Arizona Wildcats soccer
Wildcats end soccer season with loss
Arizona drop final match against fierce rival Arizona State
The University of Arizona Wildcats fought a energetic match against their most disliked rivals, the Arizona State University Sun Devils. Despite a beautiful goal from forward Jazmin Ponce, the Cats lost in the end, 1-2.
It comes as no surprise to anybody in Arizona that this match started with a different energy level than most matches. The team's traditional running to the stands to throw Wildcat tchotchkes to fans was replaced by a huddle and a chant.
Even with the team being more "up" than usual for this match, ASU was the first to make a strong attack. Sun Devil Devin Marshall broke past Arizona's defense and took a shot from the right side of goal. It went straight into the arms of the smartly positioned Ashley Jett, the first of five saves she made in the game—and not the hardest.
ASU would get another shot off and Arizona had one that sailed over the crossbar before ASU's forward Sierra Cook took advantage of a breakout and slipped it past Jett.
By the end of the half, ASU and Arizona were even in shots, 7 each, but ASU was up in the stat they keep track of in the lights: 1-0.
The second half started with two great chances for Arizona. Two minutes after the restart, Susana Melendez was taken down outside the box. Arizona set up a free kick from just outside the box, the ball made it around the three-person wall, but straight to ASU keeper Alyssa Gilmore. Arizona was able to get possession again, allowing Kristin Griffin to take another shot. The shot was smothered by Gilmore.
ASU was on the attack again in minute 55. Jett made a full stretch to make the save.
Moments later, Arizona earned a corner kick, one of five earned in the half. Forward Ana-Maria Montoya delivered the ball into the box, but the ball was cleared into safety by the Sun Devil defense. ASU players protested about an alleged uncalled foul, but referee Vince Cortes would have none of it.
Arizona earned two more free kicks in front of ASU's box, leading to more protests from ASU players. Cortes stopped play and to scold the Sun Devils. Defender Sierra Joseph was less than happy with Cortes's tone, and her continued complaints earned her a yellow card for dissent.
A save from Gilmore resulted in another corner for Arizona, but Montoya and her fellow Cats were unable to make a goal out of it.
In the 69th minute, ASU brought the ball up the field. Shannon Heinzler took down the ASU forward to stop the attack, a "professional foul" as the commentators say. Heinzler was issued a yellow for her trouble and ASU's ensuing free kick resulted in a shot worthy of NASA.
Even with the miss, ASU had a series of chances at Arizona's net. ASU's Devon Marshall made a wide shot, and Arizona's Kristyn Magyar had to kick a ball over the end line to break up one attack.
Once Arizona was able to get possession, Jazmin Ponce broke past the ASU defense and took a shot from wide left of the goal. ASU's Gilmore seemed to have all the angles covered, but Ponce was able to slide one past her.
The tie was short-lived. Five minutes later, Jett was caught out during a scramble in front of the goal mouth, and Cook scored her 14th goal of the season.
Arizona still had a bit left to say, with two strong attacks on goal that earned corner kicks. But, forcing an over time was not to be. The whistle blew with Arizona down, ending the season the way too many games did this season.
Yes, but was it bigger than a womp rat?
"Every thing felt like slow motion," Ponce said after the game while describing her goal. "It was coming down, and I said I gotta get this in."
It wasn't the easiest shot to make: Ponce was at a low angle to the face of the goal, and Gilmore was well positioned to cover pretty much the whole face that Ponce could see. Despite this, Ponce saw one spot in the corner and went for it.
"I got it in and said 'thank God.'"
Jett sails into the setting sun
Goalkeeper Jett is the only graduating senior on the team. She was honored in a short ceremony before the game. As for future plans, she said that "I just want to enjoy my spring."
Interestingly, Jett didn't start her career as a goalkeeper. She and her sister, Lisa, both played forward back in Texas. So what changed?
"We both played on a rec team when we were younger and my dad was coach. He loved every minute of it, probably more than anyone on the team. Of course, when you are ten years old, no one wants to play goal keeper. No one volunteered. So he forced us to each play goal keeper for a half, and play forward for the other half. We hated it at first, but eventually we grew to love it."
It seemed to have an effect on both of them. Lisa Jett just finished her senior year playing goal keeper for the University of Oklahoma Sooners.
Jett finished her senior year with 85 saves for the season.
Coach Lisa Oyen admits that the season was frustrating. "It got redundant: we played hard, we create chances, we don't score."
Still, Oyen had praise for her players. Particularly for Jett.
"I am so incredibly proud of what Ashley Jett has done over her four years here, the sacrifices she's made for this team and how she's represented this team."
Oyen also had praise for Brittany Cole, whose career was lost to injury but she's been serving as a coach of the team. "I wish everyone knew what a spectacular player she was... I loved having her as part of this program."
With Jett being the only graduating player, Oyen starts next year with a squad that could look a lot like the one that took the field Friday night. She's not willing to pick out one player as a star, but saw improvement throughout the team.
"Without going through the whole roster, I think a lot of players had really good moments all throughout the season. We're not necessarily a team that has one go-to player, we have to rely on multiple players to step up. And I think we saw that throughout the season."