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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Big decisions to come soon for future of soccer program

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat UofA vs ASU 2 to 1 double overtime UofA victory

The Arizona soccer team has been tumbling downhill for the last three years, but this season, the program has finally reached the bottom of its constant struggles both on the field and off of it.

After a disappointing 3-6-1 start to the season, starting midfielder Leila Amini left the team on Oct. 1, becoming one of the 10 players to leave the program over the past year. Eleven days later, the Wildcats’ head coach of six and a half years, Dan Tobias, decided to step down for personal reasons. In turn, the team was forced to focus on off-the-field situations rather than how it could start to win games.

“”It’s been a rollercoaster of emotions since I’ve been here,”” said freshman Alex Smith. “”Going from being so excited to be here to going through the fiasco with the coaching situation, now I’m just more excited for what will happen next year.””

The Arizona soccer program (4-13-1, 1-6-0 Pacific 10 Conference) can only move upward as the lingering questions about the program’s future will be addressed after the final game against Oregon State on Sunday.

In the coming weeks, the future will be decided by Athletic Director Jim Livengood, who will choose the new coach. But as evidenced by their efforts in the second half of the season, players have rallied behind co-interim coaches Lisa Oyen and John Galas.

Smith said Livengood has told the players they will have a say on where he goes in the coaching search. Smith has an early opinion of her own.

“”(Oyen and Galas) should be considered for the coaching position, and I think they will be,”” she said. “”I know I’m going to put my word in for both Lisa and John, because I love them as coaches.””

Both interim coaches still refuse to look past this weekend’s final games, despite the possibility that they may be coaching their final games at Arizona.

“”The focus has constantly been on the team,”” Oyen said. “”We would love to see the girls get the kind of performance that they’ve worked for all year. After the games are over, I will just take the next day at a time.””

Arizona is preparing for its last two games of the season, but come Monday, the process of moving the soccer team will leave a lot questions.

“”It’s going to be big change for us as far as the program in the future,”” said sophomore Renae Cuellar. “”We’ve hit rock bottom this year, so from here it can only get better. It’s hard to think about because you never know who will come in and what they will want.””

The good news is that both Smith and Cuellar have said they are looking forward to next season, as they each expect to return. Having its best underclassmen back is a good sign for a program that has struggled to retain top players for the last few years.

As for the rest of the team, it remains to be seen whether the players with remaining eligibility will return if there is a new coach.

“”We might not have everyone return like we would like, but everyone has to do what’s best for them,”” Cuellar said. “”If anyone doesn’t want to be here, it’s best that they move on because we don’t need any negativity, especially after we’ve hit rock bottom this year.””

Judging by the team’s overall performance in the latter part of the season, Smith and Cuellar both expect next year to be much better.

“”I’m really excited for next year. I think we’ll have a pretty good year,”” Smith said. “”Our play in the last few games has been much better, and we’re just going to build on that through the spring.””

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