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Arizona women’s soccer: Wildcats seek revenge vs. Pepperdine in season opener

Arizona+soccers+Gabi+Stoian+chases+after+a+ball+in+the+Wildcats+match+against+Pepperdine+on+Sept.+13%2C+2015.+For+the+second+straight+year%2C+the+Waves+beat+the+Wildcats.
Zi Yang Lai

Arizona soccer’s Gabi Stoian chases after a ball in the Wildcats’ match against Pepperdine on Sept. 13, 2015. For the second straight year, the Waves beat the Wildcats.

The Arizona women’s soccer team begins a new season on Friday, but its first opponent is anything but new.

The Wildcats are headed to Malibu, California to take on the Pepperdine Waves in their regular season opener.

The two teams faced each other in Tucson last season, and the Waves escaped with a 1-0 win on the Wildcats’ home-field in a match that was ended early due to heavy rain and lightning.

This time, the Wildcats — ranked 20th in the nation to begin the season — are hoping to return the favor.

“That [game] was the worst,” Arizona senior midfielder Jaden DeGracie-Bailey said. “I’m really focused on a rematch. We can bring more than when the game was cut short.”

RELATED: Soccer notebook: DeGracie-Bailey on the verge on assist record, Wildcat injuries and freshman standouts

To help his team flip the script, Arizona head coach Tony Amato has watched film of last year’s match ‘several times,’ hoping he can devise a more effective gameplan this time around.

“Coaches have tendencies,” Amato explained. “It’s hard the first weekend of the season because you don’t know exactly what their lineup’s going to be, you don’t know exactly how they’re going to play, but [Pepperdine head coach] Tim [Ward]’s been there for 20 seasons and coaches tend to have some tendencies that you can count on in a game like that. And they have quite a few returners so you can pencil in certain players in certain spots and get somewhat of a look. And with the way we played against them last year, you can see what [Ward] was thinking of how he was going to handle how we play.”

Arizona will fly to Los Angeles on Wednesday, practice in Malibu on Thursday and then leave for Tucson Friday night following the contest against Pepperdine, where the Wildcats will host Utah Valley on Sunday night.

It’s an extremely rare case of Arizona having one road game and one home game in the same weekend.

Yet, because the match at Pepperdine starts early in the afternoon on Friday and the match versus Utah Valley starts late Sunday night, Amato believes the scheduling is a lot more favorable than it appears to be on the surface.

“We can sleep-in Saturday, get together and recap how Friday went, what our approach will be and then we still have almost all day Sunday to make sure the players are on the right mind frame going into a 6 p.m. kickoff [against Utah Valley],” Amato said. “I think it works out a little bit different than maybe if we would have played Friday night at 7 p.m. and then at noon on Sunday.”

The UA players haven’t started school yet either, giving the coaches more time than usual to meet with players and more time for players to rest and recover in between practices.

“It’s the best week of the year,” Amato said before practice on Tuesday morning. “They’re almost like professional soccer players this week.”

RELATED: Arizona soccer defeats NAU 1-0 in exhibition, but is still a work in progress

The rematch against Pepperdine — a team that received 12 votes in the NSCAA preseason rankings — might be up first on the schedule, but Utah Valley is no slouch either.

Utah Valley reached the NCAA Tournament last season with a 14-7-1 record, and Amato — ‘behind the scenes’ — has already watched some game film to help prepare for Sunday’s contest.

However, Amato stressed that he only wants his players focused on Pepperdine for the time being.

“We haven’t talked about [Utah Valley] with the team yet,” he said.

And after last season’s weather-shortened loss to the Waves, Amato’s not going to have a problem doing that — the Wildcats are out for revenge.

“You never like to be beaten, especially at the beginning of the season,” DeGracie-Bailey said. “So I really want to do to [Pepperdine] what they did to us [last season].”

“Except for without the rain delay.”

The kickoff in Malibu is set for 3 p.m.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter


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