Arizona women's soccer drops first PAC-12 match to #3 UCLA
'Complete performance' for Wildcats falls tantalizingly short against highly rated Bruins squad
You’d have every right to think it would have been a blow-out.
Going into Thursday’s soccer match against the University of Arizona Wildcats, the #3 UCLA Bruins had gone 16 regular season games without a loss. Only one goal had been scored against them this season, and that was back in August. The line-up includes women in the U.S. national team system.
At the end of 90 minutes, Arizona lost the match 2 - 1, but put on an impressive performance and at times looked like the stronger of the two teams.
“A thousand percent, this is the best game we played all year,” said goalkeeper Hope Hisey. We showed that we can stay with the best teams in this country and that we are improving every day.”
The match kicked off at a relatively late 8 p.m. to accommodate a PAC-12 Network broadcast, but a boisterous crowd that included drummers from the UA band and members of the basketball team helped power the Cats through a first quarter-hour that had them spending a lot of time in UCLA’s back third. Shots came from freshman Maddy Koleno, Quincy Bonds and scoring ace Jill Aguilera.
UCLA had their shots too, and just as the clock ticked to minute 19, the team earned a corner kick. Marley Canales got the ball to Mia Fishel, who spent time in US national team camp last October, maneuvered the ball past Hisey.
UCLA continued to pressure, but the Arizona defense was up to the task. Hisey made three more saves, and many times the Bruins forwards were forced out wide by Arizona’s tenacious fullbacks. There was plenty of action in front of UCLA’s goal as well, with Aguilera getting two shots as the half ran down.
Aguilera got rewarded for her efforts in minute 53 with the assistance of Madison Goerlinger. Goerlinger and Aguilera traded the ball back and forth along the wing. Once Aguilera got into the box, Goerlinger sent it to her and she delivered it past goalkeeper Lauren Brzcky.
It was the first goal scored against Brzcky all season.
The draw lasted for 20 minutes, but UCLA’s Maricarmen Reyes, who has had appearances for Mexico’s youth squads, scored after UCLA earned another corner kick in minute 71.
A loss to be sure, but there were some major accomplishments for the Wildcats. They scored against UCLA, which has been a feat for better ranked teams this season. Even though UCLA scored twice, both goals were on set pieces as Arizona limited good chances in the run of play.
Arizona coach Becca Moros was pleased with the match, especially after a loss to Gonzaga where she admitted the team was “flat.”
“I’m really proud of them,” said Moros. “Tonight is as close to a complete performance that we’ve had. We dominated for many minutes of the game, they are better than us in the box and that’s why they are walking away with a two goal game.”
As much as confidence played a role in the offensive output of the team, there were players available that hadn't been in past weeks. Midfielder Illiana Hocking, for example, made her first start since August.
"The biggest thing was that we put four in the midfield tonight," she said. "We haven't had healthy players...we've missed some of that experience...we were able to rotate our line-up and personnel, which we haven't been able to do."
The team plays against USC on Sunday at 1 p.m., in a match that will see the return of Jada Talley, who transferred to the Trojans this summer.