Women drop first home game

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

If the warm-up music was supposed to set the tone, it may have done a more than adequate job.

As the Arizona women's soccer team prepared to meet San Diego State in its first home game ever, a stereo blared the Gin Blossoms, but the batteries must have been low because the speed was not quite right.

In fact, there were many things that weren't quite right: take the home-field advantage, for example. The game was played on Pima Community College's West campus not quite home.

The clouds covered the sun, but it wasn't quite cool.

And when the referee blew the final whistle, the score indicated well, the Wildcats didn't quite win.

In its first home game as a Division I member, Arizona lost on three second-half goals by the Aztecs (which happens to be Pima's mascot as well come to think of it, there's something not quite right about that). But for the first half, the Wildcats held San Diego State scoreless, a victory in itself, considering the limited experience of most of the team.

"I think there's a lot of things with a young team," UA head coach Lisa Fraser said. "A lot of it's experience, a lot of it's mentally playing for 90 minutes. A lot of these players have never played a game mentally for 90 minutes. We're asking them to do that day in and day out and that's hard. It's a hard thing to do. It takes experience to learn that."

Indeed, it seemed Arizona burned all its energy off in the first half, as the team was constantly on the offensive, making the Aztec goalkeeper work for many of her saves.

"We had some great chances," Fraser said. "It's not like they dominated for 90 minutes. The (Aztec) goalkeeper made a great save off Ashley (Lettis's) shot. So we have the ability to do it, it's just, we don't have the ability to do it for 90 minutes yet. It's just going to have to come with time."

Of course, there were elements besides conditioning that could have led to the players' burnout. The heat which was still intense despite the all-too-infrequent cloud cover and the Aztecs themselves, who played the player almost as much as they played the ball.

Two yellow cards were issued to San Diego State in the second half, one of which went to defender Lea Stank-evich for unsportsmanlike conduct. After pulling down a UA player, for which there was a penalty, Stankevich purposely kicked the ball out of bounds to allow more time for her teammates to get ready.

Throughout the game, Aztec players usually had an eye on the ball and a hand on the opponent, but the aggressive play is something that Fraser insists should be learned and not chastised.

"Well, we just have to be as physical as they are, and I don't think we are yet, but I think we're getting there," Fraser said. "I just think it's learning to play at that level. We picked it up today, I think Shannon Taylor was probably one of the most physical people out there. She did a really good job. Her stepping up there is going to step everyone else up at practice."

Jen Weibel started in goal for the UA, playing the whole game. But two goals in under a minute spoiled an otherwise solid performance. Like her counterpart in the opposite goal, she constantly made outstanding saves, doing a good job at keeping the Aztec total at three.

"We came out really prepared today," Weibel said. "We came out and played them tough, especially for the first half. We took it to them, we had a lot of shots on the goal, so overall, as a team, except for a span of a couple minutes, we played a real strong game."

When prompted on the team's play, Fraser had more praise than criticism to offer.

"If you're looking to go back to your old habits, that's not learning, and right now they need to do what we're asking them to do, and they did," Fraser said. "They made some mistakes defensively, and we didn't capitalize. We made some mistakes defensively and they capitalized. So that's experience and learning the game."

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