Cats stop No. 5 UCLA, USC to control conference chase
The No. 18 UA soccer team defeated No. 5 UCLA 1-0 yesterday for the first time in the program's history, putting the team in good position to achieve another first: a Pacific 10 Conference title.
Junior midfielder Althea Jones scored the lone goal in the game's 41st minute. Jones took the ball at midfield and beat multiple Bruins with her speed, taking the ball all the way down the field into the box. She scored from about 10 yards out with the goalie charging at her and two Bruin defenders chasing after her.
This season, the Wildcats (14-4-0, 5-2-0 Pac-10) are 14-0 when they score in a game.
With the sweep of UCLA (12-6-0, 5-3-0) and USC (9-8-1, 3-5-0) the Wildcats currently sit atop the Pac-10 standings with one weekend remaining in conference play.
"That was awesome. I had a tear at the end," said senior forward Vanesha Bailey of the win. "The past few years we've played them and lost pretty bad. One of our other seniors said this was the first year that we really felt that we could come out and beat them, and we did."
Freshman defender Claire Bodiya and senior defender Lindsey Peeples led the defensive effort that shut out the Pac-10's highest scoring offense. Heading into this weekend's action, UCLA led the conference with 36 goals this season and a 2.25 goals per game average, also best in the conference. Freshman goalkeeper McCall Smith registered four saves on the day for her school-record 10th shutout of the season.
"We, just as a unit, played awesome," said Smith of her defense. "We had very little, if any, breakdowns at all."
The defense didn't have many breakdowns on Friday night either, shutting out Southern California 3-0.
It was senior night at Murphey Stadium, and the seniors did not disappoint. Pre-game ceremonies honored the four Wildcat seniors: Peeples, Bailey, forward Candice Wilks, and forward Kamaya Damwijk. In the game itself, seniors accounted for all three goals.
Wilks scored her sixth goal of the season in the 65th minute. She broke free from the USC defense and put in a shot from about 18 yards out to cap the scoring for the UA.
Bailey scored her second goal of the season off a pass from junior midfielder Mallory Miller in the 62nd minute. With her back to the goal, Bailey settled the pass, turned toward the goal, and fired a shot straight down the middle of the goal that slipped in just under the crossbar.
Wilks started off the scoring in the 33rd minute, scoring on a penalty kick. She broke free in the box with only the goalie to beat. USC goalkeeper Julie Peterson came sliding out to challenge Wilks but took her down in the box.
"All those seniors - Candice, Vanesha, Kamaya and Lindsey - have put their hearts and souls into the program," said head coach Dan Tobias. "What a great way for them to be honored, with not only a great performance by the team, but obviously them being huge contributors on this last regular-season home weekend for them."
The Wildcats hit the road this weekend to take Oregon State (2-4-1, 8-9-1) and Oregon (0-6-1, 3-12-2) with control of their own Pac-10 destiny. A sweep of the Beavers and Ducks gives the Wildcats their first-ever conference title. If Arizona splits its road set, the team can still win at least a share of the Pac-10 title if Stanford loses to either Washington or Washington State.