Arizona Soccer Patrick Finley: UA's net-work difficulties

Cats try to stay tuned in despite goalless streak that's reached 7 straight
2011-08-25T00:01:00Z 2014-07-08T15:44:06Z Arizona Soccer Patrick Finley: UA's net-work difficultiesPatrick Finley Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
August 25, 2011 12:01 am  • 

The Arizona Wildcats have hit goal posts with line drives. They've sent goalkeepers scrambling and the soccer ball trickling, tauntingly, in front of the goal, before being snatched up.

Shots get swatted away, as if by Derrick Williams.

Sweepers appear, like ghosts.

"There's always one girl," junior Alex Smith said, "that seems to miraculously clear it off the line."

The UA soccer team hasn't scored a goal in seven games - the last five of the 2010 season and first two of this year, losses to San Diego State and Pepperdine last weekend.

Shannon Heinzler scored in overtime on Oct. 23, 2010, to give the UA a 1-0 win against Cal.

Since then?

"Drives me nuts," coach Lisa Oyen said.

The opportunities are there, which is the good news leading up to Friday's home opener against South Carolina at Murphey Stadium.

At Pepperdine on Sunday, they put eight shots on goal and took 13 shots overall.

"We can clean up our finishing ability," Oyen said. "It's not, 'We don't know how to get there …'

"There are games we played last year where, if the goal had been 3 inches taller and wider, we would have scored six goals."

Fans of the Beautiful Game, of course, know scoring isn't always an indicator of skill.

Teams can play their best matches of the year in a scoreless tie, or find the net a few times in a poor performance.

It's also a reason soccer has trouble translating, for some, in an America used to touchdown dances.

However, there's no dancing around this fact: You can't win if you don't score.

The UA scored 15 goals in 2009 and 19 in 2010 - two of the lower totals in the school's 17-year history .

In 29 games since Dan Tobias resigned with seven matches left in the 2009 season, the UA has been shut out 15 times. Nine other times, the Wildcats scored one goal.

The seven-game streak can be explained, somewhat: four of the five teams to shut out the UA at the end of last season reached the NCAA tournament, and one, Stanford, lost in the national title game.

The Wildcats, who finished the season 5-13-2, played last year without five veteran players, lost to illness or injury.

The five shutout losses came without star forward Renae Cuellar, the Mexico Under-20 World Cup participant who returned this season from knee surgery.

Oyen calls Cuellar a "personality player - someone who does something a little bit different on the field, who stands out."

Cuellar is frustrated by the streak "because we have so much talent," and she said there's a "positive feeling this year."

Midfielder Ana-Maria Montoya, who has played internationally for Colombia, said the team's attitude is exceptional.

"I feel like we're moving the right way," she said, "though on paper you can say we didn't have the best start to our season."

The Wildcats have more youth than Rush Week. Last year, they had 12 freshmen. This season, it's seven.

The UA was picked to finish last by Pac-12 coaches, but Oyen said the Wildcats "think we should be in the middle." She bristles at any suggestion of a rebuilding year.

"We want to compete every year," she said.

It starts with scoring.

"I think this Friday is really going to be that test for us," Smith said. "We really have to put it out there and get into the attack and score that goal, and end this drought."

Oyen admits she'll smile for a second whenever it happens, the burden lifted, and then get back to trying to win the game.

"I don't care if it's the ugliest goal you've seen," she said. "The ball's going to get in the back of the net."

Up next

• Who: South Carolina at Arizona

• What: Home opener

• When: 7 p.m. Friday

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