UA soccer awaits 'November Nonsense'
Arizona senior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman (1) saves a goal kick during the first overtime of Arizona's 1-1 tie in double overtime against California on Sunday at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium. The Wildcats have a chance to go to the postseason for the first time in almost a decade.
Every year on Selection Sunday, anxious basketball teams across the country gather around televisions and wait to see if their name is called for the NCAA Tournament. It is the beginning of what dominates American sports for almost a month: March Madness.
Next month, Arizona soccer will be participating in a similar wait-and-see game when it will be decided if the Wildcats have the resume to be selected as one of the 64 teams invited to play for the Women’s College Cup.
You could call it November Nonsense.
As of right now, Arizona soccer, which sits at 9-5-2 (3-4-1 Pac-12 Conference), is in good shape to make its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2005 when the Wildcats made it all the way to the Sweet Sixteen under then-head coach Dan Tobias. Tobias also led the team to the first round of the tournament in 2004, the only other time Arizona has made it to the postseason.
For current Wildcats head coach Tony Amato, the possibility of a tournament appearance is not exactly how his team approaches its season.
“We haven’t set a goal for the year that we need to make the NCAA Tournament,” Amato said. “It’s all about approaching each game individually, and I know that sounds really cliché and sounds like coach talk, but from day one, even from last year, that was our approach. Do what we need to do in order to win the game ahead of us, and that’s not going to change.”
Senior midfielder Julia Glanz, who was part of an Arizona team that won just a single game back in 2011, believes in the same approach as Amato but admits the chance of a first postseason appearance is difficult to ignore.
“I feel like the tournament is in the back of all our minds,” Glanz said. “Still though, we try and take it one game at a time.”
Going into this weekend’s matchups on the road against two competitive teams in Colorado and Utah, Arizona will look to improve on its already impressive RPI rank, which currently sits at 23. With UCLA and Stanford running away with the Pac-12 crown, the Wildcats would have to secure an at-large bid in order to make the tournament.
In terms of their schedule, the Wildcats certainly have the resume built for an at-large bid. Arizona’s nonconference schedule consists of impressive results such as a 3-1 victory over Oklahoma State and a 2-2 tie with RPI No. 4 Texas A&M. Once Pac-12 play began, the Wildcats maintained their early season success. Going into this weekend’s games, the Wildcats currently stand at seventh place in the conference.
UA senior goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman said you cannot take any days off in the Pac-12.
“It’s a competitive conference,” Kaufman said. “You can’t take any team lightly because we have one of the toughest conferences in the country.”
Amato noted that the Pac-12 is not only tough, but also likely the best conference in the country this season.
“Everyone knows that every year we have one of the top-two conferences in the country,” Amato said. “I think with so many teams in it this year with a shot at the NCAA Tournament that it is probably from top to bottom the best women’s soccer conference in the country this year.”
Last weekend, Arizona helped its chances at a postseason berth when it rebounded quickly from a disappointing 3-2 overtime loss to No. 4 Stanford to tie RPI No. 19 Cal 1-1. The last three games do not get any easier for the Wildcats as all three are on the road, including the season finale at RPI No. 40 ASU.
It is worth noting that to conclude last season, the Wildcats knocked off ASU 2-0 in Tucson and, in the process, kept the Sun Devils from making last year’s NCAA Tournament. Will ASU return the favor this season, or do the Wildcats have what it takes to do something the program has not been accomplished in almost 10 years?
November Nonsense it is.
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