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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona soccer: Wildcats extend winning streak with 2-0 win over Northern Illinois

Alex McIntyre
Arizona midfielders Hailey Mazzola (17) and Jaden DeGracie-Bailey (14) congratulate Arizona midfielder Gabi Stoian (9) after her goal during the first round of the Arizona Cats Classic against Northern Illinois University at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. on Friday, Sept. 9, 2016. The Wildcats beat the Huskies 2-0.

Make that three wins in a row for the Arizona women’s soccer team.

After two wins in the Sun Devil Desert Classic in Tempe last weekend, the Wildcats returned home to Tucson and followed it up with a 2-0 win over Northern Illinois on Friday night in their first game of the Arizona Cats Classic.

“I give NIU credit first off—they were up for the fight tonight and they made it difficult on us,” said Arizona head coach Tony Amato after the game. “I thought we were way sharper last weekend than we were tonight, which I wouldn’t have expected. We’ve been on the road a lot and thought tonight there would have been a bounce in our step but we obviously didn’t have them prepared for what was in store and so we have to do a better job of that.”

The Wildcats outshot opponents 44-6 in Tempe last weekend, but managed only 11 shots (while allowing six) against NIU on Friday.

“It wasn’t our best game,” said UA midfielder Gabi Stoian. “We had some good individual performances and the other team gave us a good fight, but we’ve had better games in the past and we need to get back to that next game.”

It may not have been the Wildcats’ best effort of the season, but it didn’t take long for them to take the lead.

Before the crowd at Mulcahy Stadium even had a chance to settle in, UA forward Paige Crouch scored on a long cross from Cali Crisler to put the Wildcats up 1-0.

“That’s a forward’s dream [to score in the third minute],” Crouch said. “My mindset was to hunt the ball. Coach always says, ‘whatever you do, get it in the back of the net’, so [Cali] had a beautiful cross and I was [thinking to myself] ‘get this in the net.’”

But the early goal indirectly worked against the Wildcats, as Amato felt his team got complacent after capturing the lead.

“We got an early goal, which is great, but I don’t know if they thought it was going to be easy, I’ll have to talk to some of the players,” Amato said. “It didn’t seem to impact NIU at all. They fought hard all the way till the end and they made it difficult on us. We scored early—thankfully we did.”

NIU pressured the Wildcats throughout the first half and the Huskies nearly tied the game in the 39th minute.

Arizona goalkeeper Lainey Burdett evacuated the net to try to clear the ball downfield, but she mis-hit it, and her kick went straight to NIU’s Natalie Yass, who fired a shot toward the far post.

Burdett—far out of position—scrambled across the box to make the save, and luckily for the Wildcats, Yass’ shot slammed off the post.

“The goal was just to keep the ball out of the net, [I needed to do] anything I can to get back there,” said Burdett, who’s recorded three shutouts in all three games she’s started this season.

She was tested again in the 54th minute, when NIU’s Taylor Sarver snuck past the Wildcat defense, forcing Burdett to come out of the net to challenge her shot.

Sarver fired a laser toward the net, but it was saved by Burdett or, more specifically, by Burdett’s face.

“[You have to] save it with whatever you can,” Burdett said after the game with a smile.

The Wildcats’ defense prevented any major scoring threats from there on, and Stoian iced the game in the 80th minute.

UA defender Hannah Stevens won a header in the box, sending the ball toward the net on a set piece, but an NIU defender used her hand to deflect it, resulting in a penalty kick for Stoian.

She calmly stepped forward and drilled the penalty kick into the left side of the net to put the UA up 2-0 for good.

“I’ve kicked them before so I was pretty confident,” Stoian said. “I know where I like to place it so I just put in the back of the net.”

Stoian’s teammates were confident in her too.

“We have so much faith in her,” Crouch said. “She’s an awesome player so whenever she’s put up to that we know she’s going to make it.”

The goal capped off what was a frustrating night for Stoian, as she had two shots slam off the post earlier in the contest.

“It was just like the past games where I haven’t been able to get any goals,” she said. “It’s frustrating, but there are always more chances and more opportunities so you just have to keep fighting.”

Stoian, who led Arizona in scoring the past two seasons, didn’t score in the Wildcats’ first three games, but has now scored two in her last three games.

Stoian and the Wildcats (4-1-1) will look to extend their winning streak to four games on Sunday when they’ll host the San Francisco Dons.

The Dons (3-4) knocked off Arizona State 2-1 in extra time in Tucson just before Arizona’s win over NIU.

“I have a pretty good handle on their individual players, but it’s just a matter of how they’re going to lineup tactically and how they’re going to approach us,” Amato said of USF. “And we’ll have to make that adjustment when the game gets going.”

Game time is set for 1:30 p.m.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter

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