It was a huge weekend for the Arizona soccer team in Los Angeles. The Wildcats split the road games against two top-10 opponents, giving up just one goal over the two contests. How much does that validation play into what they do for the rest of the season? At the very least, it gives them concrete proof that they are progressing.
“They know what they’re doing every day,” Arizona head coach Becca Moros said. “They see themselves getting better. They see each other getting better with your peer review, and the validation you get from your teammates is really important. So they are aware, but I think being able to take on two top 10 teams and play at the same level that they’re playing at for as many minutes as we did and to be in both of those games...I think it does something for sort of proof of concept and then being able to feel like they’re there versus just knowing somewhere in there that they’re right there.”
Playing at that level against highly-regarded Pac-12 teams is bringing what was inside out into the open.
“I think that confidence has always been hiding in us,” said junior forward Nicole Dallin. “I think that we’ve just been waiting for other people to realize it, and that obviously helps build it more, but just being able to compete well and like a team builds confidence in each other.”
Part of competing like a team this season means not relying on one person to do the bulk of the scoring. Dallin had the winning goal against USC. It was her first of the season and made her one of seven Wildcats with at least one goal. Only Sami Baytosh has more than one, and she has only connected on two. It’s a big change from last season when Jill Aguilera accounted for 60 percent of Arizona’s goals.
The Wildcats are also setting each other up for more of those goals, further indication of the more team-oriented play that Dallin mentioned. Last season, Arizona scored a total of 15 goals, 11 of which came off an assist. This year, nine goals have been scored. Eight of those have been assisted.
“It's always difficult when we don’t have as many chances as we’d like,” Dallin said. “But after this weekend, I think teams are starting to realize that we know how to make chances. And more importantly, we’re realizing what it takes to create those chances. We know that we’re not always going to put every one away, but we’re building on making more chances. And I personally like it better that there’s not just one person, that it’s like this whole team thing. We know anybody on our team can score.”
The Wildcats will need to keep working for those chances this week because Colorado is no slouch. The Buffaloes come in at 8-3-3 overall and 2-2-1 in Pac-12 play. While they are only No. 61 in the RPI, the Buffaloes have ties on the road at BYU and Washington State. Those teams were ranked No. 9 and No. 15, respectively, at the time the games were played.
The Buffs average 2.79 goals per game while holding their opponents to 1.29. They shoot the ball an average of 16.6 times and put over 41 percent of those on goal.
In contrast, the ‘Cats score less than a goal per game at 0.85 while giving up 1.08 goals per game. They shoot the ball 9.2 times per game and put exactly 40 percent of those on goal.
Colorado Buffaloes (8-3-3, 2-2-1 Pac-12) @ Arizona Wildcats (4-6-2, 1-4 Pac-12)
When: The game kicks off at 7 p.m. MST on Friday, Oct. 14
Where: Mulcahy Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.
Viewing: Pac-12 Arizona
Stats: In-game stats are available at Arizona Live Stats