By Monty Phan
Arizona Daily Wildcat
All season, the Arizona women's soccer team has played strong halves of soccer.
Playing two consecutive strong halves of soccer, however Ä that's been another story altogether.
The first half of Arizona's game yesterday against Loyola Marymount featured a Wildcat team that was offensively intense and defensively solid, taking a 2-0 lead to halftime over the visiting Lions. But that's nothing new, for Arizona has shown all season that, for at least half a game, it is able to compete with the best. The trouble is Ä and head coach Lisa Fraser has empasized this all season Ä that the game is 90 minutes, not 45, and that the WIldcats need to play two halves of solid soccer, not just one.
If yesterday's match proved anything, Fraser's words just might be sinking in. Indeed, Arizona kept up the intensity and won 2-1, ending the Wildcats' six-game losing streak. Fraser was satisfied with the effort, but expressed that the win was going to come sooner or later Ä the UA had taken its last two opponents to the wire, losing both games in overtime.
"It (playing ninety minutes) is starting to come," Fraser said. "They're learning what it takes. These last two games have been good games for us."
The Wildcats, after several close-but-no-cigar opportunities, finally took the lead a little over thirteen minutes into the game on a goal by freshman Cindy Hallas. The team continued to pressure the Lion goalkeeper for much of the first half, striking again with about 14 minutes left in the half.
A shot by Arizona from the left side of the Lion goal went untouched by the LMU keeper, but was seemingly wide right. The ball, flirting with the endline, was scooped up by a streaking Gina Leverette and punted into a near-open goal for the Wildcats' second goal. It proved to be the eventual game-winner.
In the second half, the Wildcats traded some of the offenseive intensity for defensive pressure. For much of the half, the home team
was able to keep the visitors on the ropes, squelching some very good LMU scoring opportunities. After wearing Arizona down, the Lions finally broke through and got on the scoreboard on a shot by Loyola Marymount forward Yvonne Dalton in the 79th minute.
Rather than being the forebearer of further LMU goals, the score served as a wake-up call for the Wildcats, and the Lions were held at bay the rest of the game, and for the first time in seven games, Arizona could celebrate a victory.
"It feels good," freshman defenseman Melissa Kessler said. "We should be winning this whole time, but the score just isn't proving that we're the better team. We have been the better team against every team we've played, so finally we've proved it."
Although forward Jenni Ginsberg had many chances at breakaways in the second half, she was not able to convert on any. But the hard play didn't go unnoticed by Fraser.
"I thought Jen Ginsberg played well today," Fraser said. "I think our forwards did a good job today, keeping possession and using our midfielders very well."
"We got some good passes in," Ginsberg said. "Our wings made the runs, and our centers came up the middle and passed it well. We've been doing a lot better on offense than we had been."
The Wildcats next play Michigan in Austin, Tex., Saturday. For now, Fraser just wants to savor the win.
"We lost the flow the second half, but again that's part of learning," Fraser said. "When you're behind, (you have) to stay in the game and keep working hard. You have to gut it out sometimes and I think we did. That's what learning this game's about right now. It was a good win for us, to win at home. Right now, any win is good."
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