Ten Schools in Ten Days: Arizona Women's Soccer Preview
Aug. 24, 2005
The University of Arizona women's soccer team enters its third season under Head Coach Dan Tobias and his staff after coming off of the most successful season in the history of program. The Wildcats return 15 players from last year's Pac-10 championship squad, 10 of which started at least one match last fall.
'First and foremost we are extremely excited with the group we have returning for the fall,' said Tobias. 'To have depth at every position is great for us as we continue to evolve as a program. We will not only have depth, but experience. Those are things that are important in terms of our development as a top program in Division I soccer.'
The Wildcats will welcome eight new freshmen to the lineup. The newcomers represent the second recruiting class at Arizona for Tobias and his staff. The feeling within the program is that the incoming class has made the team stronger at every position on the field.
'With our incoming class, we wanted to be sure to add depth at every position,' Tobias said. 'I think overall our player personnel is at a very high level. I'm excited about knowing that we've added some very skilled players at every position.'
With eight freshmen and eight sophomores on the squad, the Wildcats will turn to the six seniors and one junior to lead them through the season.
'As the saying goes attitude reflects leadership,' explained Tobias. 'I look at those seven upperclass-persons and that is where the leadership comes from. That group sets the tone. They've set the tone in the past and we know they are going to do that this fall.'
Tobias feels the success of last season's squad and the potential of this year's squad are based on the chemistry and determination of the individuals that make up the team.
'We have a unique group and we talk a lot on our team about the Arizona family as an extended family,' Tobias said. 'I use that word determination, they are a very determined group and they work for each other. I think they're excited about the prospect of continuing to do things with the Wildcat soccer program that haven't been done before.'
Up front, Tobias will turn to the experience and leadership of two of the squad's four captains to create scoring opportunities. Seniors Mallory Miller and Kelly Nelson are expected to lead the Wildcat offense as strikers.
Coming off of a season where she led the team with nine assists, scored five goals and earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention accolades, Miller will again look to create more scoring opportunities from the striker or midfield position.
'Mallory can play in the middle of midfield or up front,' Tobias said. 'She probably played half and half last year. When we play her up front she gets more of a goal scorers mentality. I think she has worked very hard on her own to become a more deadly finisher in and around the box. She is very highly respected player, is a team leader and has done everything to help bring our program to national prominence.'
Fellow senior captain Nelson comes off of an injury plagued season. She enters the fall healthy and looks to repeat the success of her freshman season where she scored 13 goals and was named second-team All-Pac-10.
'Kelly is the person in our program that exemplifies perseverance,' Tobias explained. 'She has overcome so many injuries. She will have an opportunity to begin the season without being injured and she is a very bright striker in and around the box.'
The Wildcats also return senior Kamaya Damwijk. Damwijk has already graduated with an undergraduate degree in communications and will use her last year of eligibility to attend graduate school. She walked on to the squad last season and started 10 games and scored six goals.
Damwijk will be joined by sophomore Sally Thurner who also walked on in 2004 and played in 17 matches while scoring two goals, including the game-winning goal in a 4-1 victory over Duquesne.
Arizona brings in two new freshmen strikers in Gianna DeSaverio and London King. Desevario joins the squad with an extensive soccer background. She is a tenacious player with good one-on-one and combination skills.
King will add speed to the Wildcat offensive with her explosive ability. Tobias feels both King and Desevario have the potential to grab attention outside of the program at the striker position.
'London and Gianna are similar in their potential,' Tobias explained. 'We know that with time and dedication they are going to become tremendous strikers, not only on our team and in the Pac-10, but I think regionally and nationally.'
In the Midfield
In the midfield, the Wildcats will rely on a combination of speed, experience and skill to guide them to success. Senior captain Jennifer Klein will combine with sophomore Amanda Urtuzuastegui to lead the central midfield.
Klein comes off of a season where she scored three goals and had four assists. Tobias understands her leadership skills and consistency will be important from the central midfield position.
'Jen has such great vision, skill and leadership,' Tobias said. 'She continues to leave a permanent mark on this program and does so by being consistent in all areas.'
Urtuzuastegui will join Klein in the central midfield. As a freshman last season, she split time as a defender and a midfielder to give her valuable experience coming into this fall.
'Amanda had a very good freshman season where she got a lot of experience under her belt,' Tobias explained. 'It is a nice combination to have Amanda and Jen in the central midfield. They complement each other very well.'
In the wide midfield position, Tobias will count on senior captain Nikki David, senior Althea Jones, junior Erin Bevacqua, sophomore Sarah Litt and incoming freshman Christina Hughes to create opportunities.
