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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Wildcats open Pac-10 on road with rival ASU

    Wildcat utility player Brittany Cole fights for position with a  Cal-State Northridge player in a 2-1 Arizona win at  Murphey Stadium  Sept. 21. The UA will face ASU in Tempe today as the Wildcats open up their Pacific 10 Conference season.
    Wildcat utility player Brittany Cole fights for position with a Cal-State Northridge player in a 2-1 Arizona win at Murphey Stadium Sept. 21. The UA will face ASU in Tempe today as the Wildcats open up their Pacific 10 Conference season.

    Arizona soccer head coach Dan Tobias showed his team a special video last Friday.

    The film was a collage of highlights and lowlights from the season up to that point.

    The message must have been clear as the Wildcats shutout their final nonconference opponent, Santa Clara, 2-0 last Sunday.

    Now, with what looks to be a grueling Pacific 10 Conference season looming and a trip to ASU (6-2-3) tonight set as the opener, Arizona (7-4-0) is hoping to improve upon the highlights for Tobias’ next video.

    “”A lot of (the video) was highlights of our team playing really well together,”” said midfielder Sam Drees. “”It showed good give-and-goes, good attacking, and it also had some great highlights defensively of our aggressiveness and how hard our team goes into tackles.

    “”I think all the highlights kind of hit us,”” Drees added. “”And we were like, ‘Yeah, we need to play like that again.'””

    After the previous weekend, in which the Wildcats dropped a pair of home games to what they felt were beatable opponents, Arizona was in need of a pick-me-up, especially with conference season only a week away.

    While the Wildcats are still in a decent position, being in a conference where six teams have two or fewer losses at the midway point requires no lapse in focus to be successful.

    “”We know we really could have used (wins against Long Beach State and UC Santa Barbara),”” said defender Amy Steiner. “”But we’re still in pretty good position and as a team we know we have yet to play our best soccer.””

    Arizona will need to find that level quickly as it will see no easy games through the rest of its season.

    The Pac-10 also leads the nation in Ratings Percentage Index, a mathematical measurement of teams’ strength based on winning percentage against Division I opponents, the opponents’ average winning percentage and the opponents’ opponents’ average winning percentage.

    Stanford is ranked the highest among Pac-10 teams with a No. 3 RPI. Washington State is last at No. 70. ASU is sixth in the conference at No. 36 and Arizona is ninth at No. 63.

    The conference’s unbeaten duo of Stanford and UCLA are both ranked in the top three.

    “”I’ve been in this conference 11 years and I think (the Pac-10) is the best conference in the country,”” Tobias said. “”With all of the rankings and then also the quality on the day that you’re going to get with a Pac-10 opponent – that’s why they call it the Conference of Champions.

    “”There’s no games where you can have a letdown otherwise you’re going to get beat.””

    Throughout the week, Arizona has put together strong training sessions to prevent any such letdowns.

    But the Wildcats will also need to prep their forwards, as the conference has been stingy in goals allowed so far this season.

    This weekend Arizona will play in Tempe and face a Sun Devil team that allows only 0.8 goals per contest – the same as the Wildcats.

    Thus far, Arizona has yet to prove it is a consistent offensive team, with three of its four losses coming in the form of shutouts. In each, Tobias has noted the inability to hold the ball as a primary concern.

    “”I think with our group, there are a variety of reasons (for losing the ball),”” Tobias said. “”Some of the reason is technical – skill-wise, some is tactical – the decision making, and some of it’s physical and some of it’s mental.

    With a series of high-intensity practices throughout the week, the Wildcats feel they should be sharp for tonight’s conference opener.

    Focus should not be an issue, however, since Arizona will not only be motivated by the in-state rivalry aspect of the match-up, but perhaps more so by the 12-0-1 record ASU holds over the Wildcats.

    “”I know that (never having beaten ASU) pisses off the girls from Arizona the most,”” said Drees, a California native. “”But we know we’re a better soccer team, and I think that if there’s any year, any team that’s going to beat them, I think that it’ll be this one.””

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