Arizona women's soccer travels to the bay for second round of NCAA tournament
Following the 1-0 win over Texas Christian University last Saturday, the Arizona Wildcats advanced to the second round of the 2019 NCAA tournament, where they’ll play Penn State University this Friday at 6 p.m. The Wildcats will be traveling to a familiar sight as the team will head to northern California for the third time this season.
“We know the hotels, we know the food, we know the places where we like to eat,” Head Coach Tony Amato said. “It feels like we’ve played there more than anywhere we’ve played in the last seven years, so we’re very familiar with what it looks like over there.”
Amato and the rest of the team hope that being comfortable with the bay area will be enough to take down the No. 18-ranked Penn State squad. The Nittany Lions are one of the hottest teams in the country, having won nine straight games to end the season, including being named the Big-10 champions after its win against the University of Michigan back on Nov. 10.
Penn State has been led by Ally Schlegel this season. She has scored a team-high 12 goals this season despite only being a redshirt freshman. Her success comes as no surprise, as Schegal was the No. 10-ranked player in the 2018 class according to TopDrawerSoccer and is one of five Penn State players to have played or participated in a U.S. National Team camp. Midfielder Sam Coffey has also been exceptional with her nine goals and nine assists this year. The transfer from Boston College was also a member and captain of the U-19 and U-20 U.S. Women’s National Team.
Penn State is expected to play a possession-styled game, a common tactic among some of the top teams like Stanford, USC and UCLA. This could work in Arizona’s favor however; the ‘Cats are known for their high press and have had plenty of success with it this season. Amato also thinks that playing against those teams with that similar style of play before has further prepared his team for what’s ahead.
“It’ll be a challenge, but I think the Pac-12 prepares us for that and we’ll be ready,” Amato said. “We’re looking at video from those games, we’re looking at Penn State video. We have a game plan in place that we feel good about and we know that we’re able to adjust on the fly, so we’ll be ready to handle everything that they put at us.”
Arizona’s coaching staff has been stressing to the team all week about how they want to combine the team’s work ethic with its level of pure talent in order to win more games in the NCAA tournament. Amato has often circled back to the team’s 3-0 win over UCLA last month as a model for what they want to do every game.
“That was a game for us that everyone was in unison on the field in terms of the game plan,” Amato said. “If you looked at the video of that game, everyone was sprinting, moving, working together, finding players, attacking together, defending together. That’s the model. We know what it looks like and we need to do that again.”
Catch the Wildcats in the second round of the tournament this Friday at 6 p.m. The match will be broadcasted on the Pac-12 Network.