Wildcats soccer heads to Tempe
Arizona soccer will put its undefeated start to the 2013 season on the line this weekend when the team travels to Tempe, Ariz., to take on Kansas and Illinois at the Sun Devil Classic.
The Wildcats (3-0-1) have had mixed results in ASU’s annual tournament, including splitting their two games in 2012.
Still, the Wildcats are off to their best start since 2008, when the team won six of its first eight games of the year. The 2008 team struggled down the stretch, however, losing seven of its final eight contests and finishing with a 9-11-0 record for the season with no postseason appearance.
Head coach Tony Amato attributes the team’s effort as the main reason for its hot start in 2013.
Tyler Besh // The Daily Wildcat The UA soccer team practices on Monday, Aug. 26, 2013.
“It all comes down to the girls’ work rate,” Amato said. “They made that their cornerstone and the foundation in what they’re doing. It all stems from their willingness to put in the work, do the right things, have effort in the game and try and be successful. When that is your foundation, you can build off that.”
Arizona is fresh off a successful two-game stretch from last weekend, when the team produced a 6-0 victory over UC Riverside in the Wildcats’ home opener before battling then-No. 24 Ohio State to a hard-fought 0-0 tie in Columbus, Ohio.
The Wildcats open their weekend at the Sun Devil Classic with Kansas on Friday at 4:30 p.m., going up against a team that has won three of its first four games this season, including a 4-1 rout of Purdue in its most recent contest last Sunday. The Jayhawks have only allowed two goals thus far and have scored eight of their own, led by senior forward Caroline Kastor. She leads the team with two goals and a pair of assists.
Sunday’s game against Illinois at 11:30 a.m., pits Arizona’s stout defense against Illinois’s high octane offense. The Illini (3-1-0) are currently tied for second in the country in goals scored with 17 at an average of 4.25 per game.
After a tough start to the season, when Illi lost 4-1 on the road against to then No. 10 Notre Dame, the team has played well, winning its last three games with a minimum of five goals scored in each. Junior forward Jannelle Flaws already has five goals to her credit this season, a year after missing all of 2012 with a leg injury. Flaws won Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week last week.
“I told the team, ‘It doesn’t get any easier,’” Amato said. “Kansas is a very good team, and so is Illinois. They are two teams that consistently make the NCAA tournament, so it’s another great test for us.”
If the Wildcats are able to keep their unbeaten start in 2013 going past this weekend, the defense will have to continue to be stellar, and it all starts with junior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman, who was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week on Tuesday after helping shut out UC Riverside and Ohio State.
“It’s a big honor, especially for this program,” Kaufman said, “but at the end of the day, as a whole defensive unit, we just had a great couple of games. Everybody did their part, and I think it really should go to the whole unit. I’m really proud of the way we played.”
—Follow Brian Peel @BrianPeel91