By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 3, 2004
The Arizona soccer team opens its 2004 home schedule tonight, eager to show its opponents that last weekend’s pair of shutouts is just a sign of things to come.
The Wildcats take the field tonight at 7:30 against UC-Irvine as part of the Arizona Invitational at Murphey Stadium.
Today’s game will be the first ever meeting between the Wildcats (2-0) and the Anteaters (1-1), however both coaches are very familiar with one another.
Second-year UA assistant coach Harold Warren was an assistant coach at UC Irvine before coming to the UA last season. Warren worked under current UCI head coach Marine Cano. Cano, a goalkeeper on the men’s 1976 U.S. National team, coached UA head coach Dan Tobias when he played on an under-18 team in California.
“It’s an interesting dynamic,” Tobias said of coaching against his old mentor. “They are very prepared, very good defensively, and we expect a real good opponent tomorrow.”
UC Irvine comes to Tucson after beating San Jose State, 1-0, and falling to San Diego, 3-0, last week. Like the Wildcats, the Anteaters have a young squad, with only 10 players returning from the 2003 season.
UCI had a strong defensive showing last season, allowing only .755 goals per game. The Anteaters expect more of the same this year with seniors Alyson Spencer and Tara Weldon. Spencer earned All-Big West Conference First Team honors, while Weldon was an honorable mention member.
Both teams also have young goalkeepers — for Arizona, freshman McCall Smith and for UCI, sophomore Marissa Welliver.
The Wildcats take Saturday off before returning to Murphey Stadium to face Fairleigh Dickinson (0-2) on Sunday at 1:30 p.m. FDU has yet to win a game this season, after losing to Syracuse 4-0 and Rutgers 3-0 last week.
Last season’s Knights went 10-8-1, tying the highest win total in the team’s brief four-year history. FDU also has a slew of new players this year, adding 12 to its roster to start the 2004 season.
Senior goalkeeper Andrea Maston and senior midfielder Kristen Habenicht — the all-time assist leader for FDU — are the key returners for Peter Gaglioti’s team.
The Wildcats are coming off an impressive showing last weekend in the Cyclone Classic, shutting out a pair of games in Ames, Iowa, but Tobias said he wants to see the defense keep its shape better and be more consistent. He added that he would like the offense to keep better possession of the ball. He said he expects both areas to improve as the season goes on.
Despite how young the three teams are, Tobias said he doesn’t think the inexperience of the new players will have much of an effect on the games this weekend. He said he considers the freshmen of his team and of the opposing teams to have college experience now, so it is not as unpredictable as last weekend when they had no game experience to their credit.
“Those things are always hit and miss. We were in a position where we needed a big freshman class. They’ve (opposing teams’ freshmen) got some games under their belt, so now they have an idea of Division I soccer.”
Also coming to Tucson to participate in the Arizona Invitational is Buffalo, who won’t face the Wildcats this weekend, but faces FDU on Friday and UC-Irvine on Sunday. All games for the tournament are to be played at Murphey Stadium.