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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Soccer looks to win fourth straight at home

    UA midfielder Samantha Drees lofts in a corner kick during the Wildcats 2-1 overtime win over Cal-State Northridge on Sunday. The soccer team has a pair of home games this weekend against Long Beach State tonight at 7 and UC Santa Barbara Sunday night at 5.
    UA midfielder Samantha Drees lofts in a corner kick during the Wildcats’ 2-1 overtime win over Cal-State Northridge on Sunday. The soccer team has a pair of home games this weekend against Long Beach State tonight at 7 and UC Santa Barbara Sunday night at 5.

    Dan Tobias refuses to talk about last season. When asked to compare last year’s team, which went 6-13-1, to his present one, currently 6-2-0, the Arizona soccer head coach was adamant that neither he nor his team thought about such comparisons.

    “”All of our stuff we do this season is in comparison to the first day of preseason and moving forward,”” Tobias said. “”2007, 2006, 2005, 2004 – none of that stuff has a bearing on what we’re doing right now.””

    So when the Wildcats take to their home turf this weekend with the chance to equal their highest win total in two seasons (8) as well as matching the team’s longest winning streak (5), the only comparison that can be made is to where Arizona was nearly two months ago.

    However, when the Wildcats take on Long Beach State (5-2-2) tonight at 7, and University of California, Santa Barbara (6-3-0) Sunday at 5 p.m., the question now is how the team that crumbled to pieces in the third weekend last season and never fully recovered, somehow transformed into a team that shows the potential to make its first NCAA Tournament berth since 2005.

    If you ask the players, they will say the changes began when the team took the field in the spring for the first time following last year.

    “”It was a pretty difficult spring season; everyone worked really, really hard,”” said midfielder Alex Davis. “”(After the 2007 season) we were trying to stay positive which was hard because we felt we were performing well, we just weren’t getting the results we wanted. But during spring, everyone stayed positive and was really motivated to make the team better for (this) season.””

    Fortunately for Arizona, improving upon 2007 only meant enhancing the weapons the team already had, as the Wildcats said goodbye to only three seniors during the offseason.

    Meanwhile, a handful of competent juniors stepped into the senior leadership role, providing a backbone for an overall young squad.

    Among the seniors are forwards Sally Thurner and London King, who is second on the team in scoring with three goals. Defenders Brianna Caceres and Savannah Levake also anchor a defense that has had four shutouts on the year and sits third in the Pacific 10 Conference in goals allowed per game at 0.62.

    “”Being a leader is a legitimate role, and I think we have a lot of leaders on this team,”” King said. “”With experience you know how to calm down your team and get into their heads. I think with so many (leaders) out here, it’s really helping some of the younger players relax and play to their full potential.””

    Contributions from Arizona’s slew of young players has also been a key to its early success.

    With six sophomores, including Karina Camacho who also has three goals on the year, the Wildcats have also seen several freshmen stepping into major roles.

    Most notable is forward Renae Cueller who has carried the team on many occasions with her strength as a potent goal scorer as she leads the team with five. But also contributing regularly are defenders Brooke Harrison and Amy Steiner, both of whom have played significant time in six and seven games, respectively, so far this season.

    “”(The freshmen) have all done a really nice job,”” Tobias said. “”They did a great job of showing up prepared. A lot of girls have played so far and taken advantage of the opportunity.

    “”And for those who haven’t gotten in yet, those guys are doing well also,”” Tobias added. “”So (having them is) a great advantage for us now and for the future.””

    As the Wildcats embark on possible wins seven and eight on the season this weekend, another important factor can be included: home field.

    So far, Arizona is 4-0 at Murphey Stadium while its opponents this weekend are a combined 4-3 on the road. The Wildcats have also collected three of their four shutouts at home, where they have also scored eight of their 13 total goals on the year.

    “”I don’t really know what it is,”” Davis said of Arizona’s strong play at home. “”I guess since we have a traveling schedule this year and we’ve been out and about a lot it’s really good to be playing at home in front of our own fans. It makes it a lot of fun to play soccer, which is really important to us.””

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