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Arizona soccer aims to overcome the heat, defensive lapses in two neutral-site matches

The Wildcats will take on Kent State and Boise State at the Sun Devil Classic

Arizona soccer’s Trinity Dorsey (5) on Aug. 24, 2023 at Mulcahy Soccer Stadium
Photo by Mike Christy / Arizona Athletics

Arizona soccer has two major obstacles to overcome as the team travels to Tempe for the Sun Devil Classic. One of them is beyond their control. The other must be defeated if the Wildcats hope to reach their goals this season.

The heat is something that Arizona should be used to, but it has been excessively hot even for the state of Arizona this week. On Wednesday, the temperatures in Tempe were not expected to drop below 100 degrees until after 9 p.m. MST. On Thursday, the forecast for kick-off at 1 p.m. MST is 103 degrees with a “real feel” of 107.

“I’m not happy about it,” said Arizona head coach Becca Moros.

There are certain precautions taken, such as water breaks during the game. Moros said one year, they played a match in Phoenix that required them to have two per half. The truth is that running around nonstop in that kind of heat for 90 minutes is going to take its toll, though.

“The heat is always going to be a challenge, but both teams have that challenge,” Moros said.

On the field, what has troubled Arizona the most early in the season is on the defensive end.

“We have to get better at defending direct balls, long balls, punts, things like that,” Moros said. “How we organize around the player that’s going up to win the ball, whose responsibility it is to win the ball.”

Arizona has had problems with it against all three opponents so far this season.

“A lot of what we’ve talked about after each game are the things that have to be better by the next game and this game is no different,” Moros said. “Balls getting punted from a goalkeeper that ended up being shots or chances in our 18, it’s not okay at this level. And if I were to scout us, that’s what I would do is just punt balls right up the middle and make us prove that we learned how to deal with it, and then go through the trickier stuff after that.”

On the offensive end, the Wildcats should be helped by having a more even playing surface this week at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium, where they will play neutral field games against Boise State and Kent State.

Moros said they had some problems at NAU last week due to the bumps on the field. Last time Arizona played in Flagstaff, the game was played in the Walkup Skydome, so the Wildcats were unprepared for the Lumberjacks’ field this year.

The team has found some consistency on the offensive end. Senior forward Nicole Dallin has scored a goal in every match so far this season. After leading the team with five last year, her three in just three matches suggests that the Wildcats are putting things together offensively.

“She’s a tremendous soccer player,” Moros said. “She’s definitely one of the most sophisticated soccer minds on the team. She’s very clever and classy as a player. She had some knee issues when I first got here. Just some tenderness that was sort of elusive as far as treating and getting better. Sometimes that just happens. The human body is amazing and totally a mystery at times. But she worked really hard to figure out some of the stuff that was bugging her and be able to create a program and strength for herself that allows her to showcase what she does so well on the field. So seeing her back in form has been huge for us. And she’s also a very good leader on the team. She knows and communicates well what needs to happen and helps her teammates out in that way, as well. So, I hope this is just the beginning of a really good year for her.”

Arizona got Dallin some offensive help against NAU when someone else finally broke through and scored. In this case, it was sophomore Cameron Valladares scoring the first goal of her career.

“It was really exciting,” Valladares said. “I scored once or twice in the spring, doesn’t feel quite the same as scoring in season.”

While Arizona works to get its defense where it needs to be, it will be facing two teams it has very little information about this week. The Wildcats have played Kent State and Boise State once each. Both matches were wins for Arizona but they were in the distant past. The most recent was a 2-0 Wildcat win over the Broncos in 2018. The only match against the Golden Flashes was back in 2003.

“It’s early in the year, so scouting is always more difficult before people have played a number of games,” Moros said. “So, trying to feel like we know them even though we have never faced them is going to be more difficult. I think just continuing to solidify our identity and being able to do the things that we expect ourselves to do well consistently for 90 minutes, I think that’s critical for our long-term success and our short-term success or success this weekend.”

It doesn’t matter how well they know the teams. The players are already looking at these early games as must-win contests.

“We went into that [NAU] game knowing that it was a must-win game to get our momentum back,” said sophomore Trinity Dorsey. “So I think just going into each game with the same mentality to compete and putting the ball in the back of the net and keeping it out of ours is really important. And just applying everything that we do in training and working on our mentality to believe that we can go into every single game and compete and win.”

That’s the only way to reach their objective.

“We’ve been saying that all of our games so far have been must-wins because we all really want to make it to the tournament, so every game feels like we need to be winning it,” Valladares said.

Arizona Wildcats (1-1-1, 0-0-0 Pac-12) vs Kent State Golden Flashes (2-1-1, 0-0-0 MAC)

When: Thursday, Aug. 31 at 1 p.m. MST

Where: Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

TV: Pac-12 Insider

Stats: In-game stats will be available on ASU Live Stats

Season so far: Kent State had a home draw against Colgate only to come back and suffer a 1-0 loss to No. 21 Pittsburgh. Its wins aren’t terribly impressive, but keeping it close against Pitt was a good sign for the Golden Flashes.

Arizona Wildcats (1-1-1, 0-0-0 Pac-12) vs Boise State (1-1-1, 0-0-0 MWC)

When: Sunday, Sept. 3 at 1 p.m. MST

Where: Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.

TV: Pac-12 Arizona

Stats: In-game stats will be available on ASU Live Stats

Season so far: Like KSU, Boise State has already had one tough opponent so far this year. The Broncos faced No. 11 BYU last weekend. They fell to the Cougars 4-1. Their other two matches were on the road against North Dakota State (draw) and North Dakota (win).

How to follow along

Follow us on X @AZDesertSwarm for all things Arizona Wildcats. For live posts of soccer matches and news throughout the week, follow our deputy editor @KimDoss71.