Arizona wakes up and beats NAU
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior forward Nikki Jones knocks in the tie-breaking goal during yesterday afternoon's game against the Northern Arizona University Lumberjacks at Murphey Stadium. The woman's soccer team defeated the Jacks 4-2.
The Arizona soccer team should be accustomed to outshooting its opponents.
Outscoring them, on the other hand, is something that's been infrequent this year.
Not yesterday afternoon, though, as the Wildcats (3-4-1) erupted in the second half for three unanswered goals to topple Northern Arizona (4-5-0) at Murphey Stadium.
Arizona survived a sluggish first half, which the players attributed to the heat and the fact they had all come from being in class all day.
"It's just not the same as playing Friday night under the lights," senior forward Nikki Jones said.
With the sun looming overhead the Wildcats came out looking tired, though freshman forward Kim McGehee was able to run past the NAU defense and stuff a pass from Jones into the net to put Arizona up 1-0.
NAU tied the game on the first of two goals from sophomore midfielder Erin Rummens with 33:33 left in the first half.
After that the two teams struggled to get the ball out of the midfield area.
"We came out really lax in the first half," head coach Lisa Fraser said. "There was not a lot of purpose to our passes."
UA sophomore goalkeeper Inger Airheart said the team was trying out a new offensive formation that was hard to adjust to.
"Yeah, the heat played a factor," she said. "A lot of us had tests today, too. But being home is so nice. I can't even express how nice it is. There's something I just love about this field."
Airheart saw only three shots on goal in the first half, stopping two, as the Lumberjacks were unable to mount much of an offensive threat.
As the second half began Arizona seemed to come to life.
The team hit the field playing more aggressively, but NAU's Rummens was able to put on a burst of speed and break past Arizona's defenders to put the Lumberjacks up 2-1.
"Yeah, definitely," Fraser said when asked if the goal made her nervous. "They hadn't come down the field at all and the one time they did they scored."
The Wildcats took control back and put the pressure on NAU freshman goalkeeper Erin Beckman, who finally cracked when UA junior forward Megan Canaday sent a perfect pass up for Jones to head into the net.
"I had probably the worst half of my career," Jones said. "Sometimes to redeem yourself you just need to score a goal."
The Jones-Canaday combination kept the pressure up for the next three minutes, keeping the ball in NAU's zone. When Beckman came out to try to catch an errant kick by Jones, Canaday ran in and forced her to bobble the ball, knocking it into the goal.
"I wasn't exactly sure how I got it," Canaday said. "I just knew that if I pressured the keeper she might, might bobble it."
Fraser said that having Jones and Canaday step up was exactly what the team needed.
"That's what captains are for," Fraser said. "They changed the pace of the game."
NAU tried to regain some sense of control, but UA freshman midfielder Twila Kaufman iced the game off a pass from Jones with 14:16 remaining.
Once the game was over the Wildcats reflected on the fact they now have two weeks off before play resumes at California Oct. 9.
"We've been playing the 4-4-2 (formation) and the 3-5-2 lately, but we need to work on the 3-5-2 more," Fraser said. "We've not been pressuring quickly enough in the midfield, so that's something we need to work on, too."
Jones said that practice won't be the only thing on the players' minds.
"I need to catch up on my studies," she said. "I've got a lot of errands to run, groceries to buy, bills to pay, laundry to do. It's going to be busy, that's for sure."
Chris Jackson can be reached via e-mail at Chris.Jackson@wildcat.arizona.edu.