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Miller goals lift soccer to first Sweet 16 berth

Claire C. Laurence/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Mallory Miller and the Wildcats are looking to upset No. 1 Portland on Friday during third-round action in the NCAA College Cup.
By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Monday, November 14, 2005
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Midfielder-forward Mallory Miller of the Arizona soccer team simply refuses to allow her senior season and record-breaking college career to come to an end.

After being named the Pacific 10 Conference Player of the Year on Thursday, Miller scored a goal in each of the Wildcats' first- and second-round games of the 2005 NCAA College Cup held in Salt Lake City.

Her goals were the deciding scores in a pair of 1-0 victories against Utah and Weber State, sending the Wildcats to their first Sweet 16.

"She was going to make sure we didn't walk away with that feeling we had last year in the postseason in the first round," said Arizona head coach Dan Tobias.

Last season the Wildcats suffered a first-round 1-0 upset at the hands of Colgate in their first-ever trip to the postseason.

Now, Arizona can return to Tucson with an entirely different feeling after the first weekend of the postseason, courtesy of Miller's efforts.

Against Weber State on Saturday, Miller, who has set 12 school season and career records in 2005, scored her 19th goal of the season just before the half in the 41st minute.

Junior midfielder Erin Bevacqua passed the ball into the box for Miller, who tucked it into the far corner past goalkeeper Kandice Golar to give the Wildcats the only goal they would need.

"For Mal, her and the goal just attract one another," said senior midfielder Nikki David Saturday. "For her goal, she was basically falling backwards, and she still got an amazing shot off."

It was a similar situation Thursday against Utah, when Miller scored at the 29:41 mark, giving Arizona the winning goal at the Utes' home field in Salt Lake City.

Senior forward Kelly Nelson sent the ball to Miller, who one-touched the shot past goalkeeper Ashley Mason.

"We came in the first 10 minutes and took it to them," said senior midfielder Jennifer Klein Thursday. "I think it was the best start we've ever had."

The Wildcats got an equally impressive effort from their young defense and sophomore goalkeeper McCall Smith, who battled to two straight shutouts this weekend.

The back line, comprised of two freshmen and two sophomores, hadn't notched a shutout since a 0-0 tie against California on Oct. 21, a span of four games.

In both games this weekend, Arizona's opponents got more shots on goal. Utah out-shot the Wildcats seven to two, and Weber State had seven shots to Arizona's five.

Even more impressive is the Wildcats played almost the entire second half Saturday with 10 players against Weber State's 11, thanks to a red card given to sophomore defender Kaity Heath.

Heath, who will not be eligible to play in Arizona's next game because of a one-game suspension for getting the red card, got the ejection for kicking a Weber State player in retaliation.

Heath said the Weber State player hit her with her cleats, then tried to take her down after the play was over, so Heath kicked her.

"It was kind of obvious, too. I didn't do it discreetly," Heath said. "I regret every part of it. If I could take it back, I would."

Despite losing Heath and her valuable left foot on corner and free kicks, the Wildcats did not suffer any injuries over the weekend, and will be as healthy as they've been all season.

They will play No. 1 Portland (20-0-1) on Friday at 7 p.m. at Merlo Field in Portland, Ore., for a chance to advance to the quarterfinals Nov. 25-27.

The Wildcats fell to the Pilots 3-0 in Portland on Sept. 23.

Portland, the No. 1 seed in Arizona's bracket, defeated Nebraska 3-2 yesterday.

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