Call the French secret service: Wildcats sink Rainbow Warriors
Ponce grabs fifth, sixth goal of season; Estopare, Wong each tally one
The bench players for the University of Hawaii Rainbow Warriors remained standing for the entire match and even sang a song or two to support the players on the field at Mulcahy Stadium on Friday. It may have helped a little, but not enough as the visitors fell to the Arizona Wildcats by a score of 4-1.
The match had the makings of a rout when Arizona won an early corner kick, taken by Jazmin Ponce, and Hayley Estopare headed it into the goal in the second minute. Only moments later, Ponce rocketed a free kick into the back of the goal from just outside the penalty area. It was Ponce’s fifth goal of the season.
Hawaii found their way back into the game with a shot in the 9th minute, and managed a score in the 17th minute with a goal from freshman Kama Pascua.
Arizona won back its two goal lead a few minutes later when Ponce set up to take another free kick that went straight at the goal and beat Hawaii keeper Monk Berger.
Ponce tallied five shots in the half, and nearly had another goal in the closing moments. Her 40th-minute long-range shot was tipped into the crossbar by Berger.
Ponce was a bit quieter in the second half, leaving New Zealander Hannah Wong to take on scoring duties for the team. Her 53rd-minute unassisted goal turned out to be the only tally in the second half.
Hawaii wasn’t going down quietly, however. They gave the Cats several scares, including an 86th-minute scramble at the mouth of goal that had to be cleared off the line by two separate Wildcat defenders. Hawaii couldn’t find their way to score, however.
The match ended Arizona’s non-conference schedule. They open their PAC-12 schedule with a difficult tilt against fourth ranked UCLA on Friday at 7 pm at Mulcahy Stadium. The Bruins’ only loss this season came against North Carolina on Sept. 6.
Shoring it up
Even though it was a solid three-goal victory, coach Tony Amato acknowledged times that Hawaii managed to get the better of the Cats.
“I thought it was good. We came out and put two early ones in and set a good tone to the match,” he said. “But then for about 15 minutes after that they got in the game and started causing us some problems. We did some substitutions in the last 15 minutes, got composed and retook control of the game and that carried on into the second half.”
Amato also pointed out that Hawaii is no pushover; they played two PAC-12 opponents, Oregon and Oregon State, to 1—0 victories.
Looking forward to next week’s match, Amato will be working on the defense.
“It’s something we know for sure we have to keep improving on,” he said. “And keep improving on, and keep improving on. We know that the PAC-12 is not a league that you can’t not defend well and get results.”
“We’ll keep working on it and get ready for a tough UCLA team next weekend,” he added.
For those who keep track of such things, UCLA has out shot their opponents so far 133 – 70. Arizona’s defense will have their work cut out for them.
'Football Fern' scores one for Arizona
It couldn’t be called the “game winning goal” since the team was ahead for 88 minutes of the match, but Hannah Wong’s 53rd-minute goal closed the door on all but the most unlikely comebacks for Hawaii.
“It was good. Things in the second half were building pretty well,” she said of her goal. “It just came to me at the top of the box. A bit of luck, actually.”
It’s a bit of modesty for the Australian-born but New Zealand-raised sophomore who has shown that she’s got a nose for goal. She’s competed for New Zealand’s youth national teams, and was the top scorer for the Oceana qualifying tournament in the run-up to the 2010 Under-17 World Cup. She scored a total of eight in the qualifiers, including six in a 18-0 thrashing of Tonga. She logged three assists for Arizona last year, and this is her second goal this year.
“She was outstanding tonight,” coach Amato said of Wong. “She’s someone who has all the tools. She’s working on bringing a consistency to her game, and I think in the last couple of weeks she’s done that. If she can bring that for 20 minutes or 90 minutes, it’s going to help us. We are very pleased with the progress she’s made.”
'I like the pressure'
In the current setup for the Cats, Jazmin Ponce often plays a withdrawn forward. It’s a far cry from last season, where the team was at times over-dependent on her for offense.
Does she feel a burden being lifted from her shoulders? Not quite.
“I actually like the pressure,” she said after the match. “It helps me out. It pushes me further. When we were in Ohio State, I was saying to myself ‘You want this, you want this.’ I play better with all the pressure.”
The upcoming PAC-12 schedule will include three teams in the top 25, plus two, USC and ASU, that are just on the outside of being ranked. Ponce is confident she and her teammates can compete.
“We’re ready for anything,” she said.
Wilbur a Selman fan?
Wilbur Wildcat showed up at the match wearing a jersey for the other football. Still, he seemed to pay tribute to one player on the field since he was wearing number 13, Lexe Selman’s number.
So, what is it Wilbur admires about the Canadian-born midfielder? Is it for her personal battle with leukemia? Her keen read of the game? Her boundless enthusiasm?
As usual, Wilbur had no comment.