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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Soccer must improve before tough Pac-10 schedule

Colin Darland / Arizona Daily Wildcat
Colin Darland
Colin Darland / Arizona Daily Wildcat

With three non-conference games remaining before their Pacific 10 Conference schedule begins, the Arizona soccer team needs to build momentum.

The Wildcats (2-5-1) have struggled early on while the other nine teams in the conference have cruised past their non-conference opponents.

The Pac-10 is arguably the best conference in the nation and Arizona lags behind the rest of the pack, being the only team in the conference with a losing record. USC (5-4-0) has the next worst record and is fresh off a weekend sweep of Oklahoma and No. 24 Oklahoma State on the road.

The Pac-10 currently has three teams ranked in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America rankings; No. 2 Stanford, No. 3 UCLA and No. 8 California, not to mention six other teams that could make their way into the rankings with a few more wins.

“”Everybody is good in the Pac-10, everyone plays a pretty difficult nonconference schedule. I think top to bottom this is the best conference in the country,”” said Arizona head coach Dan Tobias. “”If you go into any of those games thinking you have an easy win, it’ll be the surest way to come out on the wrong end of the results.””

In its first eight games, Arizona has gone up against four ranked teams but has struggled to score goals, being outscored by ranked opponents 12-2.

After losing two of three top goal scorers from a year ago — London King to graduation and Karina Camacho, who transferred to California State University, Long Beach — the only consistent goal scoring threat has been sophomore Renae Cuellar, who has five of the team’s nine goals this season. If the team hopes to have any success in conference play, someone other than Cuellar must step up.

“”It’s always important to have more people to contribute to scoring because it makes us a more dangerous team,”” said goalkeeper Devon Wharf. “”I think some girls just need to find a rhythm; Renae found a rhythm early and it worked out for us in a few games.””

In the Wildcats’ last game against No. 18 Brigham Young University on Saturday, they showed signs of being able to compete against an elite team, holding the Cougars to one goal. But the problem was that Arizona couldn’t buy a goal for themselves.

“”I told the team, ‘Let’s play like we did against BYU, but let’s complete the task and score a goal or two,'”” Tobias said. “”We have a number of good attacking players but we have to start producing. I think that our attacking players will get their share of goals. I know it’s coming, there’s no question.””

While the Wildcats have alternated between playing well in the first and second halves, they have yet to play a complete game. Having a very young team may be the reason for their inconsistencies. 

But with three nonconference games left to build some confidence, the Wildcats can’t afford to continue with their inconsistencies and go into conference play limping.  Arizona has gone 3-14-1 against Pac-10 teams in the last two years and in a league that may be stronger this year than in previous ones, Arizona’s young core of players will need to grow up fast or they’ll be staring a winless Pac-10 season in the face.

“”We have to do well in these last three non-conference games so we can start on a clean slate to start the Pac-10,”” Wharf said. “”We just have to make sure the young players know that there is no easy game in the Pac-10. Every game is going to be the hardest game you ever played, everyone needs to be ready whether starting, coming off the bench or playing five minutes.””

Nonetheless, Tobias is confident that his team will come around before the Pac-10 season.

“”I think we’re going to be very prepared by the time conference play comes but we’re just focused on our next game right now.””

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