Arizona women's soccer set for home opener
Arizona forward Alexandra Doller (2) defends against Hawai’i defender Malé Fresquez (25) during Arizona’s 4-1 win against Hawai’i on Sept. 20, 2013. The WIldcats have opened the season by winning one of their two games.
Arizona soccer opens up its 2014 home campaign against the NAU Lumberjacks at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Stadium on Thursday at 7 p.m.
The Wildcats (1-1-0) will be trying to rebound from an up-and-down two-game set in Florida last weekend where they beat Florida International 2-0 on Friday before falling to Florida Gulf Coast 2-1 on Sunday.
Senior forward Alexandra Doller has started the season with three points, including one goal and one assist, in the first two games for Arizona. She has accounted for 37.5 percent of Arizona’s eight points so far this season.
The last time the Wildcats and Lumberjacks met was in 2012, when Arizona shut down NAU with a 3-0 victory in Flagstaff.
Kicking off their season in Las Vegas, the Lumberjacks (0-2-0) had a rough start to the season as they dropped both their games last weekend in Sin City. On Friday, NAU played a close one with the host UNLV Rebels before succumbing to the 2-1 defeat that was followed by a 4-2 drubbing at the hands of UC Riverside on Sunday night.
The Lumberjacks are coming off one of their best seasons in school history, going 11-5-3 overall and 7-2-0 in Big Sky Conference play. They are coached by Andre Luciano, who is in his 14th season with the Lumberjacks.
NAU is led by junior midfielder Cierra Gamble, whose five goals, five assists and 15 points were the most on the team last season. For her efforts, Gamble was named All-Big Sky first team at season’s end.
So far this season, junior forward Haley Wingender has the team’s only two goals and leads the team in total points with four. Last season, Wingender was an All-Big Sky second team member.
Arizona head coach Tony Amato sees the matchup with NAU as a good challenge for his team, especially considering that they are in-state rivals.
“We’re expecting them to be a challenge for us,” Amato said. “It’s an in-state opponent who wants to prove that they can compete at a high level with a Pac-12 opponent, and anytime you play in-state competition, you would expect them to be firing on all cylinders and playing with a great amount of effort. So, we’re going to have to match that, and we are going to have to be better technically and tactically to find a way to win the game.”
Returning home for the first time in the early season, Arizona should receive a big boost from playing at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Stadium considering the team played its best soccer of the season there in 2013, going 5-4-1.
Thursday night is the only game this week for the Wildcats, who will travel up to Tempe to face Texas A&M and Oklahoma State as part of the Sun Devil Classic next weekend.
—Follow Brian Peel on Twitter @_brianpeel