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Soccer's title hopes rest on SoCal sweep

Chris Coduto/Arizona Daily Wildcat
Senior midfielder Mallory Miller heads the ball away from Stanford's Lindsey Hunt and Hayley Hunt during Arizona's 2-1 win over Stanford on Oct. 23 at Murphey Field at Lohse Stadium. If the Wildcats beat both UCLA and USC this weekend, they will guarantee themselves a share of the Pac-10 title.
By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Friday, November 4, 2005
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It isn't going to be easy, but the Arizona soccer team goes into the final weekend of conference play with a legitimate shot at winning the Pacific 10 Conference.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats (9-5-3, 4-2-1 Pac-10), who meet No. 4 UCLA and Southern California in Los Angeles this weekend, so do four other teams.

"What's great about this weekend is we're still in contention to win the Pac-10 title," said Arizona head coach Dan Tobias. "The other part is (players) would all tell you we feel like we've yet to play our best 90 minutes this season."

Arizona sits in a three-way tie for third place in the Pac-10 with ASU (9-6-3) and USC (10-5-2).

With a sweep this weekend, Arizona would be guaranteed at least a share of the Pac-10 title for the second year in a row.

Doing so will be a challenge, as the Wildcats face the Bruins (15-1-2, 5-0-2) at 8 p.m. today and take on the Trojans on Sunday at 1 p.m.

"At this point in the season, it's a lot less coaching and just keeping everyone sharp (in practice)," Tobias said.

The Wildcats can use recent history as encouragement. Arizona defeated USC 3-0 on Oct. 29, 2004, and two days later squeaked past then-No. 5 UCLA 1-0. Both games, however, were at Murphey Stadium.

The Bruins' only loss this season came Sept. 9 against then-No. 5 Penn State, a 1-0 loss in the UCLA Women's Cup tournament. The Nittany Lions have since become the nation's top-ranked team.

UCLA returns seven starters from last year's national runner-up team led by sophomore midfield Danesha Adams.

With 14 goals on the season, Adams trails only Wildcat senior midfielder-forward Mallory Miller (17 goals) among conference scoring leaders.

For sophomore midfielder Nicole Scheid, success this weekend depends on consistency, something the Wildcats have struggled with throughout the season and in their 2-1 loss to ASU on Saturday.

"A big part of that game we weren't consistent," Scheid said. "In the first half, it seemed like everyone was off doing their own thing."

Scheid and the rest of the Wildcats will look for a consistent effort Sunday against USC, a team very different from the one the Wildcats defeated in Tucson last season.

In 2004, the Women of Troy finished eighth in the conference standings. This year, USC was picked to come in second in the Pac-10's preseason coaches poll.

The Trojans' freshman class this season was widely considered the top recruiting class in the country, as well as the best in school history.

First-year forward Amy Rodriguez was the Gatorade National Player of the Year in 2004 and plays for the under-19 national team, along with freshman defender Meagan Holmes. Rodriguez leads the Women of Troy with seven goals.

Although these are road games for the Wildcats, seven Arizona players hail from Southern California. While the majority of their weekend's opponents do as well, some Wildcats will be facing players they competed with at the club and high school levels.

"It's really fun ... when you play against your friends. You try to keep it clean," freshman forward London King said jokingly. "At the least, you got to do one thing good (in the game)."

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