After a successful stint at Iowa State, first-year head coach Cathy Klein is just one of many new faces that will be seen on the field for the Wildcats this year. Joining a group of 14 returning letterwinners is a collection of 12 talented newcomers who should mesh well with the returnees and push for plenty of playing time.
"We've brought in 12 players who are work-oriented, character-driven people. This recruiting class was designed to add depth at every position," said Klein. "The returnees improved dramatically from the beginning to the end of the spring season. They've bitten-in to a system of play, they've bitten-in to a system of attack. We were 5-0-2 in the spring, so we want to continue to teach people what it takes to win.
"Winning is a by-product of consistent elite training, and practices in the spring gave us that foundation. Add those 12 players coming in, and we'll have depth at every position, which we never had all spring."
Seven Wildcat starters return from a 1999 team that went 7-10-2 overall and finished in eighth place in the Pac-10. That squad more than doubled its win total from the previous year and set or tied 28 school records, including most goals in a season (30) and most total points (77).
Despite losing eight players who accounted for more than half of last year's point production, the Cats return a potent offensive attack, which Klein expects to be generously distributed.
"We'll have a well-balanced defensive and well-balanced attacking scheme," she said. "When you look at the stats in November, you'll see a balanced scoring attack. It won't be just any one person.
"We will focus on great team chemistry and superior work ethic this year. That'll be our foundation from which we develop other things. We've completely revamped our defensive system, our attacking system and our off-field community involvement. We expect bigger and better things in all areas winning, school, community service, everything."
If change is indeed a good thing, then the prognosis for this season is excellent.
With the team's movement toward a more defensive mind-set, only two players are truly considered to be forwards this season.
Junior Kristi Loroña is expected to hold down a starting spot this year after finishing third on the team in scoring last season, with five goals and two assists (12 points). She was one of only two players to register two gamewinning goals during the year. One of the team's five seniors, Keri Kennedy-Weber will see time up front, and may play in the midfield as well. Battling injuries much of last season, she played in only nine games, tallying five shots.
IN THE MIDFIELD
At least nine players are slated to see time in the midfield for the Cats this year. Five of those players may play outside mid.
After seeing limited playing time as a freshman, junior Tiffany Sabado started all but two matches last year and exploded for six goals and three assists (15 points) to finish as the UA's second-leading scorer. Her point total was the eighth-highest single season total ever.
Another junior, Twila Kaufman was one of only three players to start every match in 1999 and scored one goal. Senior Kate Nighswander-Will is a four-year starter who, along with Kaufman, started every game last season. Both players are again projected starters for 2000.
A transfer last season, junior Katie Winship saw time in 16 games and tallied a pair of goals. Freshman Adrienne Bell could contribute at outside mid after being a two-time All-Northwest Ohio selection while at Notre Dame Academy in Perrysburg, Ohio.
Junior Erin Nelson is a projected starter in the center midfield. She played in 14 matches last year, with six starts, mostly on defense. Three newcomers may join Nelson in the center mid.
Out of Irvine, Calif., freshman Sierra Cristiano finished her career as Woodbridge High School's all-time leading scorer and could press for a starting job. The Arizona 4A State Player of the Year, freshman Jenn Meintel, from Glendale (Ariz.) Cactus High School, is yet another player who could see the starting nod. A four-time All-Sierra League choice at Ruben S. Ayala High School, freshman Meaghan McNatt comes to the UA from Chino Hills, Calif., and should make contributions in the center mid.
In Klein's new system, several players are expected to contribute in other areas as well. Kaufman could see time up front, along with Sabado, Winship and Cristiano. Nighswander-Will may see some action in the back, as could Nelson and McNatt.
IN THE BACKFIELD
The Wildcats have a large number of players expected to bolster the defense this year. Thirteen Cats, six of them newcomers, are slated for time in the backfield.
Following a transfer from Creighton, junior Cassidy Guinn made an immediate impact for the UA last year, playing every match and starting 15. She should be the Cats' primary man-marker this year.
Considered the team's defensive mainstay, senior Ann Giallonardo should continue in the starting job she's held over the last three years. She was one of only three players to start every match in 1999.
