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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Undefeated Arizona soccer hosts Cats Classic

Brian+Valencia+%2F+Arizona+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AEmily+Lai+prepares+to+score+against+UC+Riverside+on+Friday%2C+Aug.+30%2C+2013.+Lai+is+a+junior+at+the+University+of+Arizona.+
Brian Valencia
Brian Valencia / Arizona Daily Wildcat Emily Lai prepares to score against UC Riverside on Friday, Aug. 30, 2013. Lai is a junior at the University of Arizona.

For the first time in 2013, Arizona soccer will play two consecutive home games when it hosts the annual Cats Classic tournament.

The Wildcats take on the Southern Utah Thunderbirds on Friday night, and conclude the tournament with the Texas Tech Red Raiders on Sunday afternoon. ASU will also take part in the tournament this weekend, but the in-state rivals will not compete.

Head coach Tony Amato said he is happy to get back to where the Wildcats will have a home field advantage, which they have only had once this season.

“We are really excited to play two games in a row here in Tucson,” Amato said. “Being in front of our home fans at our home field, we feel like it will give us a boost of energy that we can really utilize at this point in the season.”

With an undefeated 3-0-3 record so far in 2013, the Wildcats are off to the program’s best start ever.

Wildcat junior forward and team leader in goals Ali Doller points to the team’s overall energy as the biggest reason for the early success this season.

“We put a lot of effort into the games, and we always try really hard,” Doller said. “We might not always be the best team out there, because our opponents are all really good, but we are always working hard.”

The Wildcats’ effort was on display last weekend when Arizona made late comebacks in both games at the Sun Devil Classic in Tempe, Ariz., eventually tying both Kansas and Illinois, 1-1.

Amato said he was pleased with the persistence the team showed despite falling behind in both games.

“It shows a resiliency that we’ve been talking about,” Amato said. “We showed that in back-to-back games. Not at home, down a goal, we fought back and found a way to claw ourselves back into both games.”

Friday night’s game matches the Wildcats up with Southern Utah, which is 2-3-0 on the season with wins over UCSB and Vermont. The Thunderbirds’ most recent game this past Sunday ended with a 2-6 loss to Utah in Salt Lake City. Southern Utah has been getting contributions in scoring from more than just a handful of players, as nine Thunderbirds have recorded a goal in 2013.

On Sunday afternoon, the Wildcats will take on their second ranked opponent in two weeks when No. 24 Texas Tech comes to town. The Red Raiders are 5-1-0 with all but one of their games at home in Lubbock, Texas. Texas Tech’s lone loss on the year was against Long Beach State, which upset the Red Raiders with a final score of 3-2. Senior Hayley Haagsma and sophomore Janine Beckie lead the team with three goals apiece.

Both teams present a challenge, according to Amato, especially Texas Tech, which bested his Stephen F. Austin Ladyjacks last season, 1-0.

“They are two good games,” Amato said. “Texas Tech is a top-25 team, and I played against them last year at my last school, so I know the kind of quality they have. I know both games will be hard-fought battles.”

Arizona has had success against ranked teams this season, as it tied then-No. 24 Ohio State 1-1 in Columbus on Sept. 1.

Texas Tech has been a goal-scoring machine in 2013 with a Big 12-best 16 goals, and though it’s won only two of its first five games this year, Southern Utah has had no problem putting the ball in the back of the net, as it’s second in the Big Sky, with 11 goals. The Wildcats’ stout defense has only allowed four goals in six games this year.

— Follow Brian Peel @BrianPeel91

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