WHAT’S HAPPENING: The University of Arizona women’s soccer team (0-0-0 overall, 0-0-0 Pac-10) will hold an intra-squad scrimmage on Sat. Aug. 21 at 7:00 p.m. The scrimmage will take place at Murphey Stadium, 15th Street and Plumer Avenue. Admission is free.
ABOUT ARIZONA: The University of Arizona women’s soccer team enters its second season under head coach Dan Tobias and his staff. The biggest story for the Wildcats during the off-season was the addition of twelve new faces to the Arizona lineup. Eleven freshmen and one senior will join the ten returning players from last season’s team.
Of the ten returning letterwinners, nine started at least one game in the 2003 season, and three were named to the all-Pac 10 team. Coach Tobias feels the mixture of youth and experience will work well for the Wildcats.
"We will be a young team, which is good. With youth comes enthusiasm and excitement," Tobias said. "At the same time, I would say the returning group will match, and possibly go beyond that same enthusiasm and excitement."
The newcomers represent the first recruiting class at Arizona for coach Tobias and his staff. With nearly half of the newcomers coming from the same club in Phoenix, Ariz., Tobias feels the coaching staff has found tremendous talent within Arizona.
"We are excited about our first recruiting class. We feel that there are some excellent soccer players in the state of Arizona," Tobias said. "We were able to attract five players from the very successful Sereno Soccer club in Phoenix. Those five in addition to the other newcomers give us the chance to add some cornerstones to our program."
With more newcomers than returning players in the lineup for Arizona this season, the Wildcats will look to their leaders to guide them through the season.
"I think the leadership of this team is in great hands with the three captains, Jennifer Klein, Kelly Nelson, and Lindsey Peeples," Tobias explained. "Those three have embraced their roles as leaders."
With the Wildcats first game coming on the road on Aug. 27, the coaching staff and the players recognize that a quick transition is necessary for the Wildcats to have success.
"The key is getting everyone on the same page as quickly as we can without rushing ourselves. This is the exciting part for us as a coaching staff. We understand that the key ingredient is getting everyone on the same page," Tobias said. "We also need to make sure that the page is clean, accurate, and dedicated. We know the simple things we need to give us a chance at success."
OFFENSIVELY: Up front, Tobias will look to experience and speed to create scoring opportunities. A key to offensive success for the Wildcats is senior forward Candice Wilks. Last season Wilks led the offense with eight goals and she will look to do the same this season.
"Offensively, Candice Wilks has a lot of unique abilities to not only make a difference in a game, but to change a game. Her confidence is at an all time high," Tobias said. "There’s not a better time than her senior year for her to continue the attacking promise that she showed last fall."
Red shirt junior Kelly Nelson and sophomore Lauren Winters will also see significant time up front. Nelson has thirteen goals in her Arizona career, and she will look to add to that total in the striker position for the Wildcats. Winters came in last season as a true freshman and tallied two goals and one assist, while earning seven starts.
Senior Vanesha Bailey could also see some time in the front two. Although Bevacqua spent the majority of her playing time in the midfield last season, she is a natural forward who will likely be used in the striker position this season.
The Wildcats also have two new walk-ons who will contribute to the offense. Freshman Sally Thurner is a powerful striker with a tremendous work rate. Senior Kamaya Damwijk brings a possession-oriented mindset to the offense, which enables her to combine very well with her attacking partners.
Another newcomer that may be used as a striker is freshman Sarah Litt. The combination of the heights of Litt at 5’9", and Wilks at 5’10" could prove to be deadly for opposing defenses.
Tobias is optimistic that with the many possible combinations up front, the Wildcats will have many offensive opportunities.
"I am very excited about the group of strikers we have up front. The experience of our returning players combined with the exciting qualities of the new strikers really adds to our attacking presence."
IN THE MIDFIELD: In the midfield, the Wildcats will continue to rely on a mixture of returnees and newcomers to guide them to success. Tobias will turn to juniors Mallory Miller and Jennifer Klein to play in the central midfield.
"We feel very strongly about the center of midfield as we have two very skillful players with excellent vision," Tobias said. "They have so many of the qualities you need to have excellent successful midfield play."
Freshman Amanda Urtuzuastegui could also see some time in the central midfield. Urtuzuastegui’s skills and hardworking mentality could prove useful for the Wildcats in the midfield and possibly in the defense.
In the wide midfield position, Tobias will look to players who can move up and down the field with pace. Sophomore Erin Bevacqua is coming off of a solid freshman year, and Tobias believes she has improved.
"She showed tremendous improvement through the winter and spring, and she has worked very hard over the summer. She is a very skillful player who can combine well, and can create chances on her own one on one," Tobias said.
Another returnee who will see time in the wide midfield position is junior Nikki David. David’s explosive pace is often useful in unbalancing defenses.
Red shirt junior Courtney Moseley is a versatile left footed player who may be used in any of the four-midfield positions.
