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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona soccer rebounds against Utah Valley Wolverines

Dark, threatening clouds surrounded Mulcahy Stadium prior to Arizona soccer’s home match against Utah Valley, but the only storm that took place was the product of the Wildcats’ offense.

After dropping its season opener to Pepperdine on Friday, Arizona outshot Utah Valley 19-9 and defeated the Wolverines 5-1 in a lopsided victory on Sunday night.

The 20th-ranked Wildcats now sit with a 1-1 record.

Hannah Stevens scored two goals, while Cali Crisler, Maddie Bennett and Lexe Selman-Richards each recorded one of their own.

“It was tough to lose [to Pepperdine], but we came back and regrouped as a team,” Selman-Richards said, who has scored a goal in each of the first two games. “It feels great getting this win.”

The Wildcats’ defense, which struggled versus Pepperdine, kept Utah Valley off the board until the 89th minute, and Arizona head coach Tony Amato felt the team’s strong defensive performance led to what was an offensive flurry on the other end of the field.

“We were able to win the ball higher up the field a lot of the time,” Amato said. “I’m pretty sure when I look back at the video, a lot of the chances will have come from when we nipped balls, put [Utah Valley] under pressure, and forced them into mistakes. That either got us a corner to set up things, or that got us a throw to put them under more pressure. If you constantly keep someone under that pressure, you can force mistakes from defenders, goalkeepers and I thought that happened tonight.”

Arizona scored its first goal in the 19th minute, after a free kick by Samantha Falasco was headed in by Hannah Stevens.

Stevens, who stands at six feet tall and towered over the Utah Valley defense, cleanly high-pointed the ball and knocked it into the bottom left corner of the net to give the Wildcats an early 1-0 lead.

That would be the score at halftime, and it was all Arizona when the teams resumed play in the second half.

Less than a minute into the half, Maddie Bennett won a ball, created space near the corner of the box, and launched a shot into the top corner of the net, far out of the goalkeeper’s reach, to put Arizona up 2-0.

It was the freshman’s first career goal as a Wildcat.

“I was hoping for a goal sooner or later and today was it,” Bennett said. “I feel so good about it. How it felt after scoring … it just makes me want to score more.”

Three minutes later, Selman-Richards snuck a slow-rolling shot past the sliding Utah Valley goalkeeper to make it 3-0.

Stevens then tacked on her second goal of the night in the 52nd minute to make it 4-0.

The rout was on, but the Wildcats weren’t done quite yet.

With about 10 minutes left in regulation, a rocket of a shot from Gabi Stoian was saved but the rebound deflected right to Crisler, who calmly tapped in for the Wildcats’ fifth goal of the game.

UA goalkeeper Meredith Reinhardt, who allowed three goals in the loss to Pepperdine, had a strong bounce-back performance, shutting down Utah Valley until the 89th minute, when Alexis Peterson scored the Wolverine’s only goal.

“It’s a tough thing for any freshman to step on the field, let alone in goal, and she’s gotten more confident in every minute that’s ticked by,” Amato said of Reinhardt. “I feel for her tonight because I wanted her to get that shutout and to give up that late goal was a little bit unfortunate, but she’s doing well.”

Reinhardt has been filling in for Lainey Burdett, who has missed the first two games due to an illness.

Amato is hoping Burdett will be back when the Wildcats return to action next Friday against No. 19 Texas Tech in Lubbock, Texas.

The Red Raiders are 2-0-0 to start their 2016 campaign, having beaten New Mexico and Missouri State.

Arizona and Texas Tech tied 1-1 in Tucson last season, and Friday’s rematch is scheduled to start at 7 p.m.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter

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