Sophomore Naomi Chu should regain the starting position she lost after suffering a foot sprain late last season. She played in 14 matches and started all but one before being taken out by the injury.
Other returnees on the defense include senior Jacy Corbus, who saw time in 11 matches with four starts; sophomore Maureen Marshall, who played in three games; and junior Niki Aguiar and freshman Tatiana Robertson, both of whom redshirted with injuries last year.
Several newcomers are expected to push for time in the back as well. Twin sisters Liz and Samantha Bartlett, from Dove Canyon, Calif., could see plenty of action for the Cats after playing their high school ball together at Santa Margarita Catholic.
A freshman from Mission Viejo, Calif., Sarah Banks is yet another potential starter after being part of a Capistrano Valley High School defense which registered 19 shutouts last season.
Three other newcomers will add to the depth of the Wildcat defense. Freshman Tara Monteleone, from Xavier College Prep in Phoenix, Ariz., was a high school All-American last season. Also a freshman, Lisa Mireles was an All-Sunset League selection at Los Alamitos (Calif.) High School. Fellow freshman Noelle Stillman was twice named first team All-New Mexico at Los Alamos (N.M.) High School.
Players who could see time at other positions on the field include Guinn, Aguiar, Mireles and both Bartletts in the middle.
IN THE NETS
With four goalkeepers on the 2000 roster, the competition for time in the nets will be fierce this season. Klein considers junior Shannon Monti to be the top preseason candidate for the starting keeper job.
"Shannon Monti is on top right now because of her spring play, her footwork, her tremendous fitness and her leadership on and off the field," said Klein. "The other three will undoubtedly challenge Shannon every day for that number one role."
After seeing time as a reserve her freshman year, Monti played in 12 matches in 1999, starting nine, and registered a 2.94 goals against average to go with a pair of shutouts.
Close behind Monti is senior Inger Airheart, who was hampered by injury during the spring season. She also played in 12 games last year with 10 starts, recording a 2.04 GAA and two shutouts.
Two newcomers will create added pressure for the returnees. From Lafayette, Calif., freshman Tamara Klein was a three-time All-Tri-County Athletic League selection in both soccer and softball while at Campolindo High School. Another freshman out of Scottsdale, Ariz., Kynan Sullivan was a first-team All-Arizona choice at Arcadia High School.
"The schedule is nationally competitive this year. The Pac-10 is one of the top three conferences in the country in women's soccer," said Klein. "We're going to be the under-dog in every game. That's an indication not of our players, but of our past win-loss records. There are no gimmes' on this schedule."
Arizona's 2000 schedule features seven teams which appeared in last season's NCAA tournament. Among those squads, Pac-10 foes UCLA and Stanford advanced to the third round of the tourney before being knocked off. Four opponents (Stanford, UCLA, USC and Brigham Young) ended the year nationally ranked in the NSCAA/adidas Coaches Poll.
The Cats open the season the first weekend of September with a trip back East that will see them play at Tennessee (Sept. 1) and at Vanderbilt (Sept. 3). Arizona makes its home debut the following weekend with matches against Pittsburgh (Sept. 8) and Utah (Sept. 10).
The remainder of the non-conference schedule includes games at Evansville, Pepperdine, Loyola Marymount and regional foe New Mexico. The Cats will also play host to Georgia State, Northern Arizona and Long Island for a tournament on Sept. 29 and Oct. 1.
Arizona kicks off Pac-10 play at Oregon State (Oct. 6) and Oregon (Oct. 8), then plays its first home conference matches against Washington State (Oct. 13) and Washington (Oct. 15). The Wildcats wrap up the 2000 season at home against USC and UCLA on Nov. 3 and 5.
The 2000 season will bring about many changes for Arizona women's soccer and, just maybe, the program's first-ever winning season. But Klein knows it will take more than a little hard work.
"Our governing principle is that you have to earn everything," Klein said. "We talk about that every day. What have you earned? Have you earned our respect? Have you earned your peers' respect?'
"It's not a right it's a privilege to be here, and you have to earn everything you get. There's not a time when we'll walk out there and be handed a victory. We'll earn it, one step at a time."