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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

“Sunday’s win haults losing streak, gives ‘Cats momentum”

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA loss to Ohio, Soccer at UA Sunday Sept 19
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA loss to Ohio, Soccer at UA Sunday Sept 19

It can sometimes be dangerous to label a game a “”must-win.””

Whether they admit it or not, the Wildcats needed to win on Sunday against Utah — it was a game they could not look back on and see an “”L”” next to the result.

At home and against a now 2-10 Utah team, Arizona soccer’s 1-0 overtime thriller over the Utes was big for more than one reason.

The win was a much-deserved reward after playing hard for 96 minutes, and it completely changed the complexion of the next week, especially if you imagine the alternative. It would have been Arizona’s third straight loss that likely would have deflated the team’s spirits right before Pacific 10 conference play starts.

While those two reasons are nice ancillary benefits for the Wildcats, two more aspects of the win over Utah provide building blocks for the rest of the season: Arizona won a game they needed to win by shutting out a team for more than 90 minutes while starting five freshmen, and they did it without junior leading scorer Renae Cuellar.

Without counting the goalkeeper, the five freshmen make up half of the team on the field. The young Wildcats were able to sustain a clean sheet and walk away with a win after a long game that could have gone in either direction, and it leaves no doubt about the mental toughness of this team.

It might not be a dominating win that propels the Wildcats into Pac-10 success, but as the program looks to continue to take steps back to recognition, winning games you are supposed to win is critical.

“”The game could have gone either way. It was good to come away with a win in a match where we didn’t necessarily play our best,”” head coach Lisa Oyen said after the game.

That’s easier said than done, especially if you consider that Arizona went the span of two full matches without scoring a goal after losing 2-0 to LMU on Friday, and the pressure of not finding the back of the net must have begun to weigh on the veterans and freshmen alike.

Fittingly, it was a freshman who got the monkey off the offense’s back when Jazmin Ponce scored a goal in the 97th minute, a strike that Oyen described as a “”gorgeous finish.””

Part of the source for the scoring drought is the fact that the Wildcats played their fourth straight match without Cuellar, who continues to be sidelined with an injury.

It’s not to say that the Wildcats thought they couldn’t win a game without Cuellar, but knowing you can do something is half of the battle.  

The Wildcats now know they can win without their offensive star, and knocking over that mental roadblock against Utah makes them a little more dangerous from here on out.

— Michael Fitzsimmons is a junior majoring in English. He can be reached at sports@wildcat.arizona.edu.

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