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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat


Cuellar’s absence a problem

Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat

Soccer v. Cal Poly
Gordon Bates
Gordon Bates / Arizona Daily Wildcat Soccer v. Cal Poly

How important is one player to a team?

To quantify junior forward Renae Cuellar’s importance to the Arizona soccer team, consider this stat.

Dating back to the beginning of the 2009 season, the Wildcats have won six games, and in five of those wins Cuellar has scored at least one goal. This includes four times shooting the go-ahead or game-winning shot.

So, to answer the question, one player can be pretty important.

The second question is one that doesn’t have an immediate answer, and that is how does a team respond when they lose that player?

Cuellar, who has six goals on the year, did not play in either the 1-1 tie to Central Florida or the 5-1 loss to Ohio State this weekend due to an undisclosed injury that will keep her off the field for an indefinite period of time.

With 12 freshmen on the roster, several of them will now be asked to carry the load during the absence of Arizona’s 2009 and 2010 leading scorer.

“”We’re going to have to learn to adjust without Renae being on the field at times,”” head coach Lisa Oyen said. “”We talked to the entire group about how we’re in the point in the season where we’re going to ask everyone to step up.””

Without a doubt, not having Cuellar on the field affects Arizona’s ability to attack offensively, and on the road to rebuilding the program, should it be serious, her injury could be a substantial speed bump.

Fortunately for the Wildcats, they have the personnel to get over the speed bump.

Oyen pointed to freshmen Ana Montoya, Jazmin Ponce, Jensen Skinner and Kenzie Akerfelds as players that she trusts to pick up the slack on offense.

“”I think that this was a chance to really step up and be that go-to player, and I think as a group (the freshmen) all responded well,”” Oyen said after Friday’s game. “”I like the fact that there’s more than one player who we can look at to put the ball in the back of the net.””

Since the beginning of the year, Oyen has said that the offense wouldn’t rely solely on the legs of Cuellar, and, albeit young, the talent on the field is there for the Wildcats.

Montoya, like Cuellar, brings international experience to the field, having played for the U-20 Colombian National Team in this summer’s Women’s World Cup, and showcased her talent this weekend with a goal against Central Florida.

Ponce replaces Cuellar as Arizona’s primary scoring threat up top and responded by leading the Wildcats in shot attempts in the last two games, while Skinner was the silver lining in Sunday’s loss by hitting an impressive goal on her own corner kick that sailed perfectly into the top shelf of the net.

Mentally though, Arizona will have to adjust as well without Cuellar’s consistent play.

Oyen made it clear after Sunday’s loss that the Wildcats are a team that would not make excuses.

“”No one was sitting there complaining, they were really trying to find solutions and I think that’s what the team is about,”” Oyen said. “”Not feeling sorry yourself, not complaining, not trying to point fingers, but finding solutions now. That’s where we’re at, let’s find solutions and be better because of this. It’s a good response, and I think it’s very characteristic of the kind of group that we have.””

As the 2010 season continues, the answer to the question of how the Wildcats will respond rests on their ability to find those solutions.

Oyen is confident that the team has the right mindset to move forward, and during the period of Cuellar’s absence, she will continue to motivate the Wildcats to not rest on Cuellar’s laurels, but to build their own game by game.

“”We’re not just going to sit here and feel sorry for ourselves. We’re going to solve this and we’re going to become better,”” Oyen said.

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