Ten Teams in Ten Days: Arizona Women's Soccer Preview
Aug. 18, 2006
The University of Arizona women's soccer team enters its fourth season under head coach Dan Tobias and his staff. The team returns 13 players from last season's squad that made the program's first-ever appearance in the NCAA Sweet 16. The team also welcomes 11 newcomers, a class that was ranked 19th nationally by Soccer Buzz.
'We are very excited for the 2006 season and we have reason to be very excited,' said Tobias. 'We have a very strong returning class, where we have depth at every position and we have a very good incoming class. The combination of those two gives us a lot of reasons to be excited. The biggest thing in the preseason is getting on the same page as quickly as possible without hurrying. The experience of the returnees combined with the incoming class will make for a productive, cohesive and fun preseason.'
The newcomers represent the third recruiting class for Tobias and his staff. The first class was a part of the 2004 Pac-10 championship team and the second class led the team to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA tournament.
'The returnees will tell their new teammates that the main reason we have had success the last couple of years, the Pac-10 championship and berth in the Sweet 16, has been because of everyone's preparation coming into fall camp,' explained Tobias. 'The second reason is the daily work ethic is great as a whole. The program has done a good job not looking back and not looking too far ahead.'
Tobias feels that with the combined skills and talent of the 13 returning and 11 incoming players the team will be strong at every spot on the field.
'At every position we feel good and comfortable with our depth and experience,' said Tobias.
The team will look for leadership from its trio of captains: juniors Claire Bodiya, Kaity Heath and sophomore Brianna Caceres.
'Leadership is so important and we feel we have three excellent captains for this fall in Claire, Kaity and Bree,' said Tobias. 'All three bring unique individual qualities which make for a strong, united group. They also bring so much leadership by example and have that great passion and drive to reach new heights for our program. We are confident they will provide the necessary leadership, the right way, every day!'
Up front, the Wildcats will have experience with two returning players who played in all 22 games last season, London King and Gianna DeSaverio.
King had three goals and three assists last season, while DeSaverio had three goals and two assists.
'We have two sophomores returning in London and Gianna, both played a lot of minutes, and both started some games, scored goals and had assists,' said Tobias. 'London and Gianna played together a lot and are a very dangerous tandem. They can be game breakers and make something out of nothing.'
Arizona will also have sophomore Sally Thurner returning after redshirting the 2005 season due to an injury.
'Sally is a worker to the highest degree and she is a tremendous leader by example.'
Arizona will welcome three new players offensively in Jasmine Namdar, Laura Huylebroeck and Analisa Marquez. Tobias believes that these players can bring a lot to the Arizona attack especially with the opportunity to learn from King and DeSaverio.
'Jasmine is such a smart player,' said Tobias. 'She positions herself very well in front of the goal to finish chances. Laura is a tremendously talented athlete. She is fast, strong and good with both feet. As long as she continues to develop her game, understand and work off the ball, she has a chance to be an outstanding player in the program. She will get great experience playing with Gianna and London. Analisa has such versatility that she can earn time up front. All the newcomers give us more flexibility and variety in the attack.'
IN THE MIDFIELD
In the midfield, Arizona will have a lot of promise but little experience. Amanda Urtuzuastegui is the only returning player to have started a match and Sarah Litt joins her as the only other midfielder with playing experience in the fall.
'Amanda is returning and has experience,' said Tobias. 'In the spring, she was very active and when she has the ball, good things happen. Sarah is very athletic, has good pace and we are looking for her to make a bigger impact this fall.'
The Wildcats will have Christina Hughes returning after she redshirted the fall season with an injury. Hughes did compete with the Wildcats during the spring.
'Chris did a very good job for us in the spring,' said Tobias. 'She is very tough and tenacious, as well as a great tackler. She adds another dimension to our team.'
Also vying for playing time will be six incoming freshman. Samantha Drees will be out for the beginning of the season with a knee injury but Tobias believes she will add a lot to the team when she returns.
'Samantha is one of our most versatile recruits,' said Tobias. 'She is a very good attacking player. She has a lot of good qualities; it is just a matter of time.'
Jacqueline Broussard, Alex Davis, Lindsay Lum and Macke Mutz will also add depth at the midfield position. Tobias sees a lot of potential in all four players.
'Jacqueline Broussard has a lot of special qualities, good pace and she is very good at taking people off the dribble,' said Tobias. 'She will be a very fun player for people to watch. Lindsay is a good passer, especially around the goal. She will score her share of goals from the midfield position. She plays very hard and with a bite. Macke has good size, is a good passer and is excellent in the air. She is versatile as we can play her in the midfield or in the back. Alex is such a solid midfield player. We are very excited that she is a part of the program as she's a great student of the game.'
The Wildcats will have a lot of experience defensively with four players returning who started a combined 77 matches last season.
'Anytime you return the core of your starting back four it is a very positive thing,' said Tobias. 'We have been a solid team defensively. Our back four have done a great job starting with Claire who has played every minute of every game for the last two seasons. It is no coincidence that we are coming off of our two most successful seasons with her as one of our central defenders.'
'Kaity is a natural left back and she gets involved in the attack. She will take a lot of our free kicks and she has grown in a lot of ways as a student-athlete. We see her making even greater contributions this fall.'
'Brianna came in and started every game as a true freshman. She was solid in the fall and made great strides in the spring. She adds a lot more to our attack.'
'Savanah Levake earned her way into the starting lineup by the seventh game and then she played every minute the rest of the season and through the NCAA tournament. She gives us a good defender and strong tackler, someone who is comfortable with the ball in tight spaces with the ability to start our attack.'
Sophomore Erika Olson will return and join Jenna Merideth and Samantha Tiampo to add depth.
'We have depth in the back with Erika who can play any of the back four spots,' said Tobias. 'The same can be said for Sammy (Tiampo). She is able to play affectively in any of the back four spots and she's just a tenacious tackler. Jenna can be a solid player in the back and has the ability to play up front, too. Our back four's experience and the quality of the incoming group puts us in a nice position with the right depth.'
IN THE NETS
Arizona will return two players from last year's squad. McCall Smith will be sitting out the season due to injury and now sophomores Chelsea McIntyre and Devon Wharf will now be relied on by the Wildcats in goal.
'We have two very good sophomores in Chelsea and Devon,' said Tobias. 'Both are very talented and made good progress in the spring. Chelsea stepped in during the fall season in the UCLA game and had a great game. We're very excited and happy with our group of goal keepers and their ability to dominatethe box and manage the game.'
Arizona will face nine teams (BYU, California, Cal State Fullerton, Gonzaga, Portland, Southern California, Stanford, UCLA and Utah) that competed in last year's NCAA tournament, including both the national champion Pilots and the NCAA runner-up Bruins. The schedule also includes seven teams (BYU, California, Cal State Fullerton, Gonzaga, Portland, Southern California and UCLA) that ended the season in last year's final NSCAA/adidas Top 25 national rankings.
'We have a very good schedule,' said Tobias. 'We always try to put together a non-conference schedule that is very competitive to prepare us for the difficulty of the Pac-10 Conference. Our schedule is filled with NCAA tournament teams and will prepare us well for the Pac-10 season and that will prepare us for the NCAA tournament.'
The team will continue two-a-day practices here in Tucson until Wednesday, Aug. 16, when the team will travel to Pinetop, Ariz. On Saturday, Aug. 19 at 9 a.m. the team will hold a Red vs. Blue Intra-squad game before returning to Tucson to prepare for it road trip to Michigan.