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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


UA soccer is on the road facing #16 Texas Tech

Alex McIntyre
Arizona forward Paige Crouch (15) duels with Utah Valley goalkeeper Sarah Davis (1) for possession while playing against Utah Valley University at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 21, 2016.

After splitting the first two games of the season against Pepperdine and Utah Valley, the Arizona women’s soccer team is heading to Lubbock, Texas, for a Friday night match against No. 16 Texas Tech.

The Red Raiders (2-0) are a familiar opponent for Arizona coach Tony Amato. Friday’s match will mark the third time in four years Amato and the Wildcats (1-1) have faced Texas Tech.

“I used to coach in Texas too,” Amato said. “So I’m familiar with what they do.”

So what do the Red Raiders do?

“They do a good job of getting their backs forward, splitting their center backs and playing through two holding [midfielders], two dangerous forwards and a great attacking center [midfielder],” Amato said.

Texas Tech and Arizona squared off in Tucson last season and went the distance in extra time, finishing in a 1-1 tie. Yet, Texas Tech’s attack this season has been led by two players that didn’t play in last year’s matchup: freshmen Jordie Harr and Jade King.

Harr has scored two of the team’s three goals and was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Week.

“They’re just a really great team,” said Arizona senior defender Laura Pimienta. “Their forwards are legit, so in the back, we have to be in contact the whole time. We have to be on the same page. I think that team is going to be better than any of the teams we’ve faced this year.”

In the season opener against Pepperdine, the Wildcats’ defense wasn’t on the same page, though, as they allowed three goals in a loss to Pepperdine.

Amato felt the struggles were a product of the backline’s inexperience.

Pimienta, the team’s senior defensive leader, didn’t start because she’s still recovering from injury, forcing Amato to insert a freshman in her place.

“The biggest issue is we started four people in the back who had never played in a college game at that level, and they were not totally trusting,” Amato said. “And usually when I see that out of backlines, it’s that they’re not trusting the process of what it takes to defend teams at that level, so you drop off. And when you drop off, it creates a job of space [for the opponent].”

Some of those issues got resolved against Utah Valley two days later, as Arizona kept the Wolverines off the scoreboard until the 89th minute. But Amato says the defense is still a “work in progress.”

Meanwhile, starting goalkeeper Lainey Burdett has yet to play this year after being diagnosed with mononucleosis—more commonly known as mono.

Burdett is expected to miss Friday’s game, putting freshman Meredith Reinhardt in line to make her third start of the season.

“It’s different,” Pimienta said of having Reinhardt in net instead of Burdett. “Lainey—we’ve played with her. We know we can count on her. Meredith is very good, too, but Lainey talks more and especially since there are freshmen in the back, they need someone to talk to them.”

Through two games, Reinhardt has allowed four goals and made five saves, and Amato says she has been “solid.”

“I know she has more in her, though, because I know how she plays and it’s just a confidence thing,” Amato said. “The more confidence she gets, I think we’ll see some of that come out.”

The Red Raiders will certainly put Reinhardt and the Wildcats’ defense, as they’re averaging 18.5 shots per game, with nearly 40 percent of them being on net.

‘They’re a very good team, so we know we have to go in with a game plan,” Amato said.

Game time is scheduled for 7 p.m.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter

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