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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Versus: Who will have the better season, UA soccer or volleyball?

Arizona volleyball will look to improve upon last season’s trip to the NCAA Tournament despite losing a host of house players. The program brings in a good deal of talent courtesy of both transfers and freshmen, on top of a few skilled returners. 

Volleyball, like soccer, is building off a postseason appearance last fall. The Wildcats went 24-10 in 2014 and earned a national seed in the NCAA Tournament. 

A big bulk of that team either graduated or left the program for other reasons over the summer. Nonetheless, the Wildcats should have enough depth to replace those departures. 

Eight freshmen are listed on the Arizona roster, an unusually high number that would suggest the program is entering a rebuilding phase. Fortunately, there’s a lot of quality within the quantity. 

Four of the incoming freshmen were ranked in PrepVolleyball.com’s Top 100 class of 2015 players. Setter Sarah Dixon was the highest ranked recruit, coming in at No. 30 nationally. 

The recruiting class ranks No. 14 in the country according to PrepVolleyball.com. 

Not all of Arizona’s newcomers are freshmen. Head coach Dave Rubio brings in a triage of transfers who could all see immediate playing time. 

Earlier this week, Rubio expressed optimism when discussing the impact of the transfers.

Arizona also brings back All-Pac-12 Conference setter Penina Snuka and 2014 contributors Laura Larson and Kalei Mau. 

If the new additions can blend in smoothly with the returners, the Wildcats should be in good shape to earn another NCAA Tournament bid and perhaps advance even farther than last season’s second-round loss. 

The women’s soccer team could improve this season as they returned most of their key contributors from last year’s 11-8-2 campaign, including Gabi Stoian, who led the team in scoring last year and already leads the Pac-12 Conference in points and goals. 

She could very well be the best scorer in the conference.

The expectations for this season were higher than usual, and so far, the Wildcats have exceeded them. They won their first two games on opening weekend, including an impressive win against a tough Santa Clara squad that went 14-6 last year and was picked to win their conference this season. 

Arizona’s offense is averaging more shots per game and is converting them at a higher rate than last season, while their defense has given up just one goal and 11 shots in two games. 

Replacing three-year starter Gabby Kaufman in net was one of the bigger question marks coming into the season, but freshman Lainey Burdett has filled in nicely so far.

The offense, defense and goalkeeping has been solid , but not everything has gone as planned. The midfield has been ravaged with injuries. 

Sophomore Cali Crisler and junior Lexe Selman were both injured in the first game, and Selman is expected to miss the entire season. Losing two starters is never easy and head coach Tony Amato has expressed his concern about his team’s ability to replace them.

However, in the team’s first game without them, their replacements played quite well.

The offense, loaded with talent, should continue to be effective and efficient. If they can continue to defend at a high-level and adequately replace their lost midfielders, they should improve on last year’s 13-8-2 record. Which, by the way, was the team’s best since 2005. 

The program is undoubtedly on an upswing right now.


Follow Ezra Amacher and Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.


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