Cal women’s soccer battles its way to a tie against Pac-12 foe Arizona

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Sometimes it’s the hardest-fought battles that lack a clear winner, and for Cal women’s soccer, that rang all too true on Saturday. Amid heightened suspense due to an earlier rain delay in Tucson, the Bears left it all on the field but could not steal a win from the Wildcats, ending a riveting match knotted up at 3-3.

Cal was the first to get on the board in the 16th minute, as senior forward Miranda Nild set up the shot on a textbook cross and junior forward Abi Kim sealed the deal with a header. Kim’s goal was her fourth on the season and tied sophomore forward Emma Westin for the team lead.

The Wildcats responded shortly after, as sophomore Amanda Porter recorded her first goal of the season, tapping a shot past Cal keeper Olivia Sekany, who was scrambling on the ground to defend an earlier shot.

Then, on a set piece in the 42nd minute, sophomore Cal defender Kai Henderson sent a long kick right above the head of midfielder Anja Koehler, who jumped up and headed the ball in to put the Bears up 2-1 at the half. The redshirt junior has now scored in two consecutive games, making this her most productive season thus far.

Just after the half, Kim managed to draw a foul in the box, returning Nild’s favor from the first period by setting up a penalty kick, which Nild converted to give Cal a 3-1 lead. The two-goal lead may have felt comfortable, but Arizona sophomore forward Jada Talley and the Wildcats had other ideas.

Talley got hold of a long pass in the 52nd minute and went one-on-one with sophomore defender Morgan Rogers until getting a shot off that went just over the fingertips of a diving Sekany and into the back-left side of the net. With her seventh goal of the year, Talley is running away with her team’s lead in scoring.

The Cal defense just needed to hold solid for a few more minutes in order to walk away with the 3-2 win, but in the 76th-minute, defender Morgan McGarry came through in the clutch for Arizona, knocking in a corner to eventually guarantee some free soccer in overtime for the fans at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium.

The Bears’ offense couldn’t get anything going in extra time, unable to get a shot off through two overtime periods. Arizona’s lone opportunity was handled well by Sekany, who finished the evening with seven saves.

Despite being outshot by a staggering 31-7 margin, the Bears held their own and managed to walk away with a valuable point toward their overall Pac-12 score. With just five games left in the season, they can hold their heads high after a gritty tie on the road.

“The resolve of the team was probably the most impressive,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. “Despite losing two defenders pretty early in the game and adjusting our shape on the fly, I thought our girls responded really, really well. Obviously, we’re a very young team, but with each game, we’ve started to get stronger, which is good for the program.”

Adriana Ghiozzi covers women’s soccer. Contact her at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter @dailycal_ag.