David comes off a junior season in which she tallied five goals and earned All-Pac-10 honorable mention accolades. The Cats will rely on her one-on-one skills and her ability to break down defenses from anywhere in the midfield.
'Nikki is a player who has come full circle,' Tobias said. 'The work that she has done outside of our team's training environment and the growth that she's shown on and off the field have been incredible.'
Jones will join the team as an outside midfielder after she recovers from an ACL surgery she had during the spring.
'Typical of Althea, she is taking everything one step at a time,' Tobias said. 'She's shown steady improvement. When she comes back she will give us a tremendous attacking presence from midfield.'
Bevacqua will return for her junior season after seeing playing time in all 21 of the Cats' matches last season. She spent the summer in the WPSL with a team based in San Diego. Tobias feels that this experience combined with her two previous seasons at Arizona will help her for the upcoming season.
'Erin has really evolved,' Tobias explained. 'After her summer experience and her two seasons at Arizona, I think she will be ready to play at an even higher level this fall.'
Litt has the ability to compete from the outside midfielder or up front as a striker. She comes off of a freshman season where she scored two goals, including the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory over Weber State.
The newcomer to the outside midfield is Hughes. Hughes joins the Wildcats as one of the fastest players to come out of the state of Arizona this year. She also brings defensive skills and may prove to be an asset up front as a striker.
The Wildcats will rely on a fairly young defense made up entirely of underclass-persons. Sophomores Claire Bodiya, Nicole Scheid, Kaity Heath and Shannon Kusmit, and freshmen Savanah Levake, Brianna Caceres and Erika Olson will make up the back line for the Wildcats.
Entering the season as a full-time starter, Bodiya will provide the experience and leadership necessary to guide the defense.
'Claire played every minute of every game last year,' Tobias said. 'It's not just that she played every minute, it's that she played well and made a lot of progress throughout the season. I think her having the opportunity to play next to an experienced player like our first all-American Lindsey Peeples had a great affect on Claire and will help her in her development.'
Scheid joins Bodiya in the central defense. After splitting time last season between the midfield and the defense, Tobias sees her versatility as a huge asset for the Wildcats.
'Nicole is our player that can play anywhere,' Tobias explained. 'She and Claire played all spring together as the center backs and they did a great job. Nicole is a player who is able to retain information and she is just a smart, skillful, very good soccer player. We are very enthused about the central part of our defense.'
Heath returns as the left back for the Wildcats. She was feted with Freshman all-America honors from Soccer Buzz for her efforts on the Wildcat defense.
'Kaity is a very solid defender who can also get involved in the attack,' Tobias said. 'With a season of experience under her belt we believe she will develop into an even stronger player.'
After she fights off a few injuries, Kusmit will be expected to add depth to the defense in her sophomore season.
Levake, Olson and Caceres will join the team as freshmen defenders. Levake brings the capability of playing any of the four back positions. Olson is a solid outside back who will provide stability for the defense. Caceres joins the team after competing for a club team that played with a three back system, providing her with the ability to play tough defense.
In the Nets
Like the defense, Arizona will rely on freshmen and sophomores in the nets. The Wildcats will look to 2004 National Freshman of the Year candidate McCall Smith to lead them in goal. She will be joined by freshmen Devon Wharf and Chelsea McIntyre.
A second-year starter, Smith competed every minute in goal last season, broke nearly every Arizona goalkeeping record and allowed only 11 scores while posting 11 shutouts during her freshman year.
'McCall comes in with game experience,' Tobias explained. 'She has really worked hard on her communication and her ability to manage the game from the goal. She's shown a lot of progress in those two areas.'
McIntyre and Wharf will join the team and provide depth and consistency.
'I think both Chelsea and Devon are two goalkeepers that will continue to develop and get better,' Tobias explained. 'They are both really solid in all areas. We are very pleased with the goalkeeping group we have.'
This year's schedule includes nine opponents (Pepperdine, Cal Poly, Princeton, Utah, Portland, Washington, California, Stanford and UCLA) that participated in last year's NCAA Tournament. Arizona, the defending Pac-10 champions, will also face five teams (Princeton, Portland, Washington, Stanford and UCLA) that finished in last year's final NSCAA/adidas top 25 national rankings.
'We are very excited about the quality of our opponents for this fall,' Tobias said. 'We not only get to face some of the top teams in the west region, but we also have some great out-of-region matches against teams like Missouri, Penn, New Mexico and 2004 College Cup participant Princeton. The Pac-10, as always in my opinion, is one of the best conferences in the country and we're always excited to compete against the best.'