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No. 10 Pepperdine set to give UA soccer tough test in Sunday afternoon heat

No. 10 Pepperdine set to give UA soccer tough test in Sunday afternoon heat

Forward Chelf embracing new tactics, resposibiliites

  • Arizona forward Megan Chelf in a match against San Diego State.
    Joshua Pearson/TucsonSentinel.comArizona forward Megan Chelf in a match against San Diego State.

The National Weather Service predicts a high of 98 degrees for Sunday when the Arizona women’s soccer team is scheduled to take on the Pepperdine Waves at 1 p.m. at Mulcahy Stadium.

It likely will not be as horribly hot as it has been, and there is a slight chance that there will be some rain. Still, it might be a bit much for the visitors from Malibu, who have been training in 80-degree weather.

“I think they are pretty used to it,” coach Becca Moros said about her team and the Tucson heat. “We train in the morning and the night so they don’t get too depleted… they are not really fazed by it…. if it looks like they are affected by it, we’ll sub for sure.”

Whatever advantage the weather may confer to the Wildcats, Pepperdine will be a tough opponent. They have not lost a match yet this fall season, which has included a 2 - 0 shut-out of USC and a 8 - 0 demolition of Cal State Northridge. That later game featured braces from three Pepperdine players as well as a goal from Tatum Wynalda, daughter of U.S. national team great Eric Wynalda.

Performances such as those this season have earned Pepperdine a Number 10 ranking nationally.

“They are as good as a PAC-12 school, for sure,” she said. “They are always a significant contender. They are fast and athletic. It’s the same stuff you’ll see in the PAC-12.”

The match will be a chance for the team to further refine its “positional possession” tactics. It’s been an ongoing project of coach Moros to get the team away from the more direct play of the team’s time under coach Tony Amato. The team’s new players understand the style of play.

“It’s very possession-oriented,” said freshman midfielder Trinity Dorsey. “We try to create numerical advantages all over the field. A lot of it has been training in tight spaces and combination work. It takes a second for everyone to get used to it.”

Both the style of play and less dependence on Jill Aguilera, who graduated last year and now plays professionally for Chicago Red Stars, has given other players opportunities. One of these is Megan Chelf, Chelf had been a constant threat up top for the team, but hadn’t scored in her freshman and sophomore years (albeit she had limited time due to injury). Already this season, she has scored two and tallied more shots (18) than her last two seasons (12).

“With Jill gone,certain people have to step up, and that’s not just me,” she said. “I have a lot of shots this year because of my team and their hard work is benefitting me. I can’t take credit for that.”

Chelf had one year under coach Amato before Moros took over the team. There are big differences in tactics and style, she notes.

“Tony was successful with what he did, but it didn’t feel as rewarding when we won. No shame to him because it worked,” said Chelf. “With Becca, it feels like even our losses are wins because we are getting better and playing prettier soccer.”

Arizona Athletics will be providing water to fans that come on Sunday.

COVID woes in Tempe

The team could have been benefitting from a slightly more heat-exhausted Pepperdine squad since they were originally scheduled to play against ASU on Thursday. However, that match and a scheduled match the Sun Devils had against Georgia Southern last Sunday were postponed due to COVID-19 concerns.

“Attempts to reschedule will depend on team’s schedules,” a press release from ASU said.

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