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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Arizona soccer’s weekend performance shows good signs to come

Arizona+soccer+player+Gabi+Stoian+dribbles+during+a+game+versus+California+on+Sunday%2C+October+26%2C+2014.+The+game+ended+in+a+1-1+tie.
Courtesy of Arizona Athletics
Arizona soccer player Gabi Stoian dribbles during a game versus California on Sunday, October 26, 2014. The game ended in a 1-1 tie.

Arizona soccer looks like a team poised to build off its breakthrough campaign last year.

The Wildcats, who reached the second round of the NCAA tournament last fall, began the 2015 season with a pair of wins.

Arizona drilled Abilene Christian University 4-0 in the season opener, and then topped a good Santa Clara team by a score of 2-1 on Sunday.

The pair of victories came with some blemishes ­— namely a few injuries — but Arizona’s offensive prowess and stout defending serve as good signals of what could come.

It helps tremendously that Arizona’s most dangerous scorer is only a sophomore.

Gabi Stoian, a 5-foot-5 midfielder out of Scottsdale, Ariz., picked up right where she left off from last season by scoring three goals over the weekend.

Stoian scored the UA’s second and third goals against Abilene Christian and then scored an equalizer versus Santa Clara.

Stoian is coming off a stellar freshman season in which she led the UA with 13 goals and seven assists.

It was a surprise Friday night when Stoian did not run onto the field with the starters. Stoian clarified her absence was due to an ankle injury.

“I’m slowly feeling more confident with my right,” Stoian said after the Abilene Christian win. “It was good getting back out onto the field.”

Fortunately for the Wildcats, Stoian’s lingering injury didn’t prove to induce much pain on the field Friday, and by Sunday, she was back in the starting lineup.

But Arizona was not so fortunate when midfielder Cali Crisler went down in the first half against Abilene Christian, right after she scored her first career goal.

Crisler, a sophomore out of Washington, was seen limping off the field after the game. She did not play on Sunday.

If Crisler is out for a significant period this season, it could serve as a big blow to Arizona’s depth on offense.

Crisler’s starting role in the opening game suggests she was due to see a lot of time on the field this year.

“We already had some people out from the team being injured,” Arizona head coach Tony Amato said.

“Anytime you lose personnel, it’s not fun. We’ve got to have other people now fill some roles so we have a whole season ahead of us.”

While the injury to Crisler may be an early setback to the UA’s offense, the Arizona coaching staff has to like what it’s seen from the defensive side thus far.

In the win over Abilene Christian, the defense delivered a near perfect game by allowing the opposition just two shots, neither on goal.

Then on Sunday, Santa Clara only produced nine total shots. The Broncos’ lone goal came in the second minute.

For the next 88 minutes, freshman goalkeeper Lainey Burdett shut down Santa Clara, recording four saves including one on a penalty kick. Not bad for someone playing in her first two collegiate matches.

Two home wins to start the season won’t raise many eyebrows around the country, but for a program that is looking to establish consistent success, the opening sweep is a signal of good things to come.


Follow Ezra Amacher on Twitter.


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