The University of Arizona Wildcats soccer team began the 2014 season on Friday against Florida International University in Miami, Fla. The Wildcats won 2-0 against FIU, beating the Panthers for the third-straight year. For the second-straight match, the Wildcats had to deal with a lightning delay. The start of the game was pushed back by 20 minutes due to lightning in the area.
The first goal of the season for the Wildcats came from senior Alexandra Doller 4:40 into the game. Freshman Gabi Stoian was credited with the assist. FIU's keeper, Nevena Stojackovic, came off her line to make a save on Stoian but she dished to Doller who finished the play for the Wildcats. The only other shot on goal came from freshman Cali Crisler at 35:49 mark of the first half.
"We definitely played well," head coach Tony Amato said. "I thought the first 20 minutes were exactly how we wanted to start. The energy was good and tactics were right and Doller scored a great goal on a ball slipped in by Gabi Stoian. The way we started the game was ideal. As the half wore on, they got back into the game a little bit. We needed to switch some things around and make some adjustments at halftime."
In the second half, the Wildcats scored at the 76:07 mark, sophomore Paige Crouch intercepted a short goal kick and fired it past the keeper to put Arizona up by two goals. Arizona tallied 10 shots and seven of them were on target.
The Wildcats won one corner kick in the first half and five in the second half. They committed five fouls in the first half but only two in the second.
FIU had six shots in the first half but only one forced senior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman into action. FIU finished the half with three shots in the last three minutes but none were on target. Two sailed wide and the last attempt at 44:33 was too high.
In the second half, the Wildcats faced the most pressure at the 58:00 mark, dealing with a corner kick, a shot, a corner kick and then another shot all within 40 seconds. After that, the UA defense only surrendered two shots, one at the 73:32 mark that sailed wide. The other, at the 86:53 mark, was saved by Kaufman.
"I thought in the second half we definitely improved on that late spell in the first half," Amato said. "We got better in the second half. It was great to see Paige pop up and get the second goal to finish the game off, especially with her coming back from an injury and not really playing last year. It was good all the way around and to get the clean sheet (shutout) was ideal."
Kaufman posted a shutout for the Wildcats, the 10th of her career and the third-best total in UA history. She had a total of two saves (one in each half), while FIU fired 10 shots total.
"We improved in some areas defensively," Amato said. "We played a lot of players tonight and I think we were able to shut down their forward, Chelsea Leiva, who is very good. We were able to matchup against her with a couple different players and they did a great job. Alexa Montgomery was one of those players able able to lock her down for a good segment of the game. Everybody around her did a good job. Any time you get a clean sheet, it's not just the goalkeeper but everybody involved in defending. It was a great effort."
In the first half, FIU won a single corner kick and they committed four fouls, including a yellow card presented to Sara Stewart at the 5:36 mark. At the 70:10 mark, Stewart picked up her second yellow card and was sent off, forcing FIU to play with only 10 athletes for the rest of the game. Marie Egan of FIU was also assessed a yellow card at the 76:46 mark. FIU committed three fouls in the second half and won two corner kicks.
"Any time you win, you gain confidence," Amato said. "I think some players got a game under their belt other than the New Mexico game, this is the first game that goes on the record and they got that out of their system. Any time you get a clean sheet and a win, you build confidence. Florida Gulf Coast is a very good team, a team that has won their conference championship four years in a row. They didn't play tonight; their game got cancelled due to weather, so they'll be fired up and ready to go since they haven't had a game yet. We should be confident coming off the win but we have some things to work on tomorrow to make sure we're ready for that matchup."
The Wildcats return to action on Sunday at 10 a.m. MST at Florida Gulf Coast. It will be the first matchup against FGCU in program history.
For continued coverage of Arizona Wildcat soccer, visit ArizonaWildcats.com and follow @ArizonaWSoccer on Twitter.
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