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Arizona soccer

No cross necessary: Sun Devils exorcized by Aguilera's brace in Wildcat win

2 goals break UA's long-standing career scoring record

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Arizona's Jill Aguilera scores from a free kick just outside the ASU box to draw level as the highest-scoring Wildcat in program history. - Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.com

The scoreline says that Saturday night’s action at Mulcahy Stadium hosted a 2-1 victory for the Arizona Wildcats over their rivals from up north. It was a team effort, but the night belonged to senior Jill Aguilera.

Aguilera, the team’s number-one sniper, started the scoring in only the 12th minute. The team earned a free kick wide-right of the goal, a spot perfect for her. Her shot made a perfect arc over a flatfooted ASU keeper.

The goal put the Wildcats up, but it also put Jill Aguilera in a tie with Arizona soccer legend Mallory Miller as the school's top career goal-scorer.

Aguilera’s teammates clearly wanted her to break that record. It seemed any time the ball made it to the final third, it would get sent her way to allow her a shot. At the end of the night, the forward had nine shots (four on frame) while the rest of the team had five put together.

Despite not getting any more goals for the rest of the half, the team kept the pressure up on ASU’s back line. They kept that up until the hour mark, when ASU started getting into the Wildcat back third more and more.

ASU constantly threatened as the game wore on. Arizona's back line kept them from getting good shots and goalkeeper Hope Hisey managed to stop the few they had (3 saves for the night). Still, it seemed inevitable when Nicole Douglas, the Sun Devils' main scoring threat, got the ball past Hisey in the 82nd minute.

It’s college soccer, so the match had to go into overtime. The Wildcats immediately pressured the ASU backline, and it paid off after only three minutes. An ASU defender handled the ball in the box and, after a bit of argument from the ASU players, the referee pointed at the spot for a penalty kick.

One guess who took the penalty kick.

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Aguilera did nothing fancy. She drilled a moderately speedy shot down the middle of the goal mouth. ASU keeper Julia Ortega started to go to her left before realizing that was the wrong choice. The shot was already in as she tried to step back to the middle.

The entire team mobbed an emotional Aguilera, including the entire bench, team staff and Hope Hisey, who ran faster than she ever had in her life from the other end of the field to join in.

The goal put Aguilera on the top of UA's career goals chart. Miller, the previous holder of the crown, was in the crowd to see it. She congratulated Aguilera after the match.

“It’s crazy,” said Aguilera, still with a quiver in her voice. “It think it’s even better that Mallory was here. She was such a great player, is a great player...she’s a great person.”

Aguilera’s Wildcat career featured injuries, a slow start, a COVID season and a season adjusting to a new coach.

“It feels great,” she said. “So many players go through so many different adverse times in their life. I’m another one. To be able to do something with that, it means a lot. I’m just happy to be here and see our team’s hard work pay off.”

Aguilera’s professional rights are owned by the Chicago Red Stars, who are in the playoffs currently. She’ll continue to work with Arizona coach Becca Moros, who played pro soccer for a decade and a half and spent 5 seasons in the NWSL, until Red Stars camp opens in February.

“I’m going to train with her, train with the team if I can,” she said. “I’m going to do what I can to stay ready to move to the next level.”

Streaking

Aguilera got to end her career with a defeat against ASU.

“I’ve never lost to ASU in all my years here, so that’s another feat I’m really proud of,” she said.

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Aguilera and many of the current Wildcats have the unique distinction of defeating ASU three times in a single calendar year. COVID forced the rescheduling of the 2020 season to between February and April of this year. Trying to minimize travel meant administrators filled out the season with two matches against ASU, one in Tucson and one in Tempe.

Aguilera also scored in Tempe.

It’s the seventh straight contest between the two that Arizona has won, and only the second time ASU has scored over the course of those matches.

One has to go back to 2015 for the last ASU win. That match capped off a middling season for ASU, mainly due to scoring ace Cali Farquharson’s injuries. She got healthy in time to score a hattrick at Mulcahy Stadium. McKenzie Berryhill scored as well, and had a friendly taunt to the Wildcat fans in attendance.

Maybe she knew they weren’t going to score much after that.

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