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Arizona soccer: Wildcats’ winning streak snapped by Oklahoma Sooners

Arizona+midfielder+Kennedy+Kieneker+%2812%29+beats+Oklahoma+to+a+header+against+Oklahoma+at+Murphey+Field+at+Mulcahy+Soccer+Stadium+on+Friday%2C+Sept.+16%2C+2016.+Kieneker+scored+the+Wildcats+only+goal+against+the+Sooners%2C+who+won+the+matchup+2-1+for+Arizonas+first+home+loss+of+the+season.
Alex McIntyre
Arizona midfielder Kennedy Kieneker (12) beats Oklahoma to a header against Oklahoma at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium on Friday, Sept. 16, 2016. Kieneker scored the Wildcats only goal against the Sooners, who won the matchup 2-1 for Arizona’s first home loss of the season.

Arizona soccer and Oklahoma both entered Friday’s match on winning streaks, and something was going to have to give when the two teams squared off at Mulcahy Stadium.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, it was their four-game winning streak that was snapped, as the Sooners scored two second half goals on their way to a 2-1 victory in Tucson.

“I thought it was two evenly matched teams,” Arizona head coach Tony Amato said after the game. “The intensity from both teams was there and it was going to come down to execution and key moments of the game. They unfortunately capitalized on two key moments in the second half.”

With 10 minutes left in regulation and the game knotted at 1-1, Oklahoma’s Liz Keester cut across the middle of the box and deflected a pass from Madison Saliba past UA goalkeeper Lainey Burdett for the game-winning goal.

The decisive goal capped off the Sooners’ comeback effort.

Earlier in the second half with Arizona up 1-0, a defensive mistake by the Wildcats’ backline allowed OU’s Rachel Ressler to win a ball and sneak past the UA defense and into a one-on-one situation with Burdett.

Ressler won the matchup, placing a shot in the upper corner to tie the game up at 1-1 in the 55th minute.

“[Ressler] had an excellent finish. … There’s nothing you can do there,” Burdett said. 

Arizona’s defense had posted four straight shutouts heading into Friday’s match, but it wasn’t as sharp against the Sooners, and Oklahoma was able to take advantage.

“The first goal [allowed] was definitely a mistake,” Amato said. ”The girl had a great finish, but what led to that was a bad mistake and that happens when two teams are going at it and you’re under pressure. In that moment, they forced the error….and then they found a way to get the second goal. There were key moments throughout the game and they executed on them and we came up a little short.”

The Wildcats outshot the Sooners 11-9 for the game, but only three of Arizona’s shots came in the second half. 

“The game looked how we thought it would look,” Amato said. “There were some things that I thought we didn’t clearly execute in attack. We were dangerous on set-pieces, but probably not dangerous enough in the run of play. I was hoping we’d be cleaner in those situations and we weren’t.”

Oklahoma started five players in the back and it stymied Arizona’s offense for most of the game, though the Wildcats’ defense mostly did the same—the Sooners just executed when it mattered most. 

“Soccer is a cruel game,” said UA midfielder Jaden DeGracie-Bailey. “It just comes down to who can put it in the back of the net. They did really well in stopping us, we had a lot of our own opportunities and they had some key moments where they executed and we didn’t.”

DeGracie-Bailey—Arizona’s all-time assist leader—picked up her 22nd career assist in the 30th minute, when she lofted a flip-throw into the box, where it was headed in by Kennedy Kieneker to put Arizona up 1-0.

The Sooners worked all week on defending Arizona’s notorious flip throw-ins, but there was nothing they could do about DeGracie-Bailey’s well-placed throw.

“One of my best friends, [Jemma Cota] is on [Oklahoma] and she was like ‘all week, that’s literally all we did is work on [defending] throw-ins,'” DeGracie-Bailey said. ”[But they] wouldn’t be dangerous if nobody was willing to head the ball. … Every time I throw it it takes two people. I can do the best throw of my life, but if nobody heads it in it doesn’t matter.”

And Kieneker was there to head it in, scoring her first goal of the season on the play.

However, that was Arizona’s only goal of the contest, and Oklahoma’s second-half heroics allowed it to escape Tucson with a hard-fought road win.

The loss drops the Wildcats’ record to 5-2-1 on the season, and they’ll begin Pac-12 Conference play next Friday at USC.

“Every game is going to be this close,” DeGracie-Bailey said about the upcoming Pac-12 schedule. “We always take it game-by-game and you can’t look too far ahead or dwell on the past. We can’t hang our heads, we have to keep grinding.”

Kickoff in Los Angeles is scheduled for 3 p.m. and it will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.


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