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Arizona sdvances: 3-0 win over Denver propels Wildcats to second round of NCAA tournament

Goals scored by Kieneker, Porter, Cavarra

The University Arizona women's soccer team will advance in the NCAA tournament after a deceptively resounding 3 - 0 win over the University of Denver Pioneers at Mulcahy Stadium on Friday night.

Arizona pressured better in the first half, with Denver largely allowing them the bulk of possession. The Wildcats had the bulk of the chances, but goalkeeper Brittany Wilson was able to bat them away.

Even though the Wildcats owned the ball for longer stretches of the half, it was two of the Pioneers' expeditions upfield that proved to be more dangerous. The first was in minute 34 after Arizona keeper Lainey Burdett was forced to come off her line and was left a bit out of position. Morgan McGarry intervened before the Denver forward was able to take the shot.

More spectacular heroism was called for to prevent another Denver chance minutes later. Burdett dove to grab the ball, but Denver freshman Samantha Feller kept possession and dribbled around the Arizona keeper. Left with an enticing open net, she took a few extra seconds to control the ball. Arizona's Hallie Pearson used those moments to dash in and clear the ball over the line.

Amanda Porter and Jada Talley combined for the first offensive chance of the second half, but it was senior Kennedy Kieneker scored the first goal of the evening off of a cross from Jada Talley.

Less than five minutes later, Denver keeper Wilson left her line and dove to grab the ball to prevent a Wildcat advance. Her momentum took her out of the goal box, earning her a whistle for a hand ball. The subsequent free kick by Amanda Porter, Wilson's former high school and club teammate, easily made it into the net.

Arizona kept up the pressure, which earned them another set play in minute 74. The ensuing kick was taken by another former teammate of Wilson, midfielder Kelcey Cavarra.

A late match mass substitution gave some under-used Wildcats a chance to get on the field, among them was Brooke Wilson, who spent the last two months injured.

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The win earns the Wildcats a trip to Knoxville to play against the University of Tennessee in the next round. Tennessee beat Louisville on the strength of a brace by forward Bunny Shaw.

Tuning Up, Part 1

Despite the final score, the 0 - 0 scoreline at the end of the first half better indicated the contest: two teams that matched up well tactically. Arizona was left without many quality chances (only two shots on goal in the first half). Coach Tony Amato's first half strategy was about "wearing them down." At half time, there was a need for some changes.

"We changed formations," said midfielder Kennedy Kieneker said. "We put in an outside mid, and Morgan (McGarry) was getting forward a lot too, so I think that messed them up and we got a lot more numbers forward."

The change was obvious in the score line as well as in the other stats: Arizona outshot Denver 13 - 3 in the second half, with shots coming from nine different players.

Tuning Up, Part 2

Denver's could be summed up as absorbing pressure and waiting for chances to counterattack. It worked well. In addition to the two spectacular chances in the first half, there was a dangerous chance by Pioneer midfielder Meg Halvorson early in the second half.

Tactics like that need to be tinkered with once a team falls behind. Coach Jeff Hooker admitted that circumstances left his team unable to.

"We were trying to go from two holding mids to one," Hooker said. We couldn't get the ball enough. We couldn't connect enough passes to get one of those mids in and get that formation...we couldn't get it quick enough."

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Curtis Dutiel

Denver’s Natalie Beckman tries to pounce on a ball while Arizona’s Lainey Burdett snatches it away. Burdett‘s ability to intervene in Denver’s attacks meant that they recorded very few shots and she only made one save.