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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    UA Soccer prepares for Texas Tech

    Utility player Analisa Marquez preps to boot a free kick in a 4-0 win over Weber State at Murphey Stadium last Friday. Marquez, a junior, has been moved to the defensive size of the ball this season.
    Utility player Analisa Marquez preps to boot a free kick in a 4-0 win over Weber State at Murphey Stadium last Friday. Marquez, a junior, has been moved to the defensive size of the ball this season.

    There are several differences between the 2007 and 2008 Arizona soccer teams, with the addition of several new freshmen, the return of its veteran goalkeeper and even some stylish new uniforms.

    But one thing thus far has remained constant: the Wildcats’ tough backfield.

    Heading into tonight’s road matchup with Texas Tech (3-1-1), Arizona (3-2-0) sits second in the Pacific 10 Conference in saves made (24) and fourth in goals allowed, with under one per game.

    “”We’re very solid (on the back line),”” said defender Brianna Caceres. “”We have two veterans in the back in me and Savannah (Levake) and then Analisa (Marquez) is a junior and she’s really stepped up.

    “”We’re all stepping up our game,”” Caceres added. “”We’re finding a rhythm, and working really well as a unit.””

    With the majority of Arizona’s defenders back on the field this season – with the exception of graduated seniors Claire Bodiya and Kaity Heath – the Wildcats haven’t missed a beat while collecting three shutouts, including two in the team’s first two games of

    the year.

    While much of the praise goes to goalkeeper Chelsea McIntyre, who returned after missing last season with a knee injury, the junior deflects much of the team’s defensive accomplishments to her teammates.

    “”We’ve had a lot of girls really stepping up,”” McIntyre said of the defensive unit. “”The veteran’s are always solid, but to get help from the younger, more inexperienced players has really been awesome.””

    One addition to the Arizona defense that has proved beneficial up to this point has been bringing Marquez, a utility

    player of sorts, into the backfield.

    Last season, the junior spent much of the year moving around the field playing wherever the Arizona coaching staff felt she was needed.

    This year, UA head coach Dan Tobias chose to assign her a specific position, one he felt suited her ð- and the team – best.

    “”We decided this preseason that she looked most comfortable in the center of the defense,”” Tobias said of Marquez. “”She was the kind of player the last couple years we could play anywhere, which is a compliment to a player, but can also be a burden.

    “”But since (moving to defense) she has done an outstanding job since day one and through these first five games.””

    While the veterans in the backfield have solidified their positions, competition is still rampant for the remaining defensive positions among the younger players.

    Sophomore defender Lauren Bennett said she feels the team has benefited from the competition on the back line, something that she expects to continue throughout the season.

    “”There’s a lot more competition (this year) in the defense right now,”” Bennett said. “”So I think we have been working harder together and with each other, and that has shown on the field.””

    For many of the younger players, including Bennett, another factor aiding in Arizona’s success thus far is a healthy McIntyre.

    Five games into the 2007 season, the Wildcats had already changed keepers twice as freshman Danielle Nicolai moved into the starting role for much of the season.

    But even she couldn’t avoid the injury bug plaguing Arizona as a concussion midway through the year put her on the sideline and required the Wildcats to change personnel once more.

    Still on their first keeper of the year, players young and old agree that it has made a difference.

    “”(The goalie) is like the quarterback of a football team,”” Caceres said. “”We have to adjust to how they play because they all have different tendencies. So it’s very important that we’re used to the keeper.

    “”But should a change happen,”” she added, “”we should be able to adjust as well. You just hope it doesn’t happen very often.””

    With their defense performing at its peak, the only obstacle remaining is improving upon the Wildcats’ scoring woes.

    Last season Arizona averaged 0.6 goals per game through their final 15, despite its stellar defense allowing only 1.8. The result was a dismal 2-12-1 record to end the season.

    This year, the Wildcats are off to a better start with an average of 2.0 goals per game.

    The additional offensive production has not gone unnoticed, but Tobias said there is still plenty of room for improvement.

    “”We always tell (the team) the attacking side typically takes more time to develop rhythm and consistency,”” Tobias said. “”But we always look at two really important things: how well we take care of the ball and what types of scoring chances we’re creating.

    “”And so far I think we’ve done a great job in each of those facets,”” Tobias added. “”With a little more time, we can definitely improve on each one.””

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