Wildcats soccer season preview: new faces, coach, mentality
The 2013 Arizona soccer team features a new coach, a healthy mix of both returning playmakers and new faces, and a schedule with ranked teams coming to Tucson.
Arizona soccer hasn’t been great the last few years.
That’s why Tony Amato was hired as head coach in December, following Lisa Oyen’s resignation after three seasons and a 12-40-7 record.
Tyler Besh // The Daily Wildcat UA Soccer Coach Tony Amato directs the players during practice on Monday, Aug. 26, 2013.
The Wildcats started the season 2-0-0, doubling their win total from 2011.
Amato’s players said they see the soccer program becoming more structured.
“From day one, Tony came in and said he wanted to make this program as professional as possible,” junior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman said. “The overall mentality of the coaching staff has brought a professional mentality to our team.”
Amato brought an impressive resume to Tucson, including a 127-48-14 career record as a head coach before coming to Tucson. His first seven seasons as a head coach were spent at his alma mater, Rollins College in Florida, while he spent the past three seasons coaching Stephen F. Austin.
Amato was named the Southland Conference Coach of the Year in 2011 and 2012 after his team finished a combined 17-0 in conference play.
For comparison’s sake, the Wildcats finished last in conference play last year, going 2-7-2.
The Wildcats lost six starters from last year’s team, but Amato said he sees leadership displayed in this year’s upperclassmen especially senior forward Jazmin Ponce, senior midfielder Shannon Heinzler and Kaufman.
“We definitely have a core group of players we are going to rely on, but you’ve got to have leadership,” Amato said. “That’s a group that you turn to and say, ‘You’ve got to set the tone.’”
Ponce was a first-team Pac-12 performer last year when she scored eight goals, and Kaufman led the conference in saves with 108.
Arizona returned 18 letter-winners from last year, and Amato brought in 12 freshmen and one transfer to help fill the roster.
Amato said he hopes the freshmen contribute in any way they can while simultaneously learning as the season progresses and their playing time adds up.
“The most important thing is that they get minutes early in the season so that they get comfortable,” Amato said. “We need them to contribute. If we just rely on the 18 returners, then we’re not maximizing our squad.”
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