aggressiveness that has been lacking in many of their earlier matches.
Early in the match, Arizona dominated possession, keeping the ball in the final third of the field for much of the first 19 minutes. Part of that was simply because the team had more bodies available.
“The biggest thing is that we put four in the midfield tonight,” said Arizona head coach Becca Moros. “We haven’t had healthy players. We started three players tonight that we haven’t had healthy.”
Despite having the upper hand in the early going, the Wildcats were the first to concede a goal. UCLA forward Mia Fishel broke through, scoring a goal on the assist from Marley Canales in the 19th minute.
The Arizona players still felt that they were in it.
“Our conversation was that they’re lucky to be up 1-0 because we completely outplayed them in that first half,” Hisey said. “I think we outplayed them the entire game. But we felt that a goal was coming. We felt like even though they were up, we still had the momentum, we had the crowd, etc.”
That goal was coming. In the 52nd minute, Jill Aguilera put the assist from Madison Goerlinger in the back of the net, tying the game at 1-1. The Bruins had been scored on for just the second time this fall.
“It was a build-out we’ve been working on, doing quick one-two touch passes to get past defenders,” Aguilera said. “And Madi and I think had like two or three passes before I even shot the ball. I don’t even know how many assists she’s had for me but she’s always there for me.”
The goal tied Aguilera with Gabi Stoian for second on Arizona’s all-time scoring list with 28. She is chasing Mallory Miller who scored 32 goals in her Wildcat career.
The Bruins broke through again in the 71st minute to go ahead 2-1 on a goal by Maricarmen Reyes. That put an end to the scoring for the night, but it didn’t put an end to the Wildcats’ optimism.
“We beat ourselves on those two corners,” Hisey said. “And we’re obviously going to clean that up and be better. And if we do that, then we come away with a win against a No. 3 team. So teams can’t take us for granted. I know that our record may look a certain way to people and maybe our performances in the past, but that’s not reflective of who we are. And I think we sent a big message tonight.”