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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Productive defense keeping soccer afloat

    Arizona defender Savanah Levake fights for the ball Sept. 30 against San Diego State. The Arizona defense has allowed only one goal in eight of its 11 games so far this year, but the team still holds a losing record.
    Arizona defender Savanah Levake fights for the ball Sept. 30 against San Diego State. The Arizona defense has allowed only one goal in eight of its 11 games so far this year, but the team still holds a losing record.

    There is a big difference between the Arizona defense in the standings and the Arizona defense on the field.

    In the standings, the defense is part of a team that carries a 5-6-0 record, including five losses in its last six matches, coming into Saturday’s Pacific 10 Conference opener against Washington State.

    In reality, Arizona’s defense is one that has allowed only one goal in eight of its 11 games, with the lone scores coming off free kicks and penalty kicks in two instances.

    On the field, the defense has had two shutouts this season, with one coming against then-No. 3 Texas. The Wildcat backline has held opponents to fewer shots than its offense in all but two matches this season.

    “”We have been playing really well defensively,”” sophomore Sammy Tiampo said. “”We’ve just really worked on keeping our focus and playing our game.””

    Senior defender Claire Bodiya attributed the team’s defensive success to each individual’s self-specific motivation.

    It’s a team thing, too. If we do well, it’s probably because people in front of us are doing well.

    Claire Bodiya, defender

    “”For me (the motivation) is my senior year and I don’t want to regret anything, and I know with Kaity (Heath) it’s the same thing,”” Bodiya said. “”I think just because everyone wants it so bad and we’re working together that it’s looking like the defense is doing well.

    “”But it’s a team thing, too. If we do well, it’s probably because people in front of us are doing well.””

    While some players on offense have done well, others have failed to produce.

    The Wildcats have out-shot its opponents in all but two games this year. Arizona outscored opponents 13-7 while going 4-5.

    Since then, the offense has not quit creating chances, but its ability to get the ball in the back of the net has all but vanished. Over the last six games, Arizona has been shut out five times, with four games ending with 1-0 scores.

    The lack of offensive production “”is really frustrating, because you know we just need to finish better,”” Heath said. “”But there’s always so much more (the defense) can do.””

    The defensive efforts have not gone unnoticed among Arizona’s main offensive players. Forward London King admitted the strong defense headed by players like Bodiya, Heath and Savannah Levake have given the offense some comfort.

    “”It’s nice to know that when we aren’t quite getting it done forward-wise or finishing-wise that our defense is tight,”” King said. “”It takes some pressure off, knowing we can trust the people behind us.””

    While Arizona’s defense can be attributed for many of the team’s successes this season, they are not free from blame for some of the Wildcats’ miscues.

    In Arizona’s last two games, against San Diego State and Brigham Young, fouls deep in its own zone led to the game-winning goals.

    Head coach Dan Tobias pointed at these fouls on the defensive end as an area in which the unit can approve.

    “”When you (commit fouls) in the opponent’s attacking half, you’re just giving them extra chances,”” Tobias said. “”That’s a team thing – not just the backs – but it’s just about being smarter with the ball.””

    If you ask the players, they would trade their stats for a few more wins. The Wildcats open Pac-10 play this weekend a game below .500 and on a two-game scoring drought.

    While scoring goals is mostly the forwards’ responsibility, the defense knows it needs to do its part as well.

    “”I think (scoring) is a whole-team thing and we need to help also,”” Heath said. “”We just need to keep our spirits up and work on our finishing.””

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