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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Soccer in good hands moving forward

Looking back at the soccer season for the Arizona Wildcats, there was something missing.

Whether it was after a game or during practice, two words were never uttered from the mouths of players and coaches, words that would have been an easy way to blanket the 2010 season.

“”Rebuilding year.””

Those two words, which act as the go-to phrase for many programs enduring frequent losses, were an implied description of what the year was for first year head coach Lisa Oyen.

Was it a rebuilding year? Yes, without a doubt.

But “”rebuilding year”” was never used as a crutch for poor play or as an explanation for a lopsided loss.

So what does it mean that Oyen and her players never labeled it as such?

First, it sheds light on Oyen’s expectations for the program. She wanted to win this year, and didn’t subscribe to the notion that success shouldn’t be expected after the Wildcats waded through what many outside the program thought would be a rough 2010 season.

“”You come to Arizona to play against the best. The only way you become the best is to beat the best,”” Oyen said after a loss this year.

Not calling it a “”rebuilding year”” exhibits confidence that the Wildcats didn’t consider this a freebie — even though, with 12 freshmen and a new coach in the toughest conference in college soccer, they could have.

The Wildcats also could have made excuses when junior star Renae Cuellar was lost for the season just six games in, but again, they didn’t.

Their 5-13-2 record won’t radiate the same confidence to fans and outsiders that Oyen and players have in the future of the program.

At times this year — after rough losses against Ohio State and Southern California — there were grumblings and remarks from some Wildcat fans that made it clear that wins are ultimately more important than spoken self-assurance.

Those are reasonable criticisms from fans who have suffered years of seeing on and off the field issues that have landed the Wildcats in the bottom of the Pacific 10 Conference.

But Oyen inherited a program that was a rocking boat, and restored some stability that shouldn’t go unnoticed in light of a disappointing final record.

While Arizona wouldn’t call it a rebuilding year, its 2010 season should be looked at through that lens. The Wildcats finished with one more win than a season ago, which is a concrete step in the right direction.

Expectations will be higher in 2011 as the new era of Arizona soccer will have a full year under its belt, but if one thing was made certain by talking to players this season, they are ready for it.

“”Obviously there’s a lot of improving to do,”” said departing senior Macke Mutz. “”This season we saw glimpses of it. With a new coach and a brand new team with a bunch of freshmen, we have a bright future.””

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