The Wildcats also have the versatility of using two players as either outside midfielders, or as outside backs in the defense. Junior Althea Jones played primarily in the defense last season out of necessity, but this season she will be pushed into the attack more frequently. True freshman Nicole Scheid will also see time as a midfielder and as a defender. Scheid’s excellent work rate and skills could earn her time in any of eight positions throughout the midfield and the defense.
True freshman Sarah Litt is another newcomer that will play in wide in midfield. She has natural winger qualities, which include speed and very good crossing ability.
DEFENSIVELY: Defensively, the Wildcats have a solid backline that is once again a mixture of youth and experience. In one of the central defender positions, the Wildcats will turn to the leadership of senior Lindsey Peeples.
"She is just a person with tremendous drive," Tobias said. "She is an impressive athlete who is good in the air and is tough as nails. She creates a presence in the back that cannot be measured."
Peeples will be joined in the middle by true freshman Claire Bodiya who also has good organization and communication skills. Bodiya has consistently played as a central defender during her soccer career.
The Wildcats will welcome true freshman Kaity Heath as a true left back in the defense. Heath brings an attacking presence with great crossing and scoring ability. She has the ability to take chances on her own and score goals. Another freshman that will play as an outside back is Shaylyn Scott.
"Shaylyn quietly and simply goes about her job and her tasks," Tobias said. "You don’t notice her too much, and that is mostly because she rarely gets beat. She is just such a steady defender."
In addition to Urtuzuastegui, Jones, and Scheid, freshman Shannon Kusmit could also play in the defense, as well as in the midfield. Kusmit has solid skills in the air, and is a strong tackler. True freshman walk-on Amelia Shister will also be a solid defender for the Wildcats.
GOALKEEPING: In the nets, the Wildcats will welcome two talented freshmen who will both see significant playing time.
McCall Smith has solid skills in almost every aspect of goalkeeping. Her good hands and presence, along with her ability to use her feet will make her a solid goalkeeper for the Wildcats.
Smith will join Devon Wharf as the goalkeeping duo for the Wildcats.
"As a goalkeeping group having McCall and Devon is just going to be outstanding. We feel like we’ve hit the jackpot," Tobias explained. "They’re both very good, and they will both be earning time this year because they are both that good."
THE SCHEDULE: The Wildcats will once again face a tough schedule that includes seven NCAA Tournament participants and five teams that were nationally ranked at the end of 2003.
The Cats open the 2004 slate on the road at the Cyclone Classic in Ames, Iowa. Arizona’s first game comes against host Iowa State University on Aug. 27. The Wildcats will then play the next day (Aug. 28) against Drake University. The following weekend, the Wildcats return home to host the Arizona Invitational, which includes the University of Buffalo, Farleigh Dickinson University, and UC-Irvine. Arizona will first compete in the invitational on Sept. 3 against UC-Irvine. The Cats will then play Farleigh Dickinson two days later on Sept. 5.
Arizona will then travel to the east coast to take on West Virginia University (Sept. 10) in Morgantown, W.Va. and Duquesne University (Sept. 12) in Pittsburg, Penn. The Wildcats will then return home to take on intra-state rival Northern Arizona (Sept. 17) in Murphey Stadium. The Cats will then travel to Utah to play Brigham Young University (Sept. 23) and Weber State (Sept. 25).
The Wildcats then return to Tucson for their longest home stand of the season. Before beginning conference play, Arizona will take on Pepperdine (Oct. 1) and Colorado College (Oct. 3). Tobias feels the non-conference schedule will be a good challenge for the Wildcats.
"As a whole, the non-conference schedule is good, we get some good in-region opponents as well as some great out of region opponents," Tobias said. "It’s nice to have eleven great game opportunities before we start conference play."
On Oct. 8, Arizona will remain at home to begin Pac-10 play. The Wildcats’ first conference opponent will be Washington State. Arizona will then play Washington on Oct. 10. The following weekend the Cats will travel to Northern California to take on Stanford (Oct. 15) and California (Oct. 17). Arizona will then travel up the highway to play rival Arizona State (Oct. 22). The Wildcats final home stand of the season comes on the weekend of Oct. 29 when they will play USC (Oct. 29) and UCLA (Oct. 31). The Wildcats will finish on the road in Oregon. Arizona will first take on Oregon State (Nov. 5) and then travel to Eugene, Ore. to take on Oregon (Nov. 7) in the final regular season match.
"Top to bottom the Pac-10 is the best conference in the country for women’s soccer. You only have to play everybody once, and it’s a matter of making sure that the one time you do play against each opponent you bring your best game," Tobias said.
The University of Arizona women’s soccer team and the coaching staff are looking forward to a strong season against some tough opponents.
"What’s great about where we are with our program right now is that it is challenging for sure, but it is a positive challenge that we all look forward to," Tobias explained. "It is a very exciting time to be a part of the Wildcat soccer family."