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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Laura Pimienta set for defensive captain role

Alex McIntyre
Arizona midfielder Laura Pimienta (27) evades a Stanford defender on Oct. 4, 2015.

The Arizona women’s soccer team’s roster will not only look different next season, as it’s set to graduate six players, but it will sound differently too. The team’s defensive and vocal leader, Sheaffer Skadsen, is among the group of players who will not be back next season.

“She is incomparable,” said junior defender Laura Pimienta of her now-former teammate.

Skadsen played nearly every minute of every game, spending just 13 minutes on the bench all season. She stabilized the Wildcats’ backline, helping the team win 14 games and make the Sweet Sixteen.

There’s no getting around how much Skadsen will be missed, but Arizona head coach Tony Amato has to do his best to find her replacement.

“We had [Skadsen], who was rock solid for us, who always seemed to say the right thing at the right time if we needed a kick in the butt,” Amato said. “If we needed something intelligent to be said, she did it and now we don’t have her anymore.”

So far, it appears Skadsen’s successor will be Tucson-native Laura Pimienta.

“We’re asking her to do it, we’re working with [Pimienta],” Amato said. “And she is someone who’s been here and done it and has come a long way since her first year.”

Pimienta certainly isn’t an inexperienced player, as she logged the second-most minutes on the team last season. But being a vocal leader of the defense is not something to which she’s accustomed.

“I don’t think it’s natural in the sense of just being vocal on the field, but she’s a good player and when you give her some things to make sure she’s aware of, she’ll do that part,” Amato said. “I think with any leadership role, it’s not always a purely natural thing. You got to work at it and she’s working at it.”

The Wildcats’ spring season—which consisted of four games—ended mid-April. Pimienta used it to get adjusted to her new role, a role in which she believes she’s getting comfortable in.

“Now it’s starting to come out. I don’t have to put a lot of effort into it,” Pimienta said. “With the coaches pushing me and the coaches talking to me about this and that, and just working with the girls, they respect me and they listen to me.”

Freshman goalie Lainey Burdett has made Pimienta’s transition easier too. Being in net and behind the defense, Burdett is able to see things Pimienta or the team’s other defenders might not pick up on.

“We have backs that have overtaken that [vocal] role that help me communicate too, but as well as with them, I also do a lot of the talking to help them organize because I can see the whole field,” Burdett said.

While being a vocal leader might not come naturally for someone like Pimienta, it’s nothing new for Burdett.

“In Lainey’s club career; she was very vocal,” Amato said. “And I think as a freshman goalkeeper that’s hard to do, but now she’s more of a sophomore. This is her second spring since she [enrolled] early and she’s doing a very good job of that.”

The hope is that Pimienta, with some help from Burdett, can replace the void that Skadsen left. With Arizona soccer being on the rise and the program operating under a “new standard,” as Amato calls it, it will be needed for the team to be able to continue its recent success.

“Obviously we’re always trying to get better and the coaches are trying to answer questions,” Pimienta said. “And talking is a big thing. … It’s definitely a step up for leadership.”

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.

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