Cats primed to claim 1st playoff win for soccer

By Amanda Branam
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 10, 2005

They've been here before.

For the first time in the 11-year history of the Arizona soccer program, its players can say the postseason is somewhat familiar to them.

The Wildcats slid through the back door this week after finishing fifth in the Pacific 10 Conference, and they travel to Salt Lake City to take on Utah (14-6-1, 6-0-1 Mountain West Conference) tonight at 7 in the first round of the 2005 NCAA College Cup, a much shorter distance than they traveled last season.

"We've been there before, but it's not enough," said senior midfielder Jennifer Klein.

Arizona won a share of the Pac-10 title last season, earning an automatic berth in the College Cup, but had to travel to Storrs, Conn., to play in a snowy first-round game against Colgate, falling 1-0.

This year, not only is the postseason familiar, but so are the opponents in the Salt Lake City subregion.

The Wildcats defeated the Utes 1-0 in overtime Sept. 16 at Murphey Field at Lohse Stadium. Senior midfielder-forward Mallory Miller put in the rebound off Ute goalkeeper Ashley Mason in the 100th minute to give Arizona the win.

"It gives you a little of a reference point," said Wildcats head coach Dan Tobias of meeting a team for a second time this season. "We faced each other 14 games ago. We're a different team and a better team, and I know that Utah is a different team and a better team."

Tobias said he liked the way the team played defensively against the Utes, as Arizona kept its top scorer, freshman forward Adele Letro, at bay.

Offensively, Tobias pointed out that although the Wildcats only scored one goal, Ute goalkeeper Ashley Mason had to make 11 saves in that game, some of them spectacular, to keep her team in the game and force overtime.

The Wildcats have gone 5-6-2 since the teams last met. The Utes went 8-5-1 and won the Mountain West Conference, getting rewarded with hosting the first and second round of the College Cup.

Despite the sub-.500 record, Klein said she thinks the team has made only positive strides since last meeting Utah.

"We're having a lot better play between the midfield and the forwards, something we didn't have consistently in the beginning of the season," she said.

The Wildcats are also healthy. Sophomore defender Kaity Heath will be at full strength after missing Friday's game against UCLA and most of Sunday's Southern California game because of a concussion she suffered against ASU on Oct. 29.

Senior Althea Jones, a speedy midfielder who was cleared to play two weeks ago after completing rehab for a torn left anterior cruciate ligament she suffered in spring practice, could make a difference in the postseason with her experience and breakaway speed.

If the Wildcats defeat the Utes, they would face either Brigham Young or Weber State at 1 p.m. Saturday.

BYU and the Wildcats have also faced each other this season, with the Cougars getting the 2-1 win in Tucson on Oct. 1.

Arizona and Weber State last met on Sept. 25, 2004, in Ogden, Utah. The Wildcats won 2-1.