Things were looking good for the Arizona Wildcats at the start of the season. The UA opened with a 5-2-1 record.
Since then? Well, the Cats are 1-4-0 in conference play, most recently losing to Washington 2-1 on Sunday. The schedule doesn’t get easier either. Arizona will take on No. 9 UCLA Thursday night, Oct. 13, at home. UCLA, 3-1-1 in the Pac-12 and 9-3-1 overall, is undefeated on the road so far.
“They’re an elite team, elite program, they won a national championship a couple of years ago” coach Tony Amato said. “It’s going to take everyone to stop them.”
Arizona’s conference record can be misleading. With the exception of the USC game, all the Cats’ conference losses have been by one goal.
Arizona finally got over the hump last Thursday, defeating Washington State 2-0. Midfielder Gabi Stoian led the way, scoring one goal and assisting on the other. Stoian is tied for the third most assists in the Pac-12 and has four goals on the season.
“Definitely better than my past games,” Stoian said. “I just felt like I was going at the players more, finding the open space.”
The Cats will need another strong performance from Stoian to be competitive with UCLA, and a solid performance from goalkeeper Lainey Burdett.
Burdett missed the first three games of the season with mononucleosis but has been solid since her return. Even though she’s missed three games, Burdett still ranks fifth in the Pac-12 in shutouts and third in average shutouts per game.
“It was hard having to watch my team and not being able to contribute,” Burdett said.
Burdett said the team’s shutout win over Washington State helped build confidence.
One player the Cats’ need to look out for is Jessie Fleming. Fleming has scored eight goals this season and has the highest goals-per-game average and points-per-game average.
“They have possession of the ball and they spread you out and find players like Fleming,” Amato said. “It’s tough to stop, so you have to contain that.”
Both Stoian and Burdett look forward to challenge of taking the high-powered UCLA Bruins.
“We’re definitely hungry to get a win,” Stoian said. “We got one that we were looking for this weekend but we didn’t get both of them, so we’re definitely hungry to get the win against UCLA.”