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Arizona soccer

Felines beat canines: Wildcats down Lobos in spring season match

Wilson returns to squad to earn hattrick against Mountain West champs

Taking a look at the smattering of sunscreen slathered fans at Mulcahy Stadium on Sunday, it would be hard to believe that the Arizona Wildcats soccer team started their spring season only a few weeks ago with a game cancelled due to snow.

Maybe the sun was a good thing, as they earned a decisive win over New Mexico by a score of 4 - 1 in the 80-minute tune-up match. Sophomore Brooke Wilson earned her first hat trick for the team.

Wilson, who missed much of the fall season due to injury, wasted no time in scoring in the second minute. She left goalkeeper Emily Johnson frustrated again less than two minutes later when Wilson caught her off her line.

The attacking trio of Wilson on the right, striker Jada Talley in the middle and the speedy Jill Aguilera on the left kept New Mexico’s defenders frustrated. Aguilera got the ball to Talley in minute 14 for the team’s third goal. New Mexico was not looking like a team that had won their conference championship in November.

The Lobos managed to pull one back just past the 20-minute mark when an attacker got past the rarely tested Arizona back line.

Whatever hopes the team had for mounting a comeback from there were dashed in the 30th minute when Wilson again slipped the ball into the back of the net.

The second half saw two early shots by the Wildcats, but both were saved. What looked like a sure way to put a nickel on the scoreboard came 9 minutes in to the second half when a Morgan McGarry corner kick found the foot of Samantha Falasco. It went to the left corner of the goal mouth while Johnson was planted on the right. However, defender Alesia Garcia was there to kick it away centimeters shy of the line.

New Mexico’s attack showed more confidence as the half wore on. At minute 20, Arizona keeper Kendyll Humphreys had a bit of a scare when she got nudged into dropping a ball and two Lobos attackers were ready to pounce. She managed to regain control of the ball before they were able to take a shot. Aside from the first half goal, it was one of the few times she was called into action.

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The Wildcats finish their spring season play on Friday with a match against Grand Canyon University.

'She can score goals'

One of the main offensive weapons last season was assist leader Amanda Porter, who wasn’t on the field but in the stands. It was announced earlier this year that she would be transferring.

Not that she isn’t missed, but the team has adjusted to the loss. They lost 3 - 1 to BYU on March 23, but beat their rivals from Tempe 5 - 3 last Saturday. That’s 10 goals in three preseason matches.

Wilson missed both of those previous spring season matches, but Amato is counting on her to be an important part of the offense of the team in the fall. Her performance on Sunday was an important part of growing into that role.

“She needed that from a confidence standpoint...she hasn’t been able to find her rhythm since she’s been here,” he said. “I think that’s a big step for her and we’ll keep building from there.”

As for her role in the team, Amato was succinct.

“She can score goals,” he said. “It’s so hard to do...there are a lot of good players out there and not a lot of goal scorers. Her finest quality is that.”

Shootouts and handball

The match ended 4 - 1, but they had a penalty kick shootout anyway.

Since it was spring season, the New Mexico staff asked that the teams practice a penalty kick shootout. The NCAA is allergic to regular season ties, but chooses to settle these with overtimes. This isn’t always practical in the postseason, so the use the penalty kick shootout common in leagues around the world. New Mexico’s Mountain West conference has a championship tournament (the PAC 12 does not), so they stand a better chance of encountering them.

In the end, New Mexico won the “shootout.”

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In other training exercise news, the soccer team has been taking advantage of the new Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center. The team can now practice indoors. Among the things Amato has been doing is having the players play a modified form of international handball.

“Tony calls it handball, but it’s not handball. I don’t know what it is,” said Jada Talley. “It’s different...it makes you look up.It makes you keep your head on a swivel and look for the open person more. Because you can only take two steps, you are forced to pass it.”

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Ryan Kelapire, special to TucsonSentinel.com

Arizona's sophomore midfielder Brooke Wilson earned her first hat trick as an Arizona player on Sunday.