TUCSON, Ariz. — The Arizona Wildcats women’s soccer team scored in the 86th minute to defeat Northern Arizona 1-0 in their home opener Thursday night.
Arizona improved to 2-1. NAU dropped to 0-3.
The Wildcats, who controlled the action throughout, broke through with a late goal from Leeandra Smith.
On the winning goal, freshman Cali Crisler had a shot from about 25 yards away that NAU goalie Natalie Gilbertson deflected into the crossbar. Smith, who just subbed in, followed the shot and was in the right place at the right time. The ball fell to her feet and she shot into the net at the 86:09 mark.
It was Smith’s first official goal of the season. She also scored in the exhibition match against New Mexico.
"Coach always tells us, ‘When someone shoots, follow-up for a rebound, you never know when there’s going to be one,’" Smith said.
"The ball fell right to my feet and the thing that went through my head was, ‘Just be clinical, it’s a simple pass into the net.’ It worked out that way."
Arizona finished with 28 shots, 10 of which were on target and nine saved by Gilbertson, who stopped a penalty kick. Arizona senior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman registered her second shutout of the season and the 11th of her career. She did not have to make a save as NAU managed only one shot, that coming from Torey Braly, whose attempt went wide of the left post.
"I thought we controlled the game," Arizona coach Tony Amato said.
"It was clear that they were going to try and be more defensive and then catch us on a counter-attack or a mistake. If we had scored earlier, I think it would’ve been a different story."
NAU coach Andre Luciano said his team showed improvement.
"I felt like we finally showed some grit and resolve going after fifty-fifty balls and challenging our opponent," he said.
"I told the team that they are back. The Jacks that we know fight, and they challenged for everything and never quit. The shots were favored heavily in U of A’s favor, but we did what we needed to do and I am really proud of them."