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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

New Arizona soccer coach Amato wins first two games

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Courtesy of Arizona

UA Soccer Coach Tony Amato

The Arizona soccer team couldn’t have asked for a better start to the 2013 season than the one it had in the Sunshine State over the weekend.

The Wildcats (2-0-0) made it anything but sunny for both Florida International and Florida Atlantic, winning both games by a combined score of 5-2. On Friday night, Arizona kicked off the Tony Amato era with a 4-2 victory over Florida International in Miami.

The Wildcats dominated possession throughout most of the game, and its offense came alive in the second half when it scored three goals. Redshirt freshman forward Kaitlyn Lopez got the first half’s only goal and began the Wildcats’ scoring early with a sixth minute finish that gave Arizona a 1-0 lead going into halftime.

A costly mistake from the Panthers’ defense in giving the ball away near their own penalty box put Arizona up 2-0 when junior forward Alexandra Doller pushed it past FIU goalkeeper Vanessa Plasencia in the 54th minute. Plasencia, a freshman making her first career start, was on call all night and finished with 13 saves.

Doller would strike again just five minutes later when she put away a rebound shot that appeared to glance off the post, making it 3-0 Wildcats. FIU’s offense lacked attack power until the 74th minute when the Panthers’ Crystal McNamara headed in a free kick.

Any chance of a Panther comeback ended when confusion in the Panthers’ penalty box saw the Wildcats’ leading goal-scorer from last year, senior midfielder and forward Jazmin Ponce, score Arizona’s last goal of the night in the 82nd minute.

Ponce’s goal was set up from a somersault flip throw-in from freshmen midfielder Jaden DeGracie that she utilized throughout the night.

FIU scored the game’s final goal just seconds later when Arizona made a mistake of its own, failing to clear the ball out of its half. This lead to a shot from Weinhardt that had no chance of being saved by Wildcat junior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman, who ended the night with three saves.

The Wildcats outshot the Panthers 23-9 for the game with 17 on goal compared to FIU’s five.

Just down the road in Boca Raton, Fla., Arizona found itself in a defensive struggle against Florida Atlantic on Sunday but eventually pulled out a 1-0 victory.

Both offenses had their chances, but the Wildcats were the only team to take advantage when Ponce finally broke through in the 79th minute, scoring her second goal of the weekend with an assist from DeGracie.

“We brought her out for a little breather, and when we put her back in we said, ‘Go find us a way to win us the game,’” Amato said about Ponce. “Her ability and her will to win won us the game.”

While they did outshoot the Owls 13-5, the Wildcats only managed to put three shots on goal. Kaufman had a solid game, stopping the two shots she faced and collecting her first shutout of the year.

Amato said he was pleased with the team’s effort Sunday, even though it struggled at times compared to Friday’s win.

“We were able to grind it out. We found a way to get the goal today, which definitely shows me a lot of what the team has deep inside because it wasn’t going our way at times.”

Arizona’s home opener will be a showdown with UC Riverside on Friday. Kickoff is scheduled for 4:30 p.m.

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Twitter.com/BrianPeel91

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