Arizona Wildcats soccer hosts No. 4 UCLA
After a successful non-conference schedule, Arizona soccer begins Pac-12 Conference play this weekend when it hosts the No. 4 UCLA Bruins on Sunday afternoon at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Stadium.
Last Sunday, the Wildcats (5-1-3) knocked off the visiting Hawaii Rainbow Wahine 4-1 to conclude a non-conference slate that has given Arizona it’s best start ever.
Entering Sunday’s contest against the Bruins, Arizona is near the top in several Pac-12 statistical categories, including leading the conference in total goals scored with 23, at a clip of just over 2.5 per game.
Several Wildcats have had success individually as well, with senior midfielder Jazmin Ponce’s six goals tying her for sixth in the Pac-12. Defensively, junior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman’s 35 saves are good for third in the conference. Newcomers like junior forward Ali Doller and freshman midfielder Jaden DeGracie have played a pivotal role in the Wildcats’ early season run as well, with Doller second on the team with four goals and DeGracie leading Arizona with four assists.
Ryan Revock/The Daily Wildcat Alexa Montgomery (left) defends the ball against Hawaii's Kama Pascua (right) on Sept. 20, 2013.
DeGracie said the biggest reason for the team’s strong start is everyone’s determination.
“To see the effort put in by the upperclassmen and the freshmen is just amazing, and I’m just so grateful to be a part of it all,” DeGracie said. “I just know we are always going to go out fighting, and regardless of the score, we are going to give whoever we play a heck of a game.”
This Sunday will likely be the Wildcats’ sternest test of 2013, as No. 4 UCLA (8-1-0) brings one of the Pac 12’s best defenses to Tucson. Through nine games, the Bruins have only given up three goals, which ties them with Washington State for fewest goals allowed in the conference. UCLA’s only loss so far this season was at the hands of the defending national champions, the North Carolina Tar Heels, in Durham, N.C. Since losing 1-0 to UNC, the Bruins have rebounded with four consecutive victories, outscoring their opponents 9-1 in the process.
Freshman forward Darian Jenkins leads UCLA with seven goals and 15 total points. The Bruins also return two players who were All-Pac-12 first team last season: junior midfielder Sarah Killion and junior defender Abby Dahlkemper.
Wildcat assistant coach Kylie Louw said the Bruins will be a difficult challenge, but at the same time, they are still just the next team on Arizona’s schedule.
“We approach every game individually,” Louw said. “Every team is beatable, so we are going to approach them like we do every other game, which is to get the win.”
Ponce also said she has confidence in her team.
“We are ready for anything,” Ponce said. “We played two ranked teams already and played really well against both of them. They might have only been in the non-conference, but they still got us ready for the conference.”
— Follow Brian Peel @BrianPeel91