TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Cece Bilginer's goal in the 69th minute gave the Arizona the lead over Santa Clara and the Wildcats defended down the stretch to claim a thrilling 2-1 victory on Sunday night at Mulcahy Stadium.
"Any time you start a new year and teams are unsure of the progress you're making, a result like this will go a long way," head coach Tony Amato said. "I'm pretty sure the Pac-12 knows they have to play well against us to get the result, but tonight helps reinforce that. We created more chances that I thought were dangerous down the stretch. You have to give our team credit for battling."
Right off the bat, Santa Clara's Jenna Holtz was able to create some space in the Arizona goal box and took a shot with her left foot and found the back of the net in just the second minute of the game, giving the Broncos a 1-0 lead.
Santa Clara controlled the tempo of the game and possessed more than Arizona for the most part in the first half. The Wildcats were not able to string together many passes that could lead to dangerous chances, until the 35th minute.
Bilginer, who had entered the game in the 33rd minute was in a battle for possession near the Santa Clara goal box and was eventually taken down and awarded a penalty kick. Gabi Stoian stepped up to the spot and executed a first class penalty shot and gave Arizona the equalizing goal. Stoian now has three goals on the season and 16 for her career. She is now eighth on the all-time Arizona goal scoring list.
Once Arizona was on the board, the crowd started to come alive and seemed to rejuvenate the players as halftime approached.
Just 20 seconds into the second half, Santa Clara was awarded a free kick just outside the Arizona goal box. Burdett was forced to lay out and was able to punch the ball to safety, ending the Broncos scoring chance.
One of the better plays of the game came at the 53rd minute with the trio of Stoian, Paige Crouch and Laura Pimienta. Crouch was able to outrun the right back and gained possession of the ball. She found Stoian in the middle of the field who flicked it on to Pimienta who had a good look at the goal from about 30 yards away. Pimienta loaded up and sent a rocket of a shot towards the cage, but Santa Clara keeper Andi Tostanoski made a top class save to keep the score tied at one.
Things got dicey for Arizona as Santa Clara was awarded a penalty kick. Holtz stepped up to the spot and looked to place the ball in the right side of the goal. She let it fly and the ball connected with the post and was cleared to safety by Arizona.
Just six minutes later, Charlotte Brascia found Bilginer sprinting down the field and she was able to leave the Santa Clara defenders behind her. Bilginer calmly put the ball in the back of the net and gave Arizona a 2-1 lead.
The Broncos created one more chance in the 89th minute as the hardest hit ball of the night was sent towards Burdett, but the freshman made a comfortable save, securing the victory for the Wildcats.
Arizona is back in action on Friday, Aug. 28 when they travel to Flagstaff, Ariz. to take on Northern Arizona at 7 p.m. MST.
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