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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona soccer concludes spring season

Alex McIntyre
Arizona defender Alexa Montgomery (20) runs past a Stanford University athlete and kicks the ball downfield in Tucson on Oct. 4, 2015. The Wildcats will look to finish their spring season on a high note.

The Arizona women’s soccer team will finish up its spring season this weekend on the road against the University of Texas, El Paso in El Paso, Texas.

The team had three games on its spring schedule, and it has already played two, beating New Mexico in Sante Fe in early March, then defeating Grand Canyon University this past Friday in Tucson. The Wildcats won both games by a score of 3-0.

Arizona is coming off one of its best seasons in program history. It finished the season with a 14-6-2 record while advancing to the Sweet Sixteen.

Unlike the regular season though, the spring season isn’t necessarily about winning. The spring games are essentially glorified scrimmages, so Arizona head coach Tony Amato is mainly using them to get to know the ins and outs of his roster—one which will see its fair share of change.

“It’s two separate seasons,” Amato said. “You have such a big gap in the middle from now until then and we’re going to have 10 new players in, so everything changes. So right now, we’re asking them a lot of questions. Who can fill what roles, what formations, what can we do, so that when the offseason comes for the summer before we start up in August, I’ll have some answers.”

Six players from the team’s 2015 roster are set to graduate and five of them were key contributors. As a result, Amato is looking to see which of the returning players can fill their void, especially the rising sophomores.

“For the freshmen that are rising sophomores, our strength and conditioning coach is a big believer in that it takes a full year to get Pac-12 [Conference] fit,” Amato said. “So in that sense we are with the younger players that didn’t get a ton of time in the fall and don’t really know what it’s like to be Pac-12 fit, they’re getting that right now.”

For the more experienced players, the spring season provides an opportunity for them to fine tune their games or learn a new position, while the ones that didn’t play a whole lot during the regular season can try to earn playing time.

“Getting better,” said senior defender Laura Pimienta. “Obviously we’re always trying to get better and the coaches are trying to answer questions here. We’re trying to get some of the younger girls to step up and kind of have a more solid role on the team, especially those that didn’t really have that last year.”

The team is also set to add 10 incoming freshmen once the fall semester begins. Since they have yet to join the team, Amato isn’t quite sure what to expect of them. He said he believes that some of the incoming recruits are “elite” players, but he’s trying his best to temper his expectations.

“We always have ideas, but more and more it feels like you’re rolling the dice,” Amato said. “You have some ideas and you hope they’re good, but some of the players out there tonight, like Laura [Pimienta], who’s now a senior leader doing a good job, coming in as a freshman, no one would have said that she would be doing as well as she is, so you get some of that. And then there are other players that you think are going to light it up, and it takes them a year or two, so I’m done predicting with it, but I have ideas in my head that some of the players should be able to help us sooner rather than later.”

Amato’s expectations for the incoming freshmen might be tempered, but the expectations for his team as a whole have risen substantially, making the spring season as important as ever.

“I think we’re just trying to work hard and see how we’re doing in the spring to see how well we’ll do in the fall,” said goalkeeper Lainey Burdett. “And hopefully again get to the NCAA Tournament, but spring is all about working hard to help us move forward. It’s always about moving forward.”

Arizona soccer has moved forward since Amato took over as head coach prior to the 2013 season. It had seven losing seasons in a row from 2006-2012 and Amato said there was a losing culture surrounding the program when he first arrived in Tucson.

That culture, however, has changed immensely since. The team has compiled a 34-21-8 record, including two NCAA Tournament appearances, during Amato’s first three seasons at the helm.

“We do have a pretty high standard now,” Amato said. “And something that I mentioned is that I’m pretty proud of the team in the sense that they’ve learned how to win … now it’s a winning culture and that’s what the new standard is.”

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.

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