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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Wildcats travel to Tempe for Sun Devil Classic, will face SDSU and Stephen F. Austin

Rebecca Noble

Arizona scores against Stanford at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium on Friday, Oct. 24, 2014. The Wildcats head to Tempe for the Sun Devil Desert Classic this weekend, where they will face the San Diego State Aztecs and the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks.

Arizona soccer looks to stay undefeated this weekend when it heads to Tempe for two games in the Sun Devil Desert Classic. 

On Friday at 4:30 p.m., the Wildcats (3-0) will take on the San Diego State Aztecs. 

The Aztecs (3-1) were previously No. 26 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll, but they lost 2-0 to Cal last week and dropped to no. 35. 

Despite the loss, the Aztecs will be the highest ranked team the Wildcats will have faced this year.

“We looked at the wins of all the California schools. … They were only behind Stanford, UCLA and Cal in terms of wins over the last four of five years, so they’re a very good team,” said  Tony Amato, Arizona soccer coach, about San Diego State. 

“[Head coach] Mike [Friesen] does a great job with them, so it’s gonna be a challenge,” Amato said. “That’s one that we know, if we can get the win, it will really help us in the RPI rankings in the future.”

Then, on Sunday, the Wildcats will go up against the Stephen F. Austin Lumberjacks at 11 a.m. 

Let’s just say that Amato is very familiar with Stephen F. Austin. 

Before becoming Arizona’s coach in 2013, Amato was the head coach for Stephen F. Austin, where he led the Lumberjacks to a 45-12-3 record from 2010 to 2012. He was a two-time Coach of the Year in the Southland Conference and is the school’s all-time winning percentage leader with a win percentage of .788.

In fact, Amato scheduled Stephen F. Austin to play in the Sun Devil Desert Classic.

“A few years ago [while still the coach at Stephen F. Austin] … ASU contacted me and said, ‘We’re coming to play Texas A&M. Would you be willing to play us? We’ll come to your place,’” Amato said.

Amato mentioned that it was rare for a Pac-12 Conference school to come play at Stephen F. Austin, so he welcomed them with open arms. There was a catch, though.

“They said, ‘But, in 2015, you need to come play in our tournament and play Arizona and us,’ and I said, ‘That’d be great,’ not knowing in 2015 that it’d come full circle and I’d be at Arizona. So now we’re coaching against them,” Amato explained.

Since Amato left for Arizona not too long ago, some of the players he coached and recruited while at Stephen F. Austin are still on the current roster.

“I coached the seniors, recruited them, recruited the juniors, recruited some of the sophomores—so we know them well,” he said.

This matchup will be personal for some of the Lumberjacks, and Amato said he realizes that they’ll be playing with a chip on their shoulder Sunday.

“We know that they’re going to be totally ready for us. I know that those players that I coached and recruited are good players, or I wouldn’t have been involved with them in the first place,” he said. 

While traditionally a strong team, Stephen F. Austin has struggled this year and is off to a 0-3-1 start. Although, the extra motivation they’ll have when playing against Amato’s Wildcats may be exactly what the slumping team needs to get on track.

Nonetheless, both games should prove to be close, hard-fought contests. Coming away with two wins would obviously be ideal for the Wildcats, but Coach Amato also sees the need for his team to improve as conference play draws near. He said he believes these games will help the team do just that.

“We set this up going into the season knowing we’re going to play San Diego State, who’s a very good team, and SFA, who won like 16 games last year. So we know it’s another test to get ready for the Pac-12,” Amato said.

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.

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