Cuellar, Smith healthy for 2011
The Arizona women’s soccer team suffered some significant injuries last year, and two of the biggest included two of the team’s most crucial players.
Redshirt junior forward Renae Cuellar had to undergo a season-ending knee surgery after asserting herself as Arizona’s top scoring threat. Junior defender Alex Smith, the team’s most consistent defender, missed all of September due to illness. Now, the duo is healthy and looking to inject the Wildcats (0-2) with leadership going into the 2011 season.
“(Cuellar and Smith) both played extremely well,” said head coach Lisa Oyen following their first game, a 1-0 loss by way of penalty kick to San Diego State on Friday. “They came in very prepared, and I’m very happy for those two to be back.”
The Wildcats are bringing in seven freshmen to an already young team but, along with some other upperclassmen, they will rely on Smith and Cuellar to help prepare the youngsters.
“They are natural leaders in how they play and how they approach the game in training sessions,” Oyen said. “(Redshirt junior) Susana Melendez has been with the team for four years and she provides a nice calmness with the team.
“We train a lot of these players long enough so that they know what needs to be done, and they become leaders naturally.”
Along with Cuellar and Smith, Oyen said that senior goalkeeper Ashley Jett has to be a leader on the team. Jett, who led the Pacific 10 Conference with 104 saves in 1676 minutes in 2010, will be the last line of defense for the Wildcats.
“(I’m) very pleased with how organized our defense has been,” said assistant coach Danielle Sunderhaus. “In the past, that’s been an area where other teams have tried to attack. Our back line has come together with (junior) Kirstyn Magyar, (sophomore) Gabrielle Lindeman as well as Alex Smith, who had a great first game back. They have really stepped up.”
Cuellar said she has big hopes for the Wildcats after finishing 5-13-2 last season.
“I definitely want to break the top five in the new Pac-12,” Cuellar said. “I also want to make the tournament, but I feel like we have enough to get it done.”
To do so, the Wildcats will have to succeed through the rough road of the Pac-12 schedule, where they will face No. 2 Stanford Cardinal and No. 16 UCLA Bruins.