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Arizona soccer hopes to dodge the weather and the Iowa State Cyclones in season opener

Madison Goerlinger and Iliana Hocking greet fans
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

Perhaps it’s fitting that Arizona soccer’s first opponent this season uses a meteorological phenomenon as a mascot. The weather has not been kind to the Wildcats as they prepare for their opening match against the Iowa State Cyclones on Aug. 18.

Both of Arizona’s exhibitions have been disrupted by the Arizona rainy season. The match at Northern Arizona was scheduled to be held at Lumberjack Stadium but had to be moved inside the Skydome due to the weather in Flagstaff on Aug. 7.

Three days later, San Diego State learned about the Arizona monsoons. The exhibition between the Wildcats and the Aztecs was due to be played at 7 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 10, but the lightning persisted. Fortunately, the Aztecs planned to stay the night anyway. The two teams met up again the next morning at 8 a.m. and played their friendly.

Even local media day was disrupted by the weather. Players and coaches were huddled under the eaves of the concession building at Mulcahy Stadium. Lightning had interfered again, eventually forcing practice to be moved back to campus where the Cole and Jeannie Davis Sports Center provides indoor practice facilities.

UA and ISU hope things will be different on Thursday evening. The rains swept through Tucson in the late afternoon. predicts the current thunderstorms will end at about 4 p.m. MST, but there will still be a 15 percent chance of rain throughout the evening.

If they are able to get on the field, the Cyclones will be as difficult to predict as the current weather. They have tried to prepare using film from last season, but Arizona head coach Becca Moros has reason to believe the Wildcats might see something different this year.

“We’ve watched a bunch of film on Iowa State,” Moros said. “They played a couple different formations last year, but they’ve also had a lot of changeover in the roster. Had a lot of transfers, particularly in their backline. So we don’t really know what we’re going to see from them.”

Her gut feelings come more from the background of some of the ISU players than the film she watched.

“They have some international players there,” Moros said. “So, usually international players tend to be a little bit more soccer savvy. The American athletic, run-and-gun style is something that they don’t necessarily come here with. So I would expect that that could be a mismatch that you see on the field.”

The Wildcats have some of their own international flavor this season. Sophomore midfielder Nyota Katembo transferred in from Portland in the offseason. Katembo was born in Nyarugusu, Tanzania, but she calls Montreal, Quebec her hometown.

In the exhibitions, Katembo has been aggressive and active going towards the goal. She wears jersey No. 10 and she plays with the expected attacking style. Against SDSU, she took five shots. Four of them were on goal.

As a freshman last season, Katembo was one of five Pilots who took at least 10 shots. Despite starting in nine matches as a freshman, she didn’t feel the style of play there suited her. She moved on looking to develop as a player and found what she wanted in Moros’ system.

“She definitely plays...a style of play that is more possession,” Katembo said. “And she wants the ball which I appreciate because that’s what I want.”

Another newcomer made her mark against NAU. Freshman Sami Baytosh scored her first collegiate exhibition goal just 57 seconds after being subbed into the game. She didn’t know what to expect when she arrived at Arizona. She has been pleasantly surprised, but there’s still a lot for her to adapt to.

“The intensity,” Baytosh said about the biggest change in NCAA soccer. “Like from club, it’s fast-paced and everything but the intensity and bigger girls coming after you (in college). It is definitely a change.”

As for the team, they hope the change this week is that the weather gives them a break. The sky has broken through the clouds. It needs to stay there.