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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Missed opportunities tell story for women’s soccer

    UA forward London Kings shot gets blocked by UCLAs Erin Hardy during a 2-0 Bruin win Oct. 19 at Murphey Field. The Wildcats started the season off strong going 8-4 but struggled down the stretch as they won just one of their last eight games of the year.
    UA forward London King’s shot gets blocked by UCLA’s Erin Hardy during a 2-0 Bruin win Oct. 19 at Murphey Field. The Wildcats started the season off strong going 8-4 but struggled down the stretch as they won just one of their last eight games of the year.

    Following the Arizona soccer team’s final loss to Washington on Sunday in Seattle, Wash., all the players and coaches could do was shake their heads.

    Once again the team fell short, and once again it meant the season was over.

    Last Wednesday several players spoke with excitement regarding their potential chance of making the NCAA Tournament – something that has eluded them since 2005.

    For that to happen, the Wildcats, who finished the year 9-11 and 2-7 in the Pacific 10 Conference, would need to win their final two matches and get some help, and even then, making the tournament would be in the hands of the selection committee.

    But despite the odds, the optimistic Arizona squad saw a dismal 6-13-1 record from 2007 become a hopeful 9-9 heading to the final weekend of the 2008 season. The team had improved and felt confident.

    “”We’ve made a lot of progress from last year,”” forward Sally Thurner said prior to last weekend’s season-ending road trip. “”We didn’t do as well as we should have last year, and we’ve done much better this year, not just in terms of our record, but how we’ve played together and how we’ve competed against these teams.””

    Despite winning only two games in Pac-10 play, Arizona looked like an NCAA Tournament contender. The scenario became all the more unlikely Friday when the Wildcats dropped the weekend opener 1-0 to Washington State. There was still hope in the Arizona locker room, however, that a rebound win in the regular season’s final game could give the Wildcats the required .500 mark and at least put themselves in the tournament debate.

    Instead, Sunday became the culmination of a year plagued by injuries ð- Arizona lost four of its main weapons early – and had one common theme: missed opportunities.

    In the 2-1 loss to the Huskies, Arizona suffered one final injury, a knee ailment to goalkeeper Chelsea McIntyre that forced previously untested freshman Ashley Jett to try and cling onto the final thread of the Wildcat’s season. Jett could not and Washington scored the season-ending goal, putting a frustrating end to a rather unbalanced year for Arizona.

    “”For that to be the last regular season game, and for Ashley Jett to come in without playing at all this year, she did a really good job,”” said head coach Dan Tobias. “”I thought our intensity was fine; we definitely had enough of the ball. We just didn’t tuck away enough of our chances, and that turned out to be kind of a theme for the year.””

    Through the first half of the season, it appeared Arizona would surely be punching their ticket to the postseason as the team scored 17 goals in its first 11 games, giving itself a strong start at 7-4. The Wildcats were among the conference leaders in goals allowed per game with an average under one.

    But everything changed at the start of conference play. After an emotional win over Arizona State in which the Wildcats took down their in-state rivals for the first time in the program’s 14-year history, Arizona struggled to return its previous form, especially on the offensive end.

    The Wildcats were shut out five times in their nine conference games and scored multiple goals only twice, both of which resulted in Arizona wins.

    Arizona’s troubles began when the team faced three teams ranked in the nation’s top seven in a span of four games, all of which resulted in losses with the Wildcats being outscored 9-1 overall.

    The team’s offensive struggles reached a peak the following week against Oregon when Arizona failed to convert on any of its 10 shots – including a few chances at point-blank range – while the opportunistic Ducks managed to blast one past McIntyre to give themselves the win.

    “”A lot of times the difference between teams comes down to who tucks the chances away,”” Tobias said. “”I thought all year long we had good chances and sometimes we did (tuck them away) and other times not.

    “”That four-game stretch in the middle of the season was tough for us, because we played well but didn’t get the results in the win column,”” Tobias added. “”That was disappointing for us as a staff and disappointing for the girls.””

    The Wildcats never rebounded from that disappointment as only one more win came their way. But despite knowing that the team did not meet its lofty expectations, many players left with some sense of success and hope for the future. After all, 2008 did turn out to be the third most successful year in program history, after 2005 and 2006.

    “”Of course when you start the season your goal is to go to the tournament, and that’s why you play all these strong non-conference teams and conference matches,”” said defender Savanah Levake. “”But we have a better record than we had last year and you have to build.

    “”I just hope the girls below me get to experience going to the tournament,”” the senior added. “”We have some great girls here, and I’m sure they’re only going to improve.””

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