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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Despite losing weekend, Wildcats prove they can hang with top teams

Arizona+womens+soccer+head+coach+Tony+Amato+pumps+up+the+team+before+a+game+against+Pepperdine+in+September+2015.%26nbsp%3BThe+Wildcats+defeated+NAU+1-0+in+their+final+tune-up+on+Friday%2C+August+12%2C%26nbsp%3Bbefore+the+2016%26nbsp%3Bregular+season+begins.
Zi Yang Lai

Arizona women’s soccer head coach Tony Amato pumps up the team before a game against Pepperdine in September 2015. The Wildcats defeated NAU 1-0 in their final tune-up on Friday, August 12, before the 2016 regular season begins.

After starting the season 5-0, including quality wins over San Diego State University and Santa Clara University, Arizona women’s soccer was off to the best start in school history.

And it’s not like they squeaked by their opponents in those five games. The numbers were unbelievably one-sided.

The Wildcats had taken 117 shots and scored 15 goals, while their opponents had only taken 49 shots and scored three goals.

Arizona ranked No. 22 in goals against average in country (.423), and were No. 59 in the country in goals per game with 2.14. The UA also received nine votes in the NSCAA Coaches poll, which put them just outside the top 25.

Still, for a program that has only had four winning seasons since its inaugural season in 1994, it’s easy to be skeptical about just how good this team is.

Wins against Santa Clara and San Diego State helped erase some doubt, but Arizona’s performance in the Arizona Cats Classic tournament would be more telling of how the team truly compares to the top teams in the country.

In the first game of the tournament, the UA tied No. 18 Texas Tech University 1-1 in extra time. Arizona may have trailed for 89 minutes, but it controlled much of the game. The Wildcats had 16 shots to Texas Tech’s 13, and a few shots just didn’t find their way into the back of net. They continued to scrap and fight, however, and broke through in the 89th minute to salvage a tie.

Tying a top-20 team alone doesn’t prove Arizona’s status as a team, but considering they seemed to outplay the Red Raiders en route to that tie, it helped put some legitimacy into the Wildcats’ hype.

Two days later, Arizona lost to No. 14 Pepperdine 1-0 in a weather-shortened game. It was the first loss of the season for the Wildcats, but again, there were some very encouraging signs. The ‘Cats may have been held scoreless, but they outshot the Waves 13-6 and controlled the tempo and pace for most of the game.

At worst, the Wildcats looked like equals against a highly-respected Pepperdine team that tied top-ranked University of Virginia just a week earlier.

All in all, the tournament was a success for the program even though it came away with no wins. As head coach Tony Amato said after Sunday’s loss, his team showed that they can compete against anyone on any given day.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.


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