By Amanda Branam
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA freshman midfielder Sarah Litt (14) jockeys for position during the Wildcats' 7-0 victory over Fairleigh-Dickinson Sunday at Murphey Stadium. Litt and her Wildcat teammates try to extend their 4-0 start today at West Virginia.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, September 10, 2004
The UA soccer team (4-0 overall) will get a serious challenge to its undefeated record today when it faces West Virginia as part of a two-game East Coast road trip.
The No. 16 Mountaineers are coming off a 2003 season in which they finished second place in the Big East Conference and advanced to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament. They are off to a 3-1 start this season, with their only loss coming to No. 10 Virginia Sunday, 1-0.
"You try to make sure that every game presents a different challenge, and this game certainly fits the bill. It just adds to the excitement to play a team of this caliber," said second-year UA head coach Dan Tobias.
The Mountaineers return seven starters from the 2003 team, but have also added eight freshmen to their roster. One of those freshmen, Ashley Banks, is tied with junior forward/midfielder Rachael Minnich for the most goals on the team, with three. Minnich also has two assists and leads the team with eight points.
For Tobias, having a consistent defense this weekend will be the key to success against the Mountaineers. His defense has been consistent so far on paper, with the Wildcats shutting out their opponents in all four games played.
On Sunday, the Wildcats will face Duquesne in Pittsburgh. In 2004, the Dukes are 1-3, with their only win coming against Cleveland State Sunday, 1-0. In their four games this season, the Dukes have scored five goals - each one from a different player.
Duquesne returns seven starters from a team that went 8-10-2 overall last year, and 4-6-1 in the Atlantic 10 Conference. They finished in eighth place in 2003. The Dukes, like WVU, have eight freshmen on their roster this season.
The Wildcats have gotten off to their best start in program history, at 4-0, and they have not even been 100 percent healthy yet this season. Junior forward Kelly Nelson had ankle surgery in the offseason after playing all of the 2003 season in pain. For the last couple of weeks, Nelson has been able to participate in certain drills in practice, but was hoping to get cleared to play for this weekend's road trip. Tobias said that she is still not quite ready to take the field.
"She's not quite there yet," Tobias said. "She's been a model of patience. She'll be that much more prepared when she comes back."
Adding to the UA's injury troubles is an ankle injury for senior forward Candice Wilks. Tobias said she suffered the injury in practice Wednesday, and is listed as day-to-day. Wilks will travel with the team this weekend.