By Steve Fanucchi
Arizona Daily Wildcat
After going 3-11 in its inaugural season as a Division I program last year, the Arizona women's soccer team was in need of some big help, especially offensively.
In 1994, the Wildcats scored only 17 goals in 14 games. This season, Arizona has already improved in that category, scoring 10 goals in its first seven games, almost doubling last year's total in half as many games.
When freshman forward Nicki Jones came to UA this year, the Wildcats got the jump start they needed to make the '95 season a sucessful one.
In fact, Arizona head coach Lisa Fraser said the one missing link the team lacked in its first season was another forward to help senior captain Christine Keeley.
"We only had one forward and you cannot have that to be successful," Fraser said. "We have Nicki and Christine up front this year and they are working with each other very well. She (Jones) has made a tremendous impact on our team already, obviously."
Jones has started all seven games for the Wildcats this year and has produced in a big way, tallying five goals on 11 shots with one assist, while Keeley has shot the ball on goal 21 times with three goals.
Jones is from Canby, Ore., where she played for a club team that won three state titles. The high schools in Oregon do not recruit, so for Jones to be recognized she had to make her presence known on her club team. She did exactly that when she played for the Olympic Development Team, where Fraser first noted Jones' ability.
"We look for girls who like to be here and that is exactly what she did," Fraser said.
"When I first made my decision to come here, I thought of the beautiful weather," Jones said. "I love the sun and I was so sick of the rain. The coaching staff, the girls Ÿ overall, I just loved it, and as soon as I came here I knew this was the place. I had more visits but I knew I wanted to come here to the UA."
Like most freshmen, Jones has had to deal with being homesick. But her adjustment to college has been helped because she has been able to draw upon the support of her teammates.
"When I first got here I did not know anyone and it was tough, but having a team was incredible because it is like getting 30 new friends," Jones said."I like being part of a team where I did not have to sit on the bench the first two years, because I want to make a difference for this team. That is what I really want for this program. I cannot imagine practicing so hard and then not being able to play."
The pressure of playing any collegiate sport has its tolls, especially on players with no collegiate experience. But Jones has put a new attitude on handling tough situations on the field. Most college athletes strive for their highest potential, and Jones hasn't even started to rise yet.
"Sometimes I worry about the pressure too much," Jones said. "I get too nervous before the games, instead of just going out there and playing. I have not been able to do what I can do yet, because every time I step on the field I see the opponents and I say to myself, 'She is a senior, I can't take her out. She has more experience.'
"Right now I am intimidated and that is the worst part about being a freshman."
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