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Arizona soccer: Wildcats dominate Denver in first game of Sun Devil Desert Classic

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Alex McIntyre
Arizona midfielder Gabi Stoian (9) slips past Denver defenders Cheyenne Shorts (6) and Hannah Bricker (4) 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, one of which was scored by Stoian.

TEMPE, Ariz. — The Arizona soccer team cruised to a 3-0 victory over Denver on Friday night at Sun Devil Stadium in its first of two games at the Sun Devil Desert Classic.

The win improves the Wildcats’ record to 2-1-1 on the season.

Paige Crouch, Gabi Stoian and Lexe Selman-Richards each scored for the Wildcats, as they dominated the Pioneers from the kickoff.

The Wildcats outshot the Pioneers 23-1, including a 14-0 shot differential in the first half alone.

“I thought we were sharp to start the game,” said Arizona head coach Tony Amato. “It was a matter of time for the first goal because I felt like we created enough chances and anytime we’re creating chances I think we can be a dangerous team, and we were doing that. And that kind of set the tone early and we carried it throughout.” 

Arizona possessed the ball in Denver’s half of the field for what seemed like the entire first half, and the Wildcats posted 10 shots in the first 22 minutes.

It didn’t take them long to get on the board, either.

Crouch scored the game’s first goal in 19th minute, and a few minutes later Selman-Richards fired a shot from 30 yards out into the left side of the net to push Arizona’s lead to 2-0 midway through the first half.

The score would remain 2-0 until the 57th minute when Stoian tacked on Arizona’s third — and final — goal of the game.

“[Selman-Richards] saw my run, played me a great through ball, and I was able to find the back of the net,” Stoian said. 

Stoian, who led Arizona in scoring the past two seasons, was leading the Wildcats in shots and shots on goal heading into Friday’s contest, but still had a zero in the goal column.

Often the victim of double and triple teams, Stoian admitted that not being able to score has been frustrating, but that frustration ended on Friday night.

“It was a great feeling to finally get my first goal of the season, especially in front of friends and family that came out to watch,” said Stoian, a Scottsdale native. “And hopefully many more will follow.”

Meanwhile, Arizona’s defense suffocated the Pioneers, preventing any real scoring chances and sophomore goalkeeper Lainey Burdett was easily able to post a shutout in her season debut.

Burdett had missed the UA’s first three games due to an illness.

“It feels great,” said Burdett about returning to the starting lineup. “It was definitely different than having to sit on the sideline. Now, being able to be back in the game and able to contribute and everything, it feels good.”

The Wildcats will return to action Sunday when they’ll face Columbia to wrap up the Sun Devil Desert Classic. The Lions lost 3-0 to ASU on Friday afternoon, a game which Amato watched before Arizona’s match.

“It was hard to get an exact feel for them because they played at 4:30 p.m. in black uniforms and in 100-degree weather, and I think that kind of impacted their stamina from start to finish.” Amato said about Columbia. “They have some attacking players that I think we’re going to have to be aware of and that can hurt us.”

Game time is scheduled for 11 a.m.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter


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