FC Tucson women have strong win in final home match of 2021
Another brace for Duarte; Hisey & back line earn shutout
FC Tucson ended their final home match of 2021 with an emphatic 3 - 0 scoreline over longtime rivals SC Del Sol at Kino North Stadium on Friday night.
SC Del Sol, a team from Phoenix, arrived in with a line-up that included ASU and Brazil youth international Lara Barbieri and Sara Islas, who was infamously involved in an altercation when the teams first met in 2013. Unfortunately for the visitors, they also arrived with only two substitutes.
FC Tucson’s first strong chance came from Luz Duarte, which was unsurprising given how productive she’s been for the team this year. Her sixth-minute volley was not on target, however.
It took until minute 25 for Duarte to find the back of the net. A pass from out wide ended up in the crowd in front of the box. After a moment, the ball landed at the feet of Duarte, who was standing just outside the post. A quick tap sent the ball off a Del Sol defender’s ankle and into the back of the net.
In minute 53, Erin Craig broke away from her defender after a long run and took a shot that went over the crossbar. Minutes later, Duarte did the same thing, except she found the back of the net.
Those two moments that let Craig and Duarte alone with the keeper were rare for Del Sol. They played as a defensive oriented squad that seemed to mass their entire team in the final third each time FC Tucson had a credible threat. Maybe the day-glo yellow jerseys were part of the illusion, but the swarm of Del Sol players whenever FC Tucson was in the final third seemed like more than eleven.
The emphasis on defense meant not much in the way of an attack, and only a few options to create counterattacks. One of the few threats came in minute 67, when Del Sol had a free kick opportunity from about 25 yards out. Hope Hisey was up to the task and smothered the ball before it hit the goal line.
Bella Santavicca, an Ironwood Ridge alumna who currently plays at Saint Mary’s College, finished off the scoring for the night in the 72nd minute. A corner kick destined for Duarte’s forehead was instead cleared by the Del Sol defense. The ball, however, ended up at the feet of Santavicca, who was stationed deep in midfield. Her long range shot went over the Del Sol back line, already moving up after the clearance, and made it past the startled goalkeeper.
More than the scoreline, the win was a culmination of a lot of things that the team has been working on all season.
“I think this is our best win yet,” said goalkeeper Hope Hisey, who logged her second shutout of the season. “We scored great goals; we finished our chances; we had minimal defensive errors...I can’t say enough.”
Hisey particularly praised the back line.
“Having Sabs (Sabrina Enciso) back there really helps calm down the defense and obviously Kate (Connelly) is doing a great job playing with the Pimienta twins and making sure we are keeping our shape,” she said. “The more we play together, the more we gel and the less opportunities we’ll give when they try to equalize.”
Giving those opportunities after the team has acquired a lead has been the struggle this season despite the undefeated record. The team gave up a second half goal to Atomic City in last week’s match which let the team back into the match. Two second half goals by FC Arizona two weeks ago turned a 2 - 0 lead into a draw. On Friday night, that didn’t happen.
“That’s what we’ve been working on and focusing on,” said coach Kelly Kearns. “I hate giving up silly goals. I told them to be more defensive and responsible.”
Kearns also pointed out that Del Sol was composed and smart about their defense. Swarming with each FC Tucson attack limited opportunities, but the team adapted.
“We talked about in our prep how they were a good defensive team,” said Bella Santavicca. “Throughout the season, they have been putting pressure high. We knew if we stepped high, we’d be confronted with those tight spaces. We started connecting passes and breaking them down.”
Although the math says that FC Tucson could lose its first-place ranking (16 points, 16 clear of second-place FC Arizona) on the Desert Conference table, their final games are two away matches, one against Del Sol (Wednesday in Phoenix) and the other against El Paso Surf. The two teams have combined for only two wins so far this season.