Arizona soccer returns home to face Washington schools
Playing at home for the first time in nearly a month, Arizona soccer (7-5-3, 2-4-0 Pac-12) will try and build off last Friday’s overtime victory at USC when it takes on the Washington schools this weekend.
After a slow start to Pac-12 play when they lost their first three games, the Wildcats have bounced back, winning two of their last three games and in doing so, have climbed out of the Pac-12 basement for the first time all year.
Arizona finally returns home to the friendly confines of Murphey Field at Mulcahy Stadium after five road games in a row, where it will close out the regular season with a five-game home stand. The Wildcats have played some of their best soccer at home this season, winning three of their five games and outscoring their opponents by a total of 17-5.
Arizona goalkeeper and Pac-12 leading shot stopper Gabby Kaufman said it’s good to be home considering how much of a boost the crowd at home gives the Wildcats.
“This is our home field and we have such a great crowd here,” said Kaufman. “I think with our crowd behind us that is a huge factor with them cheering and pushing us to play our best game. Playing at home is just a way better environment for us.”
Last weekend in Los Angeles, Arizona won a back and forth affair against the USC Trojans with senior midfielder Jazmin Ponce scoring two goals including the game winning goal off a free kick in overtime. It was already Ponce’s fifth game winner of the season which leads the Pac-12 and her 10 goals overall is tied for second in the conference. Ponce’s performance earned her the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.
Friday at 2 p.m., the Wildcats will be taking on the Washington State Cougars, a team that has struggled of late after a hot start to the season. The Cougars were undefeated in non-conference play winning seven of their nine games and drawing twice, but Pac-12 play has been a different story so far.
Washington State is 2-3-1 in the Pac-12 and has dropped their last two games including last weekend’s 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Oregon State Beavers. Senior forward Micaela Castain is the Cougars’ biggest threat as well as one of the best players in the Pac-12. Castain’s 11 goals are the most in the conference and her 27 overall points is also tops in the Pac-12. Sophomore Kourtney Guetlein has been Castain’s biggest contributor with her Pac-12 leading seven assists.
The game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
At noon Sunday, Arizona faces the Washington Huskies, who have played like the mirror opposites of their rivals to the east. Unlike the Cougars, the Huskies struggled in the non-conference winning only four games but since Pac-12 play has started, UW has been on a bit of a roll.
Even with middling offensive and defensive team statistics, Washington owns a 3-1-2 Pac-12 record and only trails UCLA in the conference standings with still five games left on their schedule. The Huskies have not had one individual standout when it comes to scoring but instead look to several players including junior midfielder Kate Bennett whose three goals is tied for the team lead.
The game will be streamed on Pac-12.com.
Wildcat head coach Tony Amato said he sees both games this weekend as difficult match ups.
“They’re both good teams,” said Amato. “The Pac-12 as we all know is a tough league and those two are at the top end of the standings, not necessarily in first place but still near the top of the table. We know it’s going to be tough and a challenge but the whole season is a challenge so we are approaching it one game at a time and we have to play well this weekend to get positive results.”
— Follow Brian Peel @BrianPeel91