It took until nearly the end of the contest last Saturday for freshman Zoe Barrie to score on Grand Canyon University in the first of Arizona’s Spring Season matches. I was out of state and didn’t see the match. If I want to see the next one, I’ll have to wait until March 25…and the next ones come in mid-April.
Yes, Spring Season is an odd duck.
Here’s the deal: your seniors don’t play because, well, there’s not much point in that. Your incoming freshmen don’t play either because they aren’t around and it violates NCAA rules. So, you have a stripped down squad. That’s what gives someone like Zoe Barrie, a freshman that had only 12 minutes on the field last year, a chance to show what she is capable of.
Speaking of those NCAA rules, there are some that dictate how many spring and pre season matches a team is allowed to have. I’ll save the details for another day.
Don’t think of it like MLS or NWSL preseason. No one is building fitness here; the season is too far off to make that useful. There aren’t trialists being evaluated, everyone that is on the squad has already been evaluated before they were recruited. Rather, coach Tony Amato is trying to figure out what he can do with the core of his team next year.
The oddball three weeks between games may seem an inconvenience, but it also gives coach Amato a chance to train and evaluate his players without having to prepare for a specific match. Given how quickly matches start in the Fall, it is good to have a more leisurely (relatively anyway) preseason. Even without the new freshmen, he can still learn a good deal about what his team is capable of. Here is what he told me for an article last year:
“It’s two separate seasons because you have such a gap in the middle from now until then and we are going to have 10 new players,” said coach Tony Amato after the match. “Everything changes. Right now, we are asking a lot of questions. Who can fill what roles? What formations? What can we do?”
“When the offseason comes for the summer before we start in August, I’ll have some answers,” he continued. “It’s more from that angle more than the team marching toward that first game.”
Here is what is coming up for preseason. All of these matches, unless noted otherwise, will be at Mulcahy Stadium:
- March 25, 4 pm: UTEP
- April 15, Noon: Northern Arizona (Phoenix)
- April 22, 1 pm: New Mexico
- April 23, 12 pm: New Mexico State