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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Arizona soccer wraps up non-conference slate with Oklahoma

Alex McIntyre
San Francisco defender Allison Arriola (25) gives Arizona midfielder Cali Crisler (3) a shove on the second day of the Arizona Cats Classic at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium in Tucson, Ariz. on Sunday, Sept.11, 2016. The Wildcats won against the Dons 1-0.

Only one game sits between the Arizona soccer team and the Pac-12 Conference schedule, but it’s certainly one they can’t afford to overlook.

The Wildcats (5-1-1) host Oklahoma (5-2-1) Friday night and the Sooners are entering the match on a three-game winning streak.

“We know this is a big game,” Arizona head coach Tony Amato said. “We’re not even thinking about Pac-12 play yet. We’re approaching this as the biggest game of the year and we got to find a way to get a good result.”

Arizona is on a winning streak of its own, too, as it has won its past four games, outscoring opponents 8-0 in the process.

The Wildcats haven’t allowed a goal since Aug. 26 — five games ago — when they tied Texas Tech 2-2 in Lubbock, Texas. 

“We’re trying to be a wall,” said UA defender Laura Pimienta. “People in front of us can mess up and make mistakes, but we’re trying be that wall that stops everything and cleans everything up.”

And recently they have, as Arizona has given up just five shots on goal during the team’s streak. 

RELATED: Notebook — Arizona soccer finds identity, Pima transfer Brandi Park solidifies backline

Limiting Oklahoma in the same way could prove to be difficult, however. The Sooners have scored nine goals in their past three games. 

“No question,” Amato said when asked if the Sooners were going to present a challenge for Arizona’s defense. “They’re a good team; they’re well-coached. I have a lot of respect for coach [Matt] Potter, he does a good job. We’ve seen on video that they’re a very capable team and we’re going to be challenged in a lot of ways.”

The Sooners are led by center forward Liz Keester, who leads the team in goals (3) and assists (3), midfielders Kaylee Dao and Jemma Cota and a sound defense.

“They get a lot of numbers behind the ball and they’re hard to break down,” Amato said.

However, the Wildcats should be well-prepared for anything Oklahoma throws their way, given this is their only game of the weekend. 

“For the coaching staff, it’s huge,” Amato said. “It’s not that different for the players—other than the turnaround of the recovery to play on Sunday—but for the staff, we’re preparing for one game this week. And when we’re preparing for two, we’re behind the scenes watching film on two teams, scouting two teams, preparing for two teams and so it’s heavier on the staff more than anything. This allows us to just hone in on one game. … The amount of video you’re able to watch on one team can increase and then you can pick up all sorts of things like tendencies of individual players more so than just the overall game-plan of the whole team on the field.”

Another advantage is the Wildcats are playing at home, where they’re 3-0  this season and 10-3-1 in their last 14 home games. 

“It’s pretty important,” said UA defender Hannah Stevens on protecting their home-field. “It always feels worse when you lose on your home-field, especially if you have a big crowd come out on a Friday night. You want to win for them and give them a good game.”

Arizona looks to keep its winning streak going and continue its excellence at Mulcahy Stadium on Friday.

Kickoff is set for 7 p.m.  and the game will be televised on Pac-12 Networks. 

Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.

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