Done but not finished yet
Arizona soccer ends their regular season, but have earned themselves a spot in the national tournament
The Arizona Wildcat soccer team was picked to finish ninth by the coaches collectively before the season started. Head coach Tony Amato did not let his players forget that fact throughout the course of the season.
The ‘Cats finished the regular season Thursday, Nov. 2 against Arizona State with a 2-1 victory, which helped the Wildcats secure a fourth place victory in the conference.
Arizona opened their season strong with a victory at Oklahoma, but later struggled against lesser teams including Texas Tech and Florida Gulf Coast. The Wildcats outplayed both teams, but lost to FGCU 1-0. Amato stated that, despite only securing three points in two games, Arizona was playing the best soccer it has since he arrived here a few years ago. Following their matches against Texas Tech and Florida Gulf Coast, Arizona defeated BYU and haven’t looked back since.
Arizona followed up there 2-1 victory over BYU by hosting Oregon to open Pac-12 play. Arizona beat Oregon in front of a nearly record-breaking crowd, before beginning one of the toughest four-game stretches of any team in the country. The Wildcats played consecutively Stanford, Cal, USC and UCLA. UCLA and Stanford were the top two teams in the nation, respectively, at the time, while Cal and USC were also in the top 15. Arizona went 1-2-1 in that stretch to enter the national conversation.
The Wildcats were undefeated since their loss to USC including a draw with the top range UCLA and went 4-2-2 against the eight teams ranked higher than then in the preseason coaches poll,and 7-2-2 overall in the conference. In the last RPI poll, released Oct. 29, the Wildcats were ranked No. 20 in the country.
UA has shown that they can beat teams several ways they can win with high-pressure scoring on side pieces in corner kicks like they did against Texas Tech or by sitting back and beating teams on the counter like they did against Cal. Arizona is playing mini formations over the course of the season starting out with a 4-4-2 and then transitioning to a 4-1-3-2, playing most recently a 4-3-3.
The Wildcats versatility is going to serve them well in the tournament because they are adjusted to teams that play many different styles. Amato stated that he used the 4-3-3 formation against teams that feature their wings. This formation suits the younger players on the team much better than it does some of the veterans. Playing this formation has given some of the freshman a lot of experience that they wouldn’t have otherwise gotten. This shows the bright future for Arizona past this season.
Four dynamic seniors Cali Crisler, Gabi Stoian, Brandi Park, and Charlotte Brascia led the Wildcats this season, but however would not be as successful without some of their younger counterparts. Brascia, would not be as successful as a holding forward without the emergence of redshirt freshman Jill Aguilera.
Park and sophomore Samantha Falasco have combined to be a great center back pairing that allows the wingbacks to get forward into the attack. Crisler improved during the season with help of Kelcey Cavarra and Kennedy Kieneker, who allow Crisler to lead the counterattack with outlet passes. Half of Stoian’s goals have been assisted by Crisler.
Arizona is not done yet as they have almost certainly earned themselves a spot in the national tournament. Arizona’s best tournament finish was two years ago when the Wildcats fell to Stanford in the Sweet Sixteen. The seniors on this team, who are looking to solidify their legacy, were sophomores on that Sweet Sixteen team and will look to build off their postseason experience to lead this team past the bar that they set for themselves two years prior.
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