Tony Amato didn’t have any preconceived notions about Arizona soccer.
For the last two years, he’s been at Stephen F. Austin, a school 1,112 miles away from the Old Pueblo. Even in Nacogdoches, Texas, he knew something wasn’t working with UA soccer.But, even from 1,112 miles away in Nacogdoches, Texas, he knew something was up.
“When you see a program in the Pac-12, at a school like Arizona, not being successful, on the outside looking in, you would say, OK there’s something going on there from all avenues where they’re not doing what needs to be done to win games,” said Amato, who was hired as the UA’s coach in December. “I wasn’t here to know what those things were, but even in a tough league, you put two and two together that they’re not performing at the level they need to.”
When Amato was hired, athletic director Greg Byrne told him that he expects each of UA’s teams to be a Top 20 program. Not exactly an easy task. Just ask Lisa Oyen.
In the last three years, with Oyen at the helm, the Wildcats were 12-40-7, including a 1-16-2 debacle in 2011, and were outscored 123-49.
By comparison, Amato went 127-49-14 in 10 years as a head coach — albeit seven years in Division II with Rollins College.
After the Wildcats went 6-11-3 last year — Oyen’s best mark — Byrne had intended to bring Oyen back into the fold for 2013.
But, players went to Oyen’s bosses and asked for a change. Soon after, Oyen resigned. That came 3½ years after she replaced Dan Tobias, who quit with seven games left in the 2009 season.
Tobias didn’t end on great terms, either.
He led the Wildcats to their only two NCAA tournament berths in program history in 2004 and 2005. Then, they fell off a cliff. After that, Tobias posted 26-43-4 record before resigning in 2009. His resignation came in light of considerable roster turnover — in the year before he left the team, nine of his players quit the team.
But now, Amato is leading the charge.
“He’s been great,” said goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman. “Practice is now something we all look forward to, and it’s fun.”
Added Jazmin Ponce, a senior forward: “The biggest change is the new coaches know what they’re doing, and we learn every single day. Before we didn’t learn as much, and now I learn how to do things. I’m more comfortable, and I feel like this is our year.”