More shots, togetherness leading to turnaround season for Arizona soccer
In just one season the Arizona women’s soccer team has made a complete 180, going from one win in 19 games to five wins in 10. Here’s a closer look at the team’s turnaround.
A look back at 2011
The Wildcats went 1-16-2 in 2011, with their only win coming from a Pac-12 shutout victory at home against Oregon, 1-0.
Of the 16 losses, 12 were shutouts, and Arizona’s longest losing streak lasted seven games.
Arizona had a miniscule goal-to-shot ratio, taking a total of 195 shots and scoring only eight goals for the season, meaning the Wildcats only scored on four percent of their shots. The most goals Arizona scored in one game was two, while the team’s largest goal deficit was a seven point loss to Stanford.
As far as individual performances go, then-sophomores Jazmin Ponce and Ana-Maria Montoya led the team in shots with 40 and 26, respectively. Unfortunately, they didn’t translate well in the books, as Ponce and Montoya’s goal-to-shot percentages combined were less than 10 percent.
The stats are in Arizona’s favor in 2012
“One of the big things is that we are scoring a lot of our goals,” head coach Lisa Oyen said. “It’s been one basic thing that has come up that’s been a necessity for wins.”
By the fifth game this season, the Wildcats had tied the total number of goals they scored all of last season — eight. Now, Arizona is one goal short of doubling last season’s total.
Ponce alone is two goals away from tying the team’s record from last season. Her goal-to-shot percentage jumped to 13 percent, while her shot on goal percentage is a team high at 51 percent.
“We are getting inside the box a lot more and actually finishing,” Ponce said.
On the defensive end, junior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman already has 34 saves for the season, limiting opponents to scoring 7 goals in 10 games.
Different team dynamic
“Overall the team chemistry this year is so much better than last year,” senior midfielder Ariel Boulicault said. “We are so close and we play for each other. We are all dedicated to the program.”
Boulicault believes the team has something to prove to its fan base and competition who underestimated Arizona’s abilities in the past.
The strong bond is not just seen among the upperclassmen, but the freshmen as well.
“We depend on one another and the overall attitude of the team is much more positive,” Ponce said.
Even when Montoya and junior forward Candice Osei-Agyemang traveled to play internationally, the team pulled together to support them by sending encouraging emails, tweets and Facebook messages.
New addition to the coaching staff
Tim Bennett was named associate head coach on January 18. He has quite the resume.
He served as part of the coaching staff for the Dallas Texans Soccer Club for three years before coming to Arizona. He was the associate head coach for the Iowa State women’s soccer team in 2008, head coach at Portland State for three seasons and head coach at North Dakota for one season.
“I was very adamant about finding someone who had previous head coaching experience,” Oyen said. “He is a phenomenal recruiter and he is good at training the team.”
Bennett’s personality and undeniable love for his job are appreciated by the players on the team, especially the upperclassmen.
“After our hard loss against Pacific he came back to the bus and was talking to us seniors,” Boulicault said. “He engaged us in a conversation about what we could have done better as a team, which shows he really cares about this team’s success.”
The Wildcats wear the number 13 on their warm-up jerseys in honor of teammate Lexe Selman, who is battling leukemia.
“Knowing how much she is fighting makes us want to fight for her,” Boulicault said.
Selman signed her letter of intent to join the Arizona Wildcats for the fall 2012 season, but on April 20 the incoming freshman was diagnosed with the life-threatening disease.
Oyen promised Selman that her spot is reserved on the team and even invited her to join the team via Skype for their first meeting before Arizona’s opening home game against BYU.
“Everything Lexe has done has shown strength and courage,” Oyen said. “No matter what we are going to be faced with, we realize that the little things we struggle with that seem like such a big deal are nothing in comparison to what Lexe is fighting … It makes us fight that much harder because we have to live up to that same standard Lexe has for this team.”