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The Daily Wildcat

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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Youth not an excuse

Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily WIldcat UA hosts South Carolina, double overtime loss. Friday, Aug 26 2011.

Seven of the 15 underclassmen on the Arizona soccer team are freshmen, and the team holds a 0-7-1 record on the season thus far.

At first glance, the winless record could be viewed as a result of its inexperience, but the Wildcats don’t believe that is a main factor in their early season struggles.

“They’ve performed really well and came in really prepared,” head coach Lisa Oyen said of the freshmen. “It took a while for them to fully understand the level of training and competition on a daily basis that we expect.”

If anything, the underclassmen, specifically the freshmen who have gotten playing time, have the team excited for the future.

“It’s always a learning process,” Oyen said, “but next year we will have a ton of experience so I expect great things from the group.”

The freshmen, led by standouts Emily Lai, Julia Glanz, LeeAndra Smith and Brie DeFelice, are the future of the Arizona soccer program. While the ugly record may not necessarily show it, with only one senior on the roster there are opportunities aplenty for the young players.

“As we get older we’ll get better, but I don’t think that’s why we’ve been losing games,” said Lai, who has lived in Tucson her whole life and has been a fan of the Arizona program for as long as she can remember.

Lai, along with Smith, chose to stay local when she selected Arizona. For Lai, the decision was an easy one.

“(The UA) has been kind of like a home for me,” she said. “I’ve always idolized to go here since I was a little kid and always been coming to the soccer games and stuff. It was an easy decision. Since I was a little kid, my dad would take me bike riding around campus so I loved it here.”

Lai’s familiarity with the campus certainly helped to make her transition to college easier, but it became a whole lot harder for her when she found out she would be playing a new position.

“I’ve played forward my whole life,” said Lai, who has been playing mostly defense. “I’m excited to learn about defense, but I kind of want to get up to that forward position and score some goals.”

Smith and Lai have competed against each other for most of their lives, but it wasn’t until they arrived at the UA that they finally got to play together. Smith scored the Wildcats’ first goal of the season, and Lai has been a key cog in the team’s defense.

“Emily came in from day one, just really competed and kind of put it all out there,” Oyen said. “LeeAndra has really went to another level and really earned a lot of playing time because of the work she has put in.”

According to their teammates and coach, Lai, Smith and the rest of the freshmen have handled the move to college athletics rather well.

“Top to bottom, whether on the bench or on the field, they all contribute to our team as a whole,” senior goalkeeper Ashley Jett said. “It’s a weird experience coming in knowing that soccer is one of your main focuses. (Their talent) shows, as we had two freshmen score our first two goals.”

Oyen spoke highly of all the freshmen on the team, but cited Lai, Glanz, DeFelice and Smith as particular standouts thus far. Other freshmen of the team include Mykaylin Rosenquist and Candace Edwards.

Glanz, from Santa Monica, Calif., had quite the illustrious high school career at Santa Monica High School, where she scored 29 goals her senior year.

While she hasn’t been able to score so far in college, she has certainly made her presence known. On Friday, she was handed a red card that shocked spectators, players and coaches alike. But that red card, along with a yellow card received earlier in the season, will not distract from her overall performance, Oyen said.

“Julia came in and played solid minutes for us. She is dangerous when she gets the ball at her feet and she’s had a significant impact,” Oyen said.

Desiree Bramlette, who was the first recruit that Oyen signed out of the current freshmen, has done well when given the opportunity and has come a long way since the beginning of the season.

“She played some significant minutes at the beginning, now she’s trying to make sure that she’s playing in a position and a spot that she can be most productive and most comfortable,” Oyen said.

The future of this team is promising, but that promise is not even limited to the current roster. According to Oyen, next year the team has one of its best ever recruiting classes.

“We have an amazing class,” she said. “2012 is a very special class so we are extremely excited about the kind of players and kind of people we have coming in.”

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