Soccer closes regular season with ASU
Arizona goal keeper Gabby Kaufman catches California forward Samantha Witteman's kick during Arizona's 1-1 tie against Cal at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium on Oct. 26. Kaufman and the Wildcats close out the regular season with a matchup against ASU on Friday.
In its final scheduled game of the regular season, Arizona soccer (10-6-2, 4-5-1 Pac-12 Conference) looks to cement a postseason berth while simultaneously knocking off hated rival ASU when it travels to Tempe on Friday. Going into this weekend, the Wildcats come in at No. 27 in the RPI rankings, down four spots from a week ago.
Last weekend, the Wildcats split two road games when they won at Utah before falling to Colorado. Arizona has struggled in its past six games, losing four, against highly ranked competition.
For senior midfielder LeeAndra Smith, Friday’s matchup with ASU is her last in the rivalry, which means going out on top means everything.
“I really want to beat them,” Smith said. “I know the whole team does, too. This will be the last time I get to play them and be on the field with them, so I want to leave my senior year with a win against them.”
In what will be the only game of the weekend for the Wildcats, Friday’s 2 p.m. kickoff features an ASU team at No. 40 in the RPI rankings. The Sun Devils currently sit at 10-5-4 overall and 3-4-3 in Pac-12 play, one point behind the Wildcats for eighth place in the conference. Last season, the Wildcats upset the Sun Devils in Tucson by a final score of 2-0 and in the process, kept ASU from making the NCAA Tournament.
Friday afternoon’s showdown will not only be between two teams fighting for a postseason spot but also a contest amid two of the highest-scoring players in the Pac-12. ASU is led by forward Cali Farquharson, whose 14 goals are tied for first in the conference with UCLA’s Sam Mewis. Trailing just behind Farquharson and Mewis is Arizona midfielder Gabi Stoian, who scored all three of the Wildcats’ goals last weekend and now has 13 on the season, good enough for second-highest in a single season for a Wildcat.
Arizona head coach Tony Amato said trying to close out the regular season with a win against a rival adds extra significance to this weekend.
“It’s an important game,” Amato said. “Every game we try and go out and win, but this one is for a Territorial Cup in the department, and you want to always contribute as much as you can to your department. And we know that’s important, so we want to go out and play our best. We feel like we are in a good place to go out and be motivated, and if we play well that day, we should go out and have a positive result.”
For those who cannot make the trip up Interstate 10, the game will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.
Follow Brian Peel on Twitter.