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Posted Oct 8, 2011, 10:11 am
Earlier this week, University of Arizona Wildcats soccer coach Lisa Oyen quoted a saying she'd once read: "Failure isn't falling down. Failure is staying down."
Friday after the team's long awaited first game of the season, Oyen quoted another well worn saying: "Patience is a virtue."
The Wildcats' first victory came last night in a 1-0 match against the University of Oregon Ducks, the opening stanza of a two-game weekend against both Pac-12 Oregon schools.
Arizona made its first offensive push immediately after the opening whistle. In the first minute of the game, the ball caromed off of several players right in front of Oregon's goal. A clearance landed at the feet of forward Jazmin Ponce who took her chance.
It sailed harmlessly above the goal, but it was a moment-of-attacking play that laid the groundwork for the rest of the half. Arizona dominated possession, and managed eight shots in the half versus Oregon's three. It seemed Oregon's only offense came from quickly broken-up counterattacks started when keeper Abby Steele saved yet another Arizona shot.
Despite Arizona having the bulk of possession and looks at goal, the half ended 0-0.
Oregon was able to get more possession and more looks at goal in the second half, and did a much better job of limiting Arizona's shots. But, Arizona still was able to make the most of the chances they had. In minute 57, Shannon Heinzler ended up alone with Oregon's Steele. Heinzler took a shot, Steele saved it but couldn't control the ball. Both went for the ball and fell in the ensuing toggle.
The referee blew the whistle and pointed to the penalty spot. Defender Alex Smith stepped up to take the kick. When it came time, she delivered it calmly and clinically to Steele's far right. Despite her dive and stretch, she couldn't save it.
"It's routine for me," Smith said after the game. "I always go to the same side; I always do the same thing."
It didn't seem all that routine. The Cats mobbed Smith like she'd won the World Cup. It was one of the few leads this team had all season and they wanted to celebrate.
Still, it was only a 1-0 lead. Oregon amped up their offense. Ashley Jett was almost immediately called on to make to two big saves.
"The first one was off of a free kick. I couldn't really see it. I just made a reaction save to keep it out of the back of the net," Jett said. "We were up 1 - 0 so I needed to step my game up to make sure we didn't go down."
Oregon's second big chance came when a Ducks' forward dribbled through Arizona's stretched out defense. Jett smothered both the shot and the chance at Oregon's comeback.
The whistle blew to something new: a win for Arizona. So, the obvious question: does this feel good?
"Yes, absolutely," said Smith. "We were so excited. This is a win that's been waiting for a while."
Ponce thought that this was something that's been coming for a while too.
"This is the way we've been playing for the past few months. We just finally got our result."
Like coach said: Patience is a virtue.
Stay calm, Grasshopper
Penalty kicks should be the easiest thing in sports. The goal mouth is 24 feet across and rules about when the goalkeeper can make her first move conspire to make saving the shot nearly impossible for even the best of them.
But a surprising number of penalty kicks go wide or fly above the crossbar. Even players with extensive international experience have this trouble: U.S. national teamer Carli Lloyd missed a penalty kick in this year's Womens' World Cup final, helping guarantee Japan the win.
Alex Smith was able to do it though, so what is the secret?
"It's about not using power. It's about not getting amped up that you are about to score. You have to be disciplined and know exactly where you are going to go. Stay where you are comfortable and go to the side you always go to," she said.
No more Nae-Nae
Arizona forward Renae Cuellar is not continuing with the team, and no further comment is forthcoming from team officials.
In 2010, then-junior Cuellar scored six goals before being sidelined with a knee injury. Despite coming back for her senior year, she was unable to find the back of the net in this season.
Cuellar played in all four of Mexico's games in last year's Under-20 Womens' World Cup, and scored against Japan and England in the opening round of the tournament.
The Cats host the Oregon State Beavers at Mulcahy Stadium at noon on Sunday.