In the final tune-up game before Arizona soccer kicks off Pac-12 play at Utah, head coach Becca Moros decided it was time to give numerous freshmen their chance at starting. The Wildcats’ leader started four freshmen, including giving Trinity Dorsey the first starting nod of her career.
It made the difference in the 1-0 victory over UC Davis to wind up the pre-conference portion of the schedule. It pushed Arizona’s record to 3-2-2 a year after the Wildcats finished 3-4 heading into Pac-12 play.
All four of Arizona’s losses came during regulation last year, so the two ties this year are still an improvement over last season’s results. The rules changed this year to allow games to end in a tie after regulation during the regular season.
Injuries were one reason for the lineup changes, including an injury to senior Madison Goerlinger. The midfielder by trade has been playing center back for Arizona most of the season.
Moros said that Goerlinger rolled her ankle early in the year and has just been playing through it. The coaches wanted to rest her so she can be fully healthy for Pac-12 play. Goerlinger stood on the sidelines wearing a boot. Besides, the freshmen are earning their time.
“Part of it was also you know, we’re coming off three games and we haven’t gotten the results we wanted,” Moros said. “So it’s good to have a competition. It’s good to make a change. And I think they’ve been training really well. And we’re seven games in, they were six games in going into this game, so they have some good experience under their belt. They’ve been in training a bunch. They’re doing well, so they’ll keep competing for time.”
Arizona’s freshmen backed up their coach’s faith in them. In the 37th minute, freshman defender Angela Baron played the ball into the box. Fellow freshman Sami Baytosh, who was making the second start of her career, lofted the ball into the net while lying on the ground. It was the first goal for Arizona in the opening half of a game this season.
“I got the cross,” Baytosh said. “We both fell on top of each other. I saw the goalie out and I just popped it up over her.”
Baron got the first point of her career on the assist. It was a fine birthday present.
“I’m so excited,” Baron said. “Sami here made it happen.”
It was the second goal of Baytosh’s career. She also has an assist this year, giving her five points on the season. She leads the team in both goals and points and is tied with junior Megan Chelf for the lead in shots on goal with five.
Moros is pleased with the development she sees in both Baron and Baytosh, but it’s especially tricky for the latter. While Baron is playing a fairly straightforward center back position and has the support and guidance of the other center backs, Baytosh is trying to find the balance between being a traditional midfielder and being a forward.
That isn’t just something the player needs to adapt to. Moros and her staff need to adapt to it, as well.
“She’s just a good footballer,” Moros said. “Like Angela, she’s clean and she’s savvy. She moves well. She’s a little bit of a hybrid player between like a front-runner and a midfielder. So, kind of figuring out how that fits in with everybody has been one of our challenges and something we’ve been paying careful attention to. When you have players who traditionally fit in one role or another, it’s easy to plug and play people. But when you start to have people who kind of hybridize positions, then you really have to be artful in how you pair people together.”
For this outing, the pairings seemed to work well. The Wildcats dominated in shots (12-6) and also had the advantage in shots on goal (4-3). In addition to the goal by Baytosh, Arizona had a very dangerous chance in the 31st minute.
31' - The Cats were sooo close to finding the back of the net.— Arizona Soccer (@ArizonaSoccer) September 18, 2022
Arizona 0, UC Davis 0 pic.twitter.com/2pZlI7fX5S
The visitors almost took the lead in the 37th minute when they got Arizona goalkeeper Hope Hisey off her line. The chip shot over her head bounced off the crossbar. Ten seconds later, the shot by Baytosh put Arizona ahead for good.
Both goalkeepers had three saves. The Aggies led in corner kicks with an 11-3 advantage.
On the officiating front, UC Davis was whistled for seven fouls to Arizona’s five. However, the Wildcats once again were shown the caution more than their opponent. Arizona had two yellow cards to none for the visiting team. Baytosh was cautioned in the 15th minute while Olivia Briede got the card in the 51st minute.
The two cautions gave Arizona nine yellow cards this season after getting just eight all of last year. Those cards have gone to eight different players with only Chelf getting more than one. Arizona’s opponents have earned four yellow cards and one red card this year.
Moros is not overly concerned about that as long as they are “professional fouls,” just as she wasn’t when asked about the yellow cards earlier in the season. At that time, she said that the biggest concern was game management and keeping players from picking up the red card and getting disqualified.
“We’ve always had a few people—some of our hard hitters—who will eventually pick up yellow cards just because they’re hard tacklers,” she said. “But you kind of need those people on your team and every team has to have some. I think we have more from more people, but I don’t know if that’s a theme or if (the officials) are doing something...differently across the board. I know for any kind of outbursts from players, they’re quicker to give a yellow card, but I’m not sure that’s been a part of the equation so far.”
It may also be part of the learning process that will be addressed by more playing time for the underclassmen. Six of the nine yellow cards have been picked up by freshmen and sophomores.