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Great Horny Toads: Wildcats score late for win over TCU

Falasco, Crisler goals earn victory

Much of the attention of Wildcat fans was focused on McKale Center on Friday night, but at Mulcahy Stadium, the women's soccer team posted a win over Texas Christian University in the first round of the NCAA tournament.

Horned Frogs on the board

The home side pressured early, with both Cali Crisler and Gabi Stoian recording shots. However, things changed as the half wore on.

"After about 20 minutes the game settled down and we started to put some people in some big spots," said TCU coach Eric Bell after the match. "Once we got past the midfield line there was a lot of space to pass to."

That space came in handy in minute 31, when TCU earned a free kick just inside the final third. Midfielder Kayla Hill, who had been the main engine for the team in the first half, took the free kick which found the head of Emma Heckendorn. Heckendorn got it past Wildcat keeper Lainey Burdett for her fifth goal of the season.

TCU nearly doubled their lead minutes later, but a fantastic save from Burdett kept the lead to a manageable 1.

Switching things up

"We started the game well," said Arizona coach Tony Amato. "The last 30 minutes of that, TCU seemed to win the first balls, win the second balls, win any physical confrontation. You can't be successful doing that."

His halftime plea with the team, he said, was "If we are going to go down, we aren't going to go down that way."

At half time, Amato encouraged his team to press and win the ball more. Other than moving Gabi Stoian to act more as a midfielder, he didn't feel the need to make a tactical switch.

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"We can talk tactics for the next seven hours," he said. "It didn't matter at that point if we weren't going to win tackles."

The Wildcats were able to keep TCU bottled up in their half for much of the second frame. It took until the 74th minute for the pressure to pay off when the team won a corner kick. Gabi Stoian sent the ball into the scrum of players in front of the box. Samantha Falasco took full advantage of the discombobulated TCU keeper to tip it past her and tie up the match.

"Gabi kicked a fantastic ball," said Falasco after the match. "It came and it hit off someone. I saw it on the ground and I saw the opportunity and I kicked it."

The Wildcats continued to press, looking for the winning goal. It came from a long range shot from Cali Crissler minute 80.

"No one was on me and I had space to shoot it," Crissler said after the match. "People moving off the ball opened up the space...we did a good job of that."

Shutting the match down

The Wildcats had the lead, but with 10 minutes left and a TCU team now sparked up, things could have easily changed. Coach Amato had a raft of subs ready to go in, but he chose to wait a few minutes to let the team calm down before reorganizing.

Things fell on the shoulders of netminder Lainey Burdett to keep things organized before the last minute defensive changes were made.

"We just needed to not panic and have our backs stand up every forward as they come," she said. "Just not panicking and getting the ball forward and not just sitting back."

Patterns

The match could be compared to Oct. 26th's match against Washington State, where the team recovered from a first half deficit to score two for the win.

Or, it could have gone very differently like the early season match against Florida Gulf Coast, where the team couldn't find the goal to recover from an early tally from the visitors.

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During the postgame presser, Cali Crissler, Lainey Burdett and Samantha Falasco were asked what the difference was between Friday night's match and the FGC match. The three of them hesitated for an answer when Tony Amato poked his head in.

"We won," he said.

Round of 32

The Wildcats are set to play Florida State in the next round of the tournament. The game will take place in Palo Alto next weekend. The exact day and time has not yet been set.

The Seminoles earned their spot in the next round with a 5-0 win over Mississippi, two of those goals coming from Deyna Castellanos. The Seminoles have not had a postseason goal scored against them at home since 2013.

Ted Prezelski writes about all things soccer, fútbol and piłka nożna for TucsonSentinel.com and at the blog How Flair is Punished (mindingthe.net).


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Stan Liu/Arizona Athletics

Cali Crisler