UA soccer begins a new era with first win for new coach

The weekend brought a windfall of ‘firsts’ for the University of Arizona women’s soccer program.

A 4-2 win over Cal Poly on Sunday was the first of the season for the Cats, and the first win for new head coach, Lisa Oyen, following the departure last season of Dan Tobias.

Oyen was an assistant under Tobias and joined with another on the staff, John Galas, to serve as interim head coaches when Tobias left for personal reasons with seven games remaining in the 2009 season. They inherited a 3-9-1 record at that point in the 2009 season.

Oyen and Tobias, who was at UA for seven seasons, had worked together since the 2001-2002 season when she was his assistant coach at Washington State.

Now she must pick up the pieces from last season and begin to make her own mark on the program.

She is hoping to re-shape the Wildcat program to more resemble the teams that won the Pac-10 crown in 2004 and made it to the NCAA tourney’s Sweet 16 in 2005.  Tobias was named Pac-10 Coach of the Year for his work during those years.

But the program slumped in recent years, going 26-43-3 over the past four seasons and failing to post more than two conference wins during any one of those seasons.  Last year, the team finished 4-15-1 with just one conference win.

Oyen began her coaching career as an assistant at Montana in 1998, where she also played four years as a defender, and later went on to play two years for the Miami Gliders of the United Soccer League.

Now she’s trying to apply some of that playing experience to her job at UofA, to rebuild a sagging program, much the way her predecessor stepped in to revive a program that had not had a winning season in its first 10 years.

The win over Cal Poly is the first step in the process.  It provided yet another ‘first’ that offers a sign of better things to come.  The 4-2 victory marks the first time in two years that the Cats have scored four goals in a single game.  The last such effort came in September of 2008 against Weber State.

Junior forward Renae Cuellar accounted for two of those goals, scoring the game’s first goal early in the first half of play; it was her third goal of the young season.  A pair of freshmen, Jazmin Ponce and Ana Montoya, racked up the other two scores.

Cuellar led the team with eight attempts on goal and the team had 22 attempts to Cal Poly’s 15 attempts.  UA got off to a fast start, outshooting the Mustangs 15-4 in the first period and were never really challenged after that.

Yet another ‘first’ came from Ashley Jett, who was in goal.  The 5’11” junior from Texas earned her first career win in the net by snagging six of eight shot attempts by the Mustangs.

The Cats will need all hands on deck this weekend when they travel to Tempe to play in the Sun Devil Desert Classic.  They face Nebraska on Friday and Tennessee after that.