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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Highs and lows of head soccer coach Amato’s inaugural season

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Amy Phelps
Amy Phelps / The Daily Wildcat UA senior forward Jazmin Ponce fights for the ball against ASU on Thursday at home. The Wildcats defeated ASU 2-0.

On Monday, Arizona soccer learned it was not one of the 64 teams selected for the NCAA tournament. Despite not making the postseason, the Wildcats had a mostly successful 2013 season under first-year head coach Tony Amato, as he led the Wildcats to the program’s first winning season since 2005.

Quick recap

The Wildcats came out of the gates hotter than any other team in program history, winning their first three games of the season and staying undefeated through seven games until they eventually fell to Texas Tech in mid-September.

With a 5-1-3 record, Arizona was at its best in the non-conference portion of its schedule, which included two dominating six-goal performances: 6-0 over UC Riverside and 6-1 against Southern Utah. The Wildcats were especially good at home in non-conference, outscoring their opponents by a total of 16-4 at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Stadium.

Once Pac-12 play began, things started to unravel for the Wildcats. Arizona started 0-3 in conference play despite all three losses coming by a single goal against highly ranked opponents: UCLA, Stanford and Cal.

The Wildcats bounced back from their slow Pac-12 start and won two of their next three games, including a thrilling 3-2 overtime victory over USC in the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Senior midfielder Jazmin Ponce netted the game-winner against the Trojans, just one of her five game-winning goals on the season.

Down the stretch, the Wildcats were at home for their final five Pac-12 games and finally started to regain their early season mojo. A tie against Washington combined with wins over Colorado and ASU to end the season. That put the Wildcats at 9-7-4 overall and 4-6-1 in the Pac-12, which tied them for ninth in the conference.

High point

It had to be a Wildcat victory over ASU on senior day.

Despite knowing it was very unlikely it would make postseason play, Arizona dominated its rivals to the north, winning 2-0 in a game that wasn’t even as close as the score makes it seem. For seniors Ponce, Ana-Maria Montoya and Shannon Heinzler, it was their first victory over the Sun Devils in their careers, as Arizona had not beaten ASU since 2009. Though they never made the postseason as Wildcats, all three seniors deserve plenty of credit for sticking around and making 2013 a year to build off of.

Low point

Even though they played well in all three losses, the Wildcats’ 0-3 start to Pac-12 play was the season’s biggest disappointment.

After playing lights-out to start the year, Arizona had plenty of confidence going into the brutal three-game stretch versus the conference hierarchy, but was not able to secure a single point when all was said and done.

A 4-0 defeat at the hands of Washington State at home gets dishonorable mention for low point of the season.

MVP

Considering how bad Arizona soccer has been these past few seasons, including a 2011 season with just a single win, Amato probably deserves more credit than anyone.

But since this is supposed to go to a player, the clear choice is Ponce.

For the second year in a row, Ponce was named a first-team All-Pac-12 performer, as she tied for third in the conference with 10 goals and led the Pac-12 with 92 total shot attempts.

Crystal ball
With Amato at the helm, things look bright for Arizona soccer.

Losing Ponce, Montoya and Heinzler won’t help, but that’s the nature of college sports.

With 13 freshmen on this year’s roster, many of whom saw significant playing time, there is plenty of youth to build off of. Look for Jaden DeGracie and Lexe Selman to break out as stars in 2014.
“There were a lot of players who played this season that were younger or in their second year,” Amato said. “That experience goes a long way, and all those players are coming back.”

Going into her senior year, goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman will likely be the Wildcats’ leader next season.

Quote of the season
Midfielder Julia Glanz describing her first goal of the season against Colorado: “I hit it with my boob.”

Honorable mention

Ali Doller discussing her history of Halloween costumes: “I’ve been a clown, one of the guys from KISS, but my favorite of all time was in high school, when one of my friend’s moms made me and like 20 of my friends Care Bear costumes that we all wore to school.”

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