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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Oyen guiding team forward

Gordon Bates/ Arizona Daily Wildcat
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates/ Arizona Daily Wildcat

The Wildcat soccer team is at a crossroads.

At this point last season, Arizona had an identical record — 2-3-1 — through its first six matches en route to a disappointing 4-15-1 record.

But this year is different as the first-year head coach Lisa Oyen has rejuvenated the Arizona program with confidence and excitement about what the Wildcats can accomplish, despite what their record shows.

Arizona’s players have a certain bond with Oyen after seeing her stick with the program through thick and thin.Fifth-year senior Alex Davis spoke about how their new coach commanded respect as she understands what it means to go through the grind of a college soccer season, having gone through it in her own career.

“”I think the players absolutely respect her because she did play soccer in college, and she knows the fitness and everything about the game that it takes to be a good college player,”” Davis said. “”We respect her that much more because of that reason. She knows us best.””

Oyen spent six seasons at Arizona before landing the head-coaching gig in the middle of last season after the departure of former head coach Dan Tobias.

During her tenure with the Wildcats, Oyen was a part of the 2004 team that won the program’s first Pacific 10 conference title, and the 2005 squad that earned Arizona’s first ever Sweet 16 berth.

But from 2006-2009, the Wildcats finished the year with a losing record, so Oyen knows both sides of the coin.

Fifth-year senior Macke Mutz has seen the program’s changing of the guard having played for Arizona’s last two coaches, and she trusts Oyen to turn the program around knowing that she has stayed loyal to Arizona soccer through rough times.

“”I think that’s what made the transition a lot easier is that (Oyen) did know the program, and she was there when the program was going through some issues and she’s here when we’re trying to come out of them too,”” Mutz said.””She has a good idea of how to build the team back up.””

In certain cases where programs have experienced losing seasons, there might be a group of players returning who are bitter or skeptical of the team’s direction.

But for Oyen, she feels a total commitment from veterans and freshmen alike, which has made her own transition that much smoother.

“”We had a lot of players come back who were really just dedicated to Arizona soccer, and who love being Wildcats.”” Oyen said.

“”So I think the group that we have, there wasn’t a real rocky time to transition because everyone who wanted to be here was 100 percent on board and really wanted to do well. We have a group that’s so motivated that it made that transition very smooth.””

Fresh off a win against Tennessee,  Oyen and the Wildcats have a chance to continue to push the rebuilding effort in the right direction by winning back to back games for the first time in over a year.

Arizona will play host for the Arizona Tournament by first taking on Central Florida (4-2) Friday night at 7:30, and Ohio State (5-1-1) on Sunday at 1 p.m.

The Wildcats are focused on maintaining a level approach by refusing to look beyond 90 minutes.

“”You know we don’t want to put pressure to get results … we want to focus game to game.”” Oyen said.

“”We take it game by game,”” said senior Alex Davis. “”I honestly think every single game has been a test, every practice is a test just to see how we come out.”” Davis added.

Freshman success noticed

The young freshmen Wildcats have been stepping up of late and showcasing the program’s future, and their contributions haven’t gone unnoticed. released its College Freshman National Top 100 Women rankings for the week of Sept. 15, and three Wildcats made an appearance on the list: Jensen Skinner (57), Jazmin Ponce (81) and Kenzie Akerfelds (97).

When asked if it was important to see the freshmen show improvement early in the year, Oyen commented saying, “”Absolutely, not just for the rest of the season but for years to come. They’ve showed a lot of maturity and I feel like a lot of them don’t have that freshman year where you look at them and say ‘oh she must be a freshman’.””

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