For the second straight year, Arizona soccer dropped a heartbreaker to California. Last year, it was in the 96th minute. This season, in a year when regular-season overtime no longer exists, it was the 86th minute.
“We missed a tackle out on the flank and opportunity to either clear the ball out or to possess it, one or the other,” said head coach Becca Moros. “And because of it, they got in behind. Just smashed one on the near post.”
It marked Arizona’s third straight loss, all to Pac-12 teams. The Wildcats are still searching for their first conference victory.
“It was upsetting,” said freshman defender Angela Baron. “I’m not gonna lie, obviously. But I think that I was happy with everyone’s response to that because I know my teammates were still fighting for every single ball. They fought until the last minute.”
Outside of the single goal by the Golden Bears, neither team was able to put together much offense. Both squads had six shots in the match. Cal put three on goal and Arizona had one. The Bears had two corner kicks to none for the Wildcats.
“I know these guys are really competitive and it stings to lose,” Moros said. “It stinks. There’s three games in a row, and I think they believe that they could win these games. So I think that’s almost worse. If you really feel like you can’t win the games and you’re fighting and you’re such a big underdog that you don’t have a great chance of winning, I think sometimes you feel content with the work, in the effort even if you’re so frustrated with the result. But I think for these guys they know that they can win these games and they’re in these games and they’re one lucky break away or one mistake away from being in a different position at the end of the game.”
For now, Arizona has to work to keep morale up. They were defeated by a single goal in two of their three Pac-12 matches and played a strong half against No. 19 Stanford before giving up two goals in the second half.
“On film you can really pick out a lot of that stuff that the team is doing really well,” said Moros. “And it’s easy for them to see it in each other which is really good for them... And I know we talked about that a bit at halftime as a team, that we’re trying to push each other on vocally. It’s also a matter of recognizing what people are doing really well and making sure that you reinforce those positive things as well. Because when you’re not, you kind of lose your way a little bit. Or you’re having those kinds of negative results, you start to feel like there’s more negative than there actually is. And so you need to recognize the good things that each other is doing so that you can build on those things as well.”
The Wildcats will have to build on those things against the Los Angeles schools next week without Baron. She will be leaving on Monday to rejoin the Colombian senior national team. She said she will be gone for nine days. Moros is learning how to deal with that.
“I’m not sure Arizona ever has [had players come and go in-season], but a lot of other universities have and I called some of the coaches to see how they manage their situations,” Moros said. “And at the end of the day, she plays for the full national team in Colombia and that’s like Olympics and things like that. We can’t stand in the way of her pursuing her highest dreams. And at the end of the day, American national teams understand what college athletics is. International football, it’s a FIFA window. So all over the world pro teams are breaking and they’re on holiday for that or they’re training the players. They’re home and at their international schools abroad. So we have to treat her like a pro, and she’s just gotta go.”
Even though Baron won’t be on the pitch with her team against USC and UCLA, Moros sees some positives in the situation.
“It's tremendous,” Moros said. “The accomplishment on her end and you can see the quality in her game and when she plays. Like a pro, she uses her body exceptionally well. She’s very strong in the tackle. She reads the game well. She’s very clean and consistent on the ball. Technically, her tactical understanding is good. Those are all great things for other people to play with because athletes can learn quickly and copy. And so when you start bringing in players who do things differently, then the rest of the team has opportunities to learn and grow and take from that.”