By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Yogi Berra perhaps put it best when he said, "It's d‚j… vu all over again."
The former Yankee catcher may have been talking about this year's Arizona women's soccer team, for all anybody knows. In a game all-too-typical of the first-year Division I squad's season, the team once again proved it wasn't quite lucky enough, wasn't quite good enough, and once again, they couldn't quite score enough.
But although the team lost 3-1 to the Nebraka Cornhuskers in yesterday's season finale, the Wildcats showed that next year may provide different results, both on the field and on the scoreboard.
As the case has been for much of the season, the score alone did not tell the whole tale. Arizona (3-11-0) played an aggressive game throughout, but fell victim to one of the oldest cliches in the book: The ball just didn't bounce their way Ä quite literally, in this case.
Nebraska (14-4-0) jumped out to a 1-0 lead at the 23:03 mark in the first half on striker Jamie Riley's looper over the outstreched arms of Wildcat goalkeeper Jen Weibel. The 5-foot-11 Weibel charged, but could only tip the ball, slowing it down just enough so that its path to the goal was just that more painful to watch for the Wildcats.
In what seemed to be an ongoing motif throughout the season, Arizona again found itself down by only a single goal at halftime. But atypical of the rest of the season, the Wildcats ended up outplaying the Huskers in the second half.
"Coming back at halftime with them (the opponent) ahead has been really hard for us," head coach Lisa Fraser said. "We came back and we played against them. I'm really, really pleased with that team for doing that."
But playing hard just wasn't enough. At the 54-minute mark, Nebraska's Tanya Franck scored on again on Weibel, on just about a carbon copy of the Huskers' earlier goal. Once more, it was: bounce, bounce, goal ...
The Wildcats, however, weren't ready to end their season just yet. With about 64 minutes left, a streaking Jen Ginsberg caught up to the ball in the left corner, and sent a sharp cross to a surprised Celine Verdier, who redirected the ball just to the right of the Husker keeper.
"I wasn't even ready for the cross," Ver
dier said. "I was so shocked that Jen got the cross because it was a hard cross to get. Then I saw the ball just coming right at my foot, and I just kicked it."
Though the momentum shifted, the more experienced Huskers knew how to deal with it. With a little over five minutes remaining, Franck scored her second goal of the game off a corner kick from Riley, making the score 3-1 and effectively putting the game out of reach for the Wildcats.
Even though Arizona ended the game on the short end goals-wise, the game, according to Fraser, is definitely something to build on going into the spring. Where past games have shown UA to come out strong and become progressivley worn-out, the opposite was true in the fial game, a game marked not so much by its finality as much as its foresight.
"In the first half we got into playing their game, a real kick-and-run style which is what they play, which we don't play," Fraser said. "In the second half we came out and played our game against their style, which is a really hard thing to do.
"I'm really excited that we worked hard to do what we needed to do to play the game. It's a great way to go into spring training. What we needed to do all year was play our game no matter what's happening around us, which we did. It was really exciting."
"We didn't come out strong the first half and we should have," Ginsberg said. "We came out strong the second half and we played a little more aggressive. We stepped in front of the balls.
"We decided we didn't want to make them look good. We wanted to touch the ball more than they did. It just came too late."
It may have come too late in the game, but not too late in the season. With Arizona facing a number of Pacific 10 Conference teams next season, the schedule will be tougher Ä but then again, so will the Wildcats.
"It's always hard when you're losing," Fraser said. "It hurts, but at the same time we're building for the future and that's what we have to look at. We went out and played a tough schedule, and it's going to pay off for us next year. Our kids know what to expect now. We know what it's about now. So now it's a matter of getting in and doing the things we need to do. I think today proved we can do that and we've learned to do that."
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