After the first half of play, the Arizona Wildcats had to feel good about themselves. They played one of the most decorated soccer programs in the country to a scoreless draw and controlled possession in their attacking third of the field for much of the half. Ultimately, Stanford proved why they are one of the most decorated programs by coming out in the second half and controlling the final 45 minutes in a 2-0 victory.
“The first half of the game was the best half of soccer we’ve played all season,” said Arizona head coach Becca Moros. “So if we want to be the team that we think we can be and that we know we can be, it’s got to be every half like that.”
At the end of the first half, there was very little difference between the two teams. While Stanford outshot Arizona 9-4, none of the shots felt terribly threatening. The Cardinal had one more corner kick than the Wildcats and were whistled for five fouls to four for Arizona.
It was almost as if two different teams came out after the half, though. Stanford ended the night with 25 shots, 10 of which were on goal, and two goals. Fourteen of their shots and both goals came after the half.
“I feel like in the first half, we more controlled the pace and the tempo of the game,” said Arizona goalkeeper Hope Hisey. “And then the second half, we kind of let them gain momentum. And they have really good players and really experienced players, so they knew how to grab hold of that momentum...We kind of let the game slip away from us rather than taking hold of it.”
Hisey was put to the test and was able to save eight of the shots Stanford sent her way. It was a performance her coach was proud of.
“I think Hope did really well,” Moros said. “She had a lot of big saves. She was tested for sure. She’s had more action in this game than she’s had all season.”
It wasn’t the first time the Wildcats had played one really good half of soccer only to fail to play the entire game that way. The question is whether that occurs for mental or physical reasons.
“I’d say it’s probably a combination of both in most cases,” said Moros. “But given that I think that we’re fit, I think there is a mental piece to it, there’s a belief piece. And then there’s a discipline piece of once you start bringing that and you put more and more and more minutes together, it becomes a part of your identity. And then once it’s in there, then you kind of build that discipline to always play that way, and that’s your expectation for yourself and the expectation for your teammates.”
It wasn’t all about what Arizona didn’t do. Stanford also raised its play as great teams often do.
“I think that they kind of regrouped and came out a little more organized and more composed,” Moros said. “And they figured out...how to handle our press.”
Arizona has another shot to get the first Pac-12 win of the season when the California Golden Bears come to town on Sunday. To do that, they will need to play a complete 90 minutes.
“It’s about getting that first-half performance to be our standard and how we perform every single game, every single minute, every single half,” Moros said.