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UW back line making things easier

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Junior forward McKenna Waitley looks to handle an incoming cross in the UW’s match against Montana earlier this month. Washington will play California 7 p.m. today at Husky Soccer Field.

When UW goalkeeper Kari Davidson surveys the field at kickoff today against California, she will take a deep breath, comforted by what she sees, and smile as if to say, “Oh yeah, I got this.”

What she will see is a back line that plays like a brick wall, midfielders who let nothing get past, and forwards who keep up the pressure constantly and make sure the ball stays on the right side of the field. What she will see is the Huskies’ defense, which has been playing lately like its shin guards are on fire.

“The defense is showing tons of composure,” Davidson said. “Against Arizona State, they were awesome and really played hard the whole game.”

It would be easy for the casual soccer observer to think of the back line of defenders and the goalie as the “defense” and leave it at that. But head coach Lesle Gallimore wants to make sure people know this isn’t the case.

“Everyone on the team is playing defense, from the forwards all the way back,” Gallimore said. “We always say we want to play as little defense as possible, and if your players up front are doing a good job, then you play as little as possible. The team in general has done a good job.”

The defense will have their work cut out for them this weekend, however, as the Huskies take on No. 23 California (8-5-1, 2-2-0 Pac-10) and the nation’s No. 1 team, Stanford (15-0-0, 4-0-0 Pac-10).

Stanford is playing as well as anybody in the country right now, having handed No. 3 UCLA its first conference loss since 2006 last weekend. Because of this, it would be easy for Washington to look past its opponent on Friday, California. According to the players and coaches, however, getting motivated for the Golden Bears shouldn’t be a problem.

Senior Nikki Murray said: “Every team is good in the Pac-10, and we don’t overlook anybody. We approach every team as if they are the No. 1 team in the nation.”

Davidson agreed.

“I think we’ve done a good job of taking it one game at a time,” she said. “All we’re talking about is Cal.”

Gallimore is confident that her players won’t overlook California.

“Our experienced girls know that it’s a crucial mistake to look past any Pac-10 game. Every game affects the standings,” Gallimore said. “We always say if you win on Friday, it takes a lot of pressure off the Sunday game.”

Washington’s stout defense could get some help this weekend from the rain, which is forecasted to be present during both games.

But that’s not something Gallimore’s thinking about.

“Cal and Stanford are too good to not be prepared to play in any conditions,” Gallimore said. “We came out strong in conditions that aren’t what we’re used to in Arizona last week. Good soccer teams adapt.”

Reach reporter Jacob Thorpe at sports@dailyuw.com.

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