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The Daily Wildcat

 

Season recap: Arizona soccer made strides in 2014

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Rebecca Marie Sasnett

Arizona soccer midfielder Gabi Stoian (9) looks to score against California midfielder Thelma Einarsdottir (17) during Arizona’s 1-1 tie against California at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium on Oct. 26. 2014. 

Last weekend, the Arizona Wildcats soccer team’s season came to an end when it was defeated by Texas A&M in the Second Round of the NCAA tournament. Even with the early exit in the postseason, the Wildcats had one of their best seasons in program history under second-year head coach Tony Amato, making the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2005.

Quick recap

Much like last season, Arizona had a solid start to the season, winning six of their eight nonconference games, including a 3-1 win over Oklahoma State as well as a 2-2 tie with Texas A&M at the Sun Devil Classic in Tempe back in September. Arizona’s success against quality nonconference competition was critical in building its resume, something it lacked in 2013.

After dropping their Pac-12 Conference opener 3-0 to USC, the Wildcats won their next three conference games and were off to one of the best starts in program history at 9-2-1. However, playing against some of the best teams in the entire country, Arizona lost three in a row in October, including a 6-0 thrashing at the hands of UCLA and a heartbreaking 3-2 overtime loss at home against Stanford.

Even with a 2-1 victory over Utah on Halloween, Arizona’s postseason aspirations seemed to fade with close losses to Colorado and ASU. But the NCAA Tournament Selection Committee answered the Wildcats’ prayers, and Arizona was back in the postseason.

Matched up with Oklahoma State for the second time in 2014, the Wildcats came away with a 1-0 win in chilly Stillwater in the First Round and were suddenly only one of 32 teams remaining in the country with a chance at a National Championship. Texas A&M was Arizona’s next opponent and also happened to be its last. The Aggies rolled the Wildcats 7-2 and ended their mostly-dream-2014 run.

High point

There are a couple of choices for high point of the season, including midfielder Gabi Stoian’s dominant three-goal stretch at the Sun Devil Classic or the blowout 4-1 win at Washington State, but the easy answer here is the Wildcats’ First Round victory over Oklahoma State on the road. For nearly 10 seasons, Wildcat soccer fans waited to see their team make the postseason again, and not only did Arizona qualify but they advanced with a 1-0 victory away from home.

Low point

Just as there were plenty of options for high point of the year, the same can be said for low point. The 6-0 loss at UCLA was especially bad because it was sort of a measuring-stick game for the Wildcats, and losing by a golden goal against highly ranked Stanford was a nightmare. But what could be worse than being eliminated from the postseason by a five-goal margin? The 7-2 loss to Texas A&M is the low point of the year because all signs pointed to at least a competitive game. However, the Wildcats stood no chance against the No. 1 seed when the ball was kicked off.

MVP

This might be the most clear cut choice of anything. The MVP of the 2014 Arizona Wildcat soccer team is Stoian, and it isn’t even very close. The Scottsdale midfielder’s scored 13 goals and 33 total points on the year are both the second-most for a Wildcat in a single season. For her efforts, Stoian was named Second-Team All-Pac-12 and was on the Pac-12 All-Freshman team.

Crystal ball

Next season, the Wildcats have all the pieces to again make a run at a NCAA tournament appearance, and there is little reason to believe they might not make it even further into the postseason in 2015. Considering how bad Arizona soccer was just a few seasons ago, Amato has proven he is one of the best coaches in the Pac-12, and with the return of several key pieces such as Stoian, Kaitlyn Lopez and Sheaffer Skadsen just to name a few, the Wildcats will continue to make strides. It will be tough to replace the likes of seniors Gabby Kaufman, Ali Doller and Mykaylin Rosenquist, but if Amato continues to recruit well and develop talent, Arizona should be just fine next season.

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Follow Brian Peel on Twitter.

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