You can’t begrudge Arizona Wildcats forward Jaden DeGracie for anxiously awaiting a chance to watch the replay of her goal in Thursday’s season finale.
It’ll be the first time she actually sees it cross the goal line.
Unbeknownst to her for a few seconds, the freshman netted a third-minute stunner that proved to be the catalyst in the Wildcats’ 2-0 triumph over Arizona State at Murphey Stadium.
The victory sealed the UA’s first winning season since 2005 and helped bury a miserable recent past that included a 1-16-2 season in 2011. It also gave the Wildcats (9-7-4, 4-6-1 Pac-12) a positive result after three straight 2-1 losses to Arizona State (9-8-2, 4-5-2).
The latter achievement was not lost on DeGracie, a Scottsdale native and Gilbert Highland grad whose brother goes to ASU.
“I’ve been thinking about what I should say (to her brother and former schoolmates), but after this I really don’t feel like I need to say anything,” said DeGracie, who finished the season with a goal and eight assists.
Usually the provider, DeGracie found herself the beneficiary in the opening moments Thursday.
After a throw-in by DeGracie, defender Alexa Montgomery looped a ball into forward Alexandra Doller just outside the 18-yard box. With her back to the goal, Doller trapped it and slotted it to DeGracie in one move as DeGracie was cutting to her right. DeGracie took one touch to control the ball and then struck it with her left foot while her momentum was carrying her away from goal. The hard, arching shot just cleared the outstretched left hand of goalkeeper Chandler Morris and punched the back of the net to open the scoring.
“I remember running in (after taking the throw-in) and then bouncing around,” DeGracie said. Doller “had a perfect pass to me, and so I just touched it with my leg and then just hit it. We got to test this keeper early, so I’m just going to hit it. I couldn’t see through the other girls and the next thing I know I see Ali Doller’s face — Whoo-hoo! I couldn’t even see it go in.”
The early goal didn’t stop DeGracie from continuing to put her stamp on the match.
“A lot of times people key in on her throw, which was a huge part of the game today, but Jaden popped up and hit a great left-footed shot early,” first-year UA coach Tony Amato said. “It think that gave her a lot of confidence the rest of the way.”
Her high-parabolic throw-in from about 40 yards set up the match’s other goal. She found the head of Julia Glanz just outside the 6-yard box in the 61st minute. Moving away from the goal, Glanz glanced it off the side of her head, adding key speed to a ball that proved too quick for Morris and whizzed inside the near post.
“There are really no words, it just feels good,” DeGracie said, trying to describe the season finale and her first year at UA. “It just launches us into next year.”