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Soccer to face stiff competition in Sun Devil Classic

Savannah+Douglas+%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AThe+UA+womens+soccer+team+won+1-0+against+NAU+during+their+first+game+of+the+season+at+Murphy+Stadium+on+Thursday.+
Savannah Douglas
Savannah Douglas / The Daily Wildcat The UA womens soccer team won 1-0 against NAU during their first game of the season at Murphy Stadium on Thursday.

On the heels of a late victory over NAU on Aug. 28, Arizona soccer (2-1-0) heads up to Tempe this weekend to take on No. 6 Texas A&M and Oklahoma State in the Sun Devil Classic.

This will be the sixth consecutive year the Wildcats have competed in the Sun Devil Classic, an annual tournament that sees Arizona and ASU battle it out with two out-of-state teams at the beginning of every season since 2009. Last season, the Wildcats recorded two draws when they faced Kansas and Illinois.

Friday night sees the Wildcats take the field with not only one of the best teams in the SEC but also the nation. The No. 6-ranked Texas A&M Aggies (4-0-0) have had a perfect start to the season, including a victory over then-No. 18 UCF just last week. So far this season, the Aggies have outscored their opponents 12-4 which should make for a good matchup with Arizona’s tough defense that has earned two shutouts in three games this season.

In 2013, Texas A&M won the SEC regular season and tournament before falling in the third round of the NCAA Tournament. This year, the Aggies are led by seniors Kelly Monogue and Shea Groom, who have combined for nine goals in the first four games. By comparison, the Wildcats have only managed a total of four goals all season as a team.

While Friday night’s matchup with Texas A&M should be the toughest of the weekend for the Wildcats, Sunday morning’s battle with Oklahoma State won’t be much easier for Arizona.

In an almost complete reverse of Texas A&M’s success this season, Oklahoma State (0-4-0) comes into the weekend losers of all four of its games with only two goals produced thus far. However, much of the Cowgirls’ early season woes can be blamed on the difficulty of their schedule. So far this season, Oklahoma State has played teams that were ranked or now find themselves ranked, including No. 2 Florida State and No. 5 Florida.

The Cowgirls rely on sophomore forward Courtney Dike, who missed the team’s first two games of the season while representing Nigeria in the FIFA Under-20 Women’s World Cup in Canada.

Arizona head coach Tony Amato said playing against good competition early on is necessary to get the team ready for conference play.

“It’s really important to get a measure of where you are,” Amato said. “You need to play games that look like games in the Pac-12 [Conference]. You don’t necessarily need those games every weekend, but you need a few of them going into conference — so that your team knows what it’s going to take. So, I’m really looking forward to the weekend.”

Like several of her teammates, Arizona freshman midfielder Gabi Stoian, who graduated from Pinnacle High School in Scottsdale, will have the chance to play in front of friends and family this weekend.

“I’m excited,” Stoian said. “They’re both really good teams, and I think we have the talent on the team to play against them and it will be a good competition. I’m excited to see everyone there and have some fans at the game.”

From Sept. 12-14, the Wildcats return home to host New Mexico State, Nevada and ASU at the Arizona Cats Classic.

—Follow Brian Peel @_brianpeel

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