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Arizona soccer: Wildcats shutout Columbia, sweep Sun Devil Desert Classic

Alex McIntyre
Arizona midfielder Cali Crisler (3) battles Denver defender Cheyenne Shorts (6) for possession at the Sun Devil Desert Classic at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe on Friday, Sept. 2, 2016. The Wildcats won the matchup 3-0.

TEMPE, Ariz. — Two games, two shutouts for the Arizona women’s soccer team in the Sun Devil Desert Classic.

After blanking Denver 3-0 on Friday night, the Wildcats followed it up with a 2-0 shutout against the Columbia Lions on Sunday morning at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe.

“It’s good for us moving forward,” UA forward Charlotte Brascia said. “Getting both wins on the road is a good confidence booster for us, because Pac-12 [Conference] play is coming up soon.”

The teams split possession for the first 20 minutes of the first half, but the Wildcats took control from there on.

“We started to connect more,” Cali Crisler said. “In the beginning it was kind of hectic and we were all over the place … Then we started making passes, combining passes and it started flowing better.”

Arizona outshot Columbia 11-3 in the first half, and the Wildcats took a 1-0 lead in the 41st minute.

Maddie Bennett split the defense and dribbled into the box, and as the defense converged, she shifted a pass to her right to Brascia, who knocked it in for the game’s first goal.

“I saw [Bennett] — I know she’s really fast — and she ran down the line and had a great cross,” Brascia said. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to get there time in, but I just stuck my foot out there and hit it in the far post.”

It was Bennett’s first career assist, and Brascia’s first goal of the season, breaking what she referred to as a “curse” at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium.

“I’ve had trouble scoring [at this field],” Brascia said. ”I struggled [my] freshman year and last year [here], so hopefully I finally broke the curse.”

The Wildcats carried the 1-0 lead until the 65th minute when Crisler increased the lead to 2-0 with an assisted by Gabi Stoian.

“Gabi was dribbling it, I saw her and coaches have been telling me to stay wide, and I made the run, stayed wide and she played it to me,” Crisler said. “[Brascia] was calling for the ball on the far post, but I felt like I had a pretty good angle and the goalie left [the net] pretty open.”

Crisler, who scored one goal all of last season, has scored three goals already in 2016, putting her in a tie for the team lead with Lexe Selman-Richards.

“I’m getting used to playing with the team more and I’m in a groove,” Crisler said, who missed time last season with a hamstring injury. “I’m more comfortable.”

The Wildcats outshot the Lions 23-5 for the game, and Crisler’s goal provided more than enough insurance as the Wildcats’ defense put up another stellar performance.

Columbia’s scoring chances were few and far in between, and Arizona goalkeeper Lainey Burdett, making her second start of the season after returning from an illness, was only forced to make one save.

The Wildcats have posted shutouts in both of Burdett’s starts this season, and that’s likely not a coincidence.

“I think Meredith [Reinhardt] did a great job covering for [Burdett] when she was sick, but I think Lainey just holds our backline together and organizes our backline really well,” Brascia said.

The win over Columbia improves Arizona’s record to 3-1-1 on the season, and the Wildcats have won three of their last four games since dropping the season opener to Pepperdine.

“As a team, we’ve gotten to know each other better,” Crisler said. “A lot of freshmen started and normally, coming into freshmen year, a lot freshmen don’t normally start and they filled in a lot of roles. So in the beginning there were a lot of new players, but now we’re all learning to connect with each other and how to play.”

Arizona returns to action next Friday when it hosts Northern Illinois in the first of two games in the Arizona Cats Classic.

Game time at Mulcahy Stadium is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter

Video courtesy of Columbia Lions Athletics

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