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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

    Ready as they’ll ever be

    Freshman Danielle Nicolai and junior Devon Wharf pose after practice yesterday at Murphey Stadium. Due to injuries, the two goalkeepers will share goaltending duties, with Wharf as the probable starter for Fridays season opener.
    Freshman Danielle Nicolai and junior Devon Wharf pose after practice yesterday at Murphey Stadium. Due to injuries, the two goalkeepers will share goaltending duties, with Wharf as the probable starter for Friday’s season opener.

    While the rest of the team was re-hydrating themselves under a small pop-up tent during practice yesterday afternoon, two members of the Arizona soccer team remained on the field on the north goal line continuing a drill with assistant coach John Galas.

    One player would sit on her knees along the goal line and attempt to block repeated kicks given by the other from the top of the goal box. The two switched periodically until the rest of the team resumed practice.

    The two players were junior Devon Wharf and freshman walk-on Danielle Nicolai, the Wildcat’s goalkeepers. With the team’s top two goalies out with injuries – senior McCall Smith, who will not play for the rest of the season, and junior Chelsea McIntire – both Nicolai and Wharf have found themselves on the top of the Wildcat’s depth chart.

    With the team’s first game only two days away and the starting position all but decided, the two women are doing all they can to prepare for what will be not only the first start but the first playing time of their careers.

    “”I feel like I’m ready to go,”” said Wharf. “”This is my chance and I’m ready to step up to the plate and do what I have to do.””

    Both girls admitted feeling fairly relaxed as the days wind down before opening night, but the two also admitted to having a few butterflies.

    “”We’re relaxed in practice, but it’s always good to feel a little bit nervous,”” Wharf said. “”If you’re nervous you make sure you’re right on and you’re doing everything to the best of your ability.””

    Despite both girls lacking collegiate experience, both have had the chance to learn from the team’s previous goalkeepers. Wharf spent two years as a backup behind McIntire last year and Smith the year before had said the thing that struck her most about them was their confidence.

    “”They portray a lot of confidence on the field,”” said Wharf. “”So I feel like I need to give the backfield the confidence (Smith and McIntire) gave them.””

    Although Nikolai has not had as much time to pick up lessons from her predecessors, she has been able to gain some useful advice even during her short time.

    “”They give a lot of direction and a lot of tips because they’ve had experience,”” Nikolai said. “”So it gives me, someone who hasn’t had experience, some insight into what I should expect.””

    From a team perspective, mixing in a new goalkeeper will certainly be a big change for the team. But junior London King said the change should not affect the team in a negative way.

    “”I think it’ll be fine,”” King said. “”Devon was here last year, so it wasn’t like she wasn’t around. The only difference is that this year she’ll have the opportunity to step up and start.””

    While the battle for the starting position is not officially decided, head coach Dan Tobias said he is leaning toward Wharf as the likely starter for Friday night.

    “”Devon has more experience as a college player,”” Tobias said. “”So she certainly has the edge there. I think over these 10 to 11 days we’ve been out here, she’s done a really good job.

    “”The kind of confidence she’s exuding not only puts her in a good position but the team in a good position as well.””

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