Soccer upbeat despite injuries
Cal Poly on Sunday, the Arizona soccer team figured that things couldn't get any worse.
But at Tuesday morning's practice at Murphey Field, Arizona (3-6-1) may have hit rock bottom as they found out that leading goal-scorer Renae Cuellar and starting goalkeeper Devon Wharf would miss Friday's game against Loyola Marymount and be out indefinitely with foot and knee injuries, respectively.
For a team that didn't want to begin a tough Pacific 10 Conference schedule limping, it will be doing just that — literally — come next week against No. 3 UCLA, with the possibility of being without two of its top players.
""These injuries certainly don't help, but there are 319 teams that have the same issues,"" said Arizona head coach Dan Tobias. ""You can plan for injuries but they can come up at the worst possible times. We tell our (players) who don't play as much, ‘As long as you keep yourself prepared, when your number is called you'll be ready to help the team.'""
Before the Wildcats even think about their first conference game against UCLA, there are several questions that need to be addressed for their upcoming game against Loyola Marymount on Friday.
Their first order of business is to figure out how the team will replace Cuellar's scoring; she has accounted for six of the team's 10 goals this season. No other player has shown she can consistently take on the scoring load. Cuellar has scored a goal in each of the Wildcats' wins this year.
""It's obviously a big blow to the team because those are two key players for us,"" said midfielder Leila Amini. ""I think we have enough depth to pull through as a team. This is a time for other people to step up and really show what they can do.""
One of the players who must be prepared is backup goalkeeper Ashley Jett, who will have to protect the net while Wharf is injured. The sophomore played 51 minutes as a freshman, all in the Wildcats' season finale last season in a 2-1 loss to Washington. She registered three saves and allowed one goal in that game.
Finding out that she would play was a bittersweet moment for Jett.
""I was really excited to find out I would play, but I'm so bummed for Devon because she's done so well this year,"" she said. ""She's had such a tough career, she's pushed so hard to get to this point and I want her to get back because it's her time to shine.""
Tobias is confident that Jett will step in and play well for however many games Wharf misses.
""She has a calm, composed, even-keeled demeanor, so nothing seems to rattle her,"" Tobias said. ""I think that her quiet confidence is important at the goalkeeper position. I'm very excited for her to get an opportunity to play.""
The Wildcats have had a rough time going through growing pains in the first half of the season, but now they will have to work through those pains without two of their top players.
""We had injuries every year, so we can't allow that to get us down,"" Amini said. ""I think the people we do have are doing a really good job in practice stepping into those holes, so I don't think it should be that big of an issue.""