By Amanda Branam
CHRIS CODUTO/Arizona Daily Wildcat
UA midfielder Nikki David bursts past defenders during a UA victory earlier this season at Murphey Stadium. The Wildcats have an opportunity to tie last season's mark of six wins Friday at home against NAU.
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Wednesday, September 15, 2003
Six games into the 2004 season, the Arizona soccer team is already one win away from tying its win total from the entire 2003 season. The Wildcats are also just three wins away from tying the all-time high in wins for UA soccer, set by the 1997 team.
"I think it's a time issue - we had a good returning group that knew what it was going to take to be successful, and we had good freshmen. The combination of the two things has put us in a position each week to build on our success," UA head coach Dan Tobias said of his team's early success this season.
Wins are not the only category where the Wildcats may make their mark in the record books after 2004 is said and done. Freshman goalkeeper McCall Smith has already notched four shutouts in her brief college career, and needs three more this season to break the UA single-season record set by Inger Airheart in 1997. Smith is also tied for second place on the all-time shutout list, also trailing Airheart, who holds the record with nine.
If junior forward Candice Wilks scores 10 goals this season - two more than she did in 2003 - she will take over as the UA all-time leading scorer. Wilks began the season with 16 goals and has scored two so far this season. The record is 25, set by Nikki Jones, who played at Arizona from 1995-98.
Injuries continue to take toll
There is good news and bad news concerning the injuries for the Wildcat soccer team.
Tobias said that Wilks' injured ankle is improving, and she should be ready to play in Friday's game against Northern Arizona. Wilks injured her ankle in practice last week and sat out in the West Virginia and Duquesne games last weekend.
The bad news is sophomore forward Lauren Winters will likely have to redshirt this season due to a foot injury. Tobias said that Winters met with doctors this week and will need surgery to remove scar tissue in her foot. Winters scored two goals and had three assists for the team in her freshman season.
Pac-10 supplies tough challenges
The Wildcats are off to their best start in school history with five wins in six games, but wins in their remaining non-conference and Pacific 10 Conference games may be much harder to come by.
If the teams who are currently ranked in Soccer Buzz Magazine stay in the rankings this season, the Wildcats could potentially face six ranked opponents in their remaining games for 2004.
The rankings list No. 8 Washington, No. 9 Arizona State, No. 15 UCLA, No. 19 Pepperdine, No. 22 Stanford and No. 25 California. Of those six teams, the Wildcats will face Pepperdine, Washington and UCLA at home. Arizona has already faced one ranked opponent this season in No. 13 West Virginia, losing 2-0. Tobias thinks taking his young team on the road early in the season will pay off when they are faced with the tougher opponents in the coming weeks.
"Going on the road gave us some game experience and experience on the road," Tobias said. "We have found ways to close games out and get results. It certainly does help for the coming weeks."