Arizona soccer preps for one of the toughest road trips in the country

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Zi Yang Lai | The Daily Wildcat

Midfielder Gabi Stoian (9) brings the ball downfield against Oregon on Friday, Oct. 23, 2015. 

The last few weeks have been a whirlwind for Arizona women’s soccer. After losing three games in a row, the Wildcats responded with three straight wins against Washington State, Oregon and Oregon State.

The winning streak brought the Wildcats to 11-4-2 overall and 5-3 in Pac-12 Conference play, good for a third-place tie in the conference. It also led the Wildcats to jump back into the top 25 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll, where they’re now ranked 21st in the country.

It leaves Arizona with just three regular season games remaining with the next two coming on the road against the mountain schools, Colorado and Utah.

While the Utes and Buffaloes are both near the bottom of the conference, No. 10 and No. 11 respectively, Arizona head coach Tony Amato said this is one of the tougher road trips the Wildcats face.

“It’s the hardest trip in the Pac-12 in terms of when you travel,” Amato said. “You fly on the Thursday, play the game [on Friday afternoon], then fly Friday [night] to get to Utah.”

The travel isn’t the only obstacle, either.

“And there’s an altitude issue and two good Pac-12 teams,” Amato said. “So it’s a hard trip, and we’ll have to be ready and prepare this week to go up there and try to find a way to win a game or two.”

The altitude may not force the Wildcats to dig deeper into the bench, but it could prevent them from playing at the fast pace they have grown accustomed to.

“I don’t know that,” Amato said when asked about using different substitution patterns. “But we will prepare in terms of hydration and our approach to it and our tempo of the game. We just need to be aware of some of those details.”

Senior Hayley Estopare isn’t concerned about the thin mountain air.

“Every year, everyone thinks the altitude is going to get them,” Estopare said. “But honestly, it’s just about how you play and how hard you play.”

Of course, the Wildcats aren’t exactly healthy and Amato may still have to utilize the team’s depth more than usual.

Gabi Stoian and Charlotte Brascia were both forced to leave the game with injuries in Sunday’s game against Oregon State.

Stoian, who leads the team in scoring, tweaked her quad and did not return for what Amato said were precautionary reasons. Still, the head coach isn’t exactly sure if she’ll play this weekend, but it does seem likely.

“I think it’s too early to tell. [The medical staff] said that they didn’t feel like it was too bad,” Amato said.

Brascia, on the other hand, suffered a head injury and her status will be treated with much more caution.

The first game of the weekend is on Friday in Boulder, Colorado, against the Buffaloes. The Buffs (7-8-2, 1-6-1) are 0-6-1 in their last seven games. Frankly, it’s a game the Wildcats should win and will need to win if they want to threaten Stanford for the conference title. That game will kickoff at 2 p.m. and will be televised on the Pac-12 Networks.

The Wildcats will then fly to Salt Lake City to take on the Utes. Utah (5-9-3, 2-6) has lost its last five games and didn’t score a single goal in that span. The Utes also have the conference’s worst defense, allowing 1.35 goals per game, so it’s another one the No. 21 Wildcats should win. Kickoff is scheduled for 1 p.m.

If the Wildcats can avoid an upset and come away with two wins this weekend, they could possibly move into a tie for second place in the conference while distancing themselves from the middle of pack. It’s a great opportunity for a team that not too long ago was treading water in the desert.


Follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.



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