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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Soccer heads to talent-rich Calif.

    There is a rule in statistical analysis that says correlation does not always mean cause and effect. However, in the case of California and top-notch soccer, that may be precisely what it means.

    After playing host to a pair of southern California teams last weekend, both of which were ranked in the top 10, the Arizona soccer team (8-6, 1-2 Pacific 10 Conference) heads to the northern region of California to take on two more high-powered teams from the powerful soccer state, one of which – Stanford – enters the weekend in the No. 2 spot nationally.

    The Wildcats will take on the Pac-10 leading Cardinal (14-0-1, 4-0) tonight and the conference’s fourth-place team in the California Golden Bears (9-5, 2-2) on Sunday.

    “”California has always been very strong in terms of its soccer,”” UA head coach and California native Dan Tobias said. “”It’s a huge state and there are a lot of good players. It is always a target of our recruiting and a pretty big hot spot for a lot of programs.””

    Around the Pac-10 specifically, rosters typically have numerous players who grew up playing in California leagues.

    The four California schools in the conference each have more than 50 percent of their teams occupied by in-staters, and Cal has the most lopsided roster with nearly 92 percent of its team compiled of native players.

    Stanford is the most diverse team with just over 40 percent of its team migrating in from around the country.

    Arizona has its fair share of Californians, with 11 roster spots filled with players from the so-called “”Golden State.””

    While the Wildcats have benefited from the production of California-born athletes such as talented defender Brianna Caceres or the team’s career-leading scorer London King, some of the players themselves have trouble pinpointing just what makes the state produce the soccer talent it does.

    “”I’m really not sure of the reason,”” forward Jacqueline Broussard said of California’s soccer strength. “”I think soccer just caught on there perhaps a little bit faster than other places around the country. There are a lot of very well-coached teams out there and they’re just surrounded by a lot of good people.””

    Broussard herself played on one of California’s top four premiere league clubs – the San Diego Surf – during her youth career, in which she said nearly 95 percent of the players went on to play soccer for Division I NCAA programs.

    On her team alone, all but one went on to compete at the D-I level.

    Caceres and King are other such examples of the high level of talent which precipitates from the West Coast.

    Both women played on the same club team – So Cal United – during their youth careers. The club was one of the four main powerhouse teams in the state and the United even won a national championship in 2004 while both Caceres and King were members.

    “”(Soccer) has always been pretty competitive, especially in southern California,”” Caceres said. “”I think they just have better club teams. Because when I was with my club team it was always a toss-up with who was going to win league and who was going to go to nationals.

    “”Our (United) team won one year, but every team earned a trip to nationals at some point and that just shows that every team was good.””

    Tonight’s game will be a reunion of sorts for King and Caceres as they will face their former So Cal United teammate Ali Riley, now a Stanford forward.

    However, all friendships will be placed aside for the game, which has grown in importance for the Wildcats after they suffered a pair of 2-0 losses at home last weekend.

    The dagger for Arizona came last season when it only managed to earn one conference victory.

    Now, with that lone win already in hand, the Wildcats must try to scratch out a win this weekend and prevent a similar collapse to the 2007 season.

    “”I think we’re on track, just this last weekend we did everything but score,”” Tobias said. “”The two losses in the record column don’t show how well we played and our sport can be cruel that way.

    “”But I like how things are going,”” Tobias added. “”The group is optimistic, we just need to keep pressing and moving forward and the goals are going to come and the results are going to come as well.””

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