Hydration, practice, conditioning, repeat.
For the University of Hawaii Rainbow Wahine soccer team, that has been the team’s schedule for the past week as they prepare to hit the road against the Sun Devils of Arizona State this Friday night.
“Anytime you play a Pac-12 team, you know you’re going to see a different level of athleticism and experience,” said Wahine head coach Michele Nagamine. “It’s going to be huge for us this weekend.”
The ‘Bows are 0-2 all-time against Arizona State, falling 5-2 in the last meeting between the two teams in 2014. Friday’s match will be the first time have faced each other in Arizona.
After snapping a four-game losing streak last week Tuesday against Idaho State with a 2-0 win, the Wahine are hoping that the shutout win on the road is a harbinger of things to come. But in their way is a revamped Sun Devils squad with a new coach in charge.
Graham Winkworth is in his first season as the head coach at Arizona State after racking up a 66-16-7 record in four seasons at South Alabama, with four NCAA tournament berths including a trip to the round of 32 in 2015. Arizona State is 2-3-1, but they are a much improved team with WInkworth on charge, said Nagamine.
“They have a new coaching staff, he’s done a really good job at coming in and kind of getting everybody excited about Arizona State soccer again,” she said. “Graham has done a really good job at getting his team to buy in, so we’re anticipating a battle on Friday night.”
The ‘Bows will be going into battle led by senior striker Sonest Furtado and reigning Big West Defensive Player of the Week, Alexis Mata. Mata, who said she was surprised with the DOTW honor, said that using last week’s performance to motivate herself against Arizona State to get the team in a rhythm before conference play.
“It’s going to be a tough game, and I know that I’m going to have a lot of action. Hopefully not, but I’m expecting it. But I’m feeling good about it,” she said. “We definitely want to get some wins together before going into conference play. As a group, having a lot of wins going into our conference gets everyone psyched. We're like, riding that wave and if we can get some wins before conference, that’ll be huge for us.”
But after Furtado and Mata, the Wahine roster has a lot of questions marks due to its youth.
“With such a young team, and on top of being young, we have some returning players who didn’t get a lot of playing time last year,” Nagamine said. “We’re young and we’re inexperienced, which is not the ideal combination, but we’ve got the right mentality and the right attitude and the good thing is that we’re starting to peak.”
In order for the team to play to its potential, Nagamine said that her team must be in peak physical condition which will be difficult in the dry desert heat.
“We know it’s going to be a major factor and hopefully, the weather and environment on Friday night will be very electric … we’re going to hydrate and make sure we’re responsible about our rehab and pre-hab, I guess you could call it,” Nagamine said. “We’re absolutely going to give it everything we have this weekend. We know how important this weekend is for us.”
Furtado said that playing in humid conditions in Hawaii has helped the team with its conditioning, but understands that playing in Arizona will be difficult.
“That heat is different, it’s dry also. I’m used to playing in that type of heat down here, but I feel like the dryness is going to affect us.”
But even with if the heat does affect the way the Wahine play on Friday, Furtado knows that when her teammates play together, they’re hard to beat, even against a strong side.
“(Arizona State) are definitely a more dominant team. They’re going to be more athletic, more physical, just better soccer and I feel like they’re going to move the ball great, and I feel like we can do what it takes to keep up with them,” Furtado said. “They’re a beatable team, and if we work hard, stick together, we can come out with an upset.”
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