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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Changes evident in soccer

Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat

UA soccer hosts Stanford Oct. 24, 2010.  Stanford won 3-0.
Tim Glass
Tim Glass / Arizona Daily Wildcat UA soccer hosts Stanford Oct. 24, 2010. Stanford won 3-0.

With four games left in Arizona’s soccer season, it’s still too early to deem the season a success or a failure.

That being said, it’s undoubtedly been a transition year for the Wildcats’ program.

When you couple a roster of 12 freshmen with a first-year head coach, their record — 5-9-2, 1-4 Pacific 10 Conference play — is pretty standard for a team in a rebuilding year.

In order to truly gauge the progress of the program, you have to look beyond X’s and O’s.

Since the first day of the season, players refused to accept making excuses about the way the team played this year, and expected to create a culture of winning in 2010.

“”We want Arizona to have a reputation of winning. We want to win, and we want to win now,”” said senior Macke Mutz earlier in the year.

This is the type of answer you will get from all the Arizona players, and the attitude begins with head coach Lisa Oyen.

Despite not being dealt the strongest hand, Oyen has created an expectation of winning and refuses to allow her team to accept the role of bottom dweller in an elite Pac-10 conference.

Take Sunday’s 3-0 loss to No. 1 Stanford.

The Cardinal are everything as advertised. They are big, fast, talented and don’t make mistakes.

But Arizona hung with, and even outplayed, the number one team in the country for a majority of the match, and after the loss, Oyen’s remarks projected an attitude that said the Wildcats wouldn’t go without a fight.

“”This is why you come to play here, we want to play against the very top teams in the country. If this is the standard and consensus around the country, that this is the number one team, let’s put our best effort out there and see how we match up,”” Oyen said.

“”We have the opportunity to play against the best, so let’s not sit back. Let’s go see what we can do.””

They are intent on sending a message to everyone they play that this is a different team than in 2009, and the team’s makeover from last season has even caught the attention of some fans.

“”They’re fun to watch. And they’ll be better next year,”” said one Arizona fan on Sunday to another Wildcat fan.

Granted, there have been some lulls this year, see the 5-1 loss to Ohio State, that made it seem like the Wildcats were relapsing.

But consider that the Wildcats have also played the majority of the year without 2009 All-Pac-10 forward Renae Cuellar, who underwent season-ending knee surgery.

For the last three games, Arizona has played with high energy, and if they continue to do so, the Wildcats will be setting themselves up for future success sooner rather than later. Arizona’s five wins this season already surpass their win total from last year.

While it is too early to put a label on the 2010 Wildcats, the attitudes of players and coaches around the program suggest that the program is headed in the right direction regardless of what the team’s final record ends up being.

“”I think it’s really important for them to put out a product that they can be proud of,”” Oyen said.

Oyen’s leadership has provided a sense of stability that has trickled down to the players, and has them buying into the idea that Arizona has the potential to be one of the top programs in the Pac-10.

 

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