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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona soccer opens fall season undefeated despite injuries

Courtesy of Arizona Athletics
Arizona soccer player Gabi Stoian dribbles against Stanford on Friday, October 24, 2014. Stoian previously attended Pinnacle High School in Scottsdale, Ariz..

The soccer season is underway as Arizona got off to a strong start over the weekend with a 4-0 win over Abilene Christian on Friday night before beating Santa Clara 2-1 on Sunday.

In the season opener against Abilene Christian, both teams were sloppy in the first ten minutes or so, but the Wildcats got on the board in the 15th minute.

Sophomore Gabi Stoian lofted a free kick from 40 feet into the box, which was then headed in by sophomore Cali Crisler. It was Crisler’s first career goal as a Wildcat.

The Wildcats attempted nine shots in the first half but only managed to find the back of the net once.

The second half was a different story. In the 53rd minute, senior Hannah Wong crossed the ball to a wide open Stoian, who tapped the ball in from the center of the box to extend the lead to 2-0.

Ten minutes later, Stoian weaved her way through a few defenders and scored from 15 yards out to put Arizona up 3-0. The barrage continued after senior Hayley Estopare headed one in on a flip throw from freshman Jessica Nelson to make it a 4-0 game.

The offense, which manufactured 22 shots, certainly clicked, but the defense’s performance was equally as strong.

“Our outside backs were out there early and really preventing anything from coming in,” said senior Sheaffer Skadsen. “We were really able to deny a lot of stuff trying to trickle in.”

Arizona held Abilene Christian to just two shots in the entire game, none of which were on net.

Though it was a relatively easy win for Arizona, it did come at the expense of the team’s health. Lexe Selman was forced to leave the game with an injury in the 12th minute. Crisler had to leave the game four minutes later, just a minute after scoring her first career goal. Stoian, the team’s leading scorer last season, was also dealing with an ankle injury of her own. The plan before the game was to limit her minutes, but after Selman’s injury, it forced her into action sooner than anticipated.

“I didn’t know how much I was going to play,” Stoian said after the game.

Head coach Tony Amato echoed Stoian.

“We were trying to see how the game would go, and she hasn’t been at 100 percent at training, so we’re going to ease her in,” Amato said.

Stoian finished with two goals and an assist, but admitted she’s still feeling the effects of her injury. The injuries to Selman and Crisler are much more concerning.

“It doesn’t look good,” Amato said about Selman’s injury. “She buckled and went down, so you’d think it’s a bad knee injury.”

Arizona was already dealing with injuries, and these two additional setbacks have put the Wildcats in a tough spot moving forward.

“I’m very worried about it,” Amato said. “We already had some people out from the team anyway being injured, and anytime you lose personnel, it’s not fun.”

Arizona battled through those injuries on Sunday in a close victory over Santa Clara.

The Wildcats fell behind early when the Broncos’ Jenna Holtz scored in the second minute. Santa Clara held the lead for most of the first half until Stoian delivered the equalizer 35 minutes into the half. The two teams entered halftime tied at 1-1.

It looked like Arizona might fall behind again in the 63rd minute when Santa Clara earned a penalty kick. However, goalkeeper Lainey Burdett got in front of the ball and saved the Broncos’ shot from going in.

The tie lasted for six more minutes until Arizona’s Cece Bilginer provided the go-ahead and decisive goal. It was the first career goal for the sophomore.

“It’s an amazing feeling,” Bilginer said. “It just feels so good to put the ball in the back of the net and help the team out.”

Bilginer’s goal proved to be the game changer.

Despite a few attacks on goal, Arizona’s defense shut down Santa Clara over the final 20 minutes, and the Wildcats were able to escape the first weekend with an unblemished record.

“We started out rough, so to be able to recover from that, and fight, and battle and finish the PK … I started looking at the chances that were created,” Amato said. “We created more chances there that I thought were dangerous down the stretch, and we were able to pull it out.”

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.

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