The 2019-20 academic year is almost here, so we will be looking at some of the Arizona Wildcats you need to know for the upcoming season.
Chase Jeter — Men’s basketball
The 2018-19 season was a difficult one for Arizona, but Jeter proved to himself that he can succeed at the major-conference level. The center averaged a career-high 10.9 points and 6.6 rebounds in his first season with the Wildcats, a huge improvement from the 2.1 points and 2.2 rebounds he averaged in two seasons with the Duke Blue Devils.
With Arizona adding playmakers like Nico Mannion and Josh Green on the perimeter, Jeter won’t need to shoulder the load offensively as much in 2019-20. However, his rebounding and interior defense will be critical. As will his health. Injuries have plagued the Las Vegas native throughout his college career, including the latter part of last season when he struggled to play through knee and back injuries.
Khalil Tate — Football
After bursting onto the scene in October 2017, Tate entered 2018 with Heisman hype and a spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated, but failed to live up to expectations in his first season under new head coach Kevin Sumlin.
Tate surprisingly was not much of a threat with his legs, only scampering for 224 yards, about 1,200 fewer than he ran for in 2017 when he was one of the most captivating talents in college football.
To be fair, Tate was bothered by an ankle injury and looked much better toward the end of the season. And as disappointing of a season as it was, he still threw for 2,530 yards and 26 touchdowns, one of the best seasons in UA quarterback history.
The question is: which Tate will show up in 2019? The seemingly unstoppable force from 2017? Or the one-dimensional passer from 2018?
Lucía Alonso — Women’s basketball
Alonso is the only player who has been with the Wildcats throughout Adia Barnes’ entire tenure. The Spaniard has been the team’s best shooter during that stretch, connecting on 39.9 percent of her 3-point attempts.
A combo guard, Alonso used to be Arizona’s primary ball-handler too, but the arrival of star point guard Aari McDonald allowed her to move off the ball and spot up on the perimeter.
Alonso has been a starter all three seasons so far, but she moved to the bench at the tail end of last season when she got injured and Tee Tee Starks, her fill-in, fared well with the rest of the starting five. (Starks and Penn State graduate transfer Amani Carter are the other seniors on the roster.)
Arizona needs to improve its 3-point shooting in 2019-20 in order to make the NCAA Tournament, and who better to spearhead that charge than Alonso?
Vince Vannelle — Baseball
Arizona lost Nick Quintana, Matt Fraizer, Cameron Cannon, Andrew Nardi and Randy Labaut to the MLB Draft, so its senior class is pretty barren. However, it still includes Vince Vannelle, who was a rare bright spot among Arizona’s pitching staff last season.
The Wildcats posted a team ERA of 6.21, the second-worst mark in the Pac-12, and Vannelle was the only pitcher with an ERA below 4.00. The hard-throwing right-hander posted a 3.47 ERA in 36.1 innings, racked up two saves, tied for the team lead.
Arizona needs a lot more of that in 2020 if it wants to avoid missing the NCAA Tournament for the third straight season.
Jessie Harper — Softball
The senior shortstop may not consider herself to be a home-run hitter, but she could wind up being the best the school has ever had, which says a lot considering the kind of talent that has rolled through the storied Arizona softball program.
Entering 2020 with 66 career homers, Harper needs 27 long balls to break Katiyana Mauga’s career home-run record, and there is a strong chance she does it. Harper hit a career-high and NCAA-best 29 homers in 2019.
Arizona’s senior class is loaded, so it’d be remiss not to mention the others. They include power hitters like third baseman Malia Martinez and center fielder Alyssa Palomino-Cardoza, rock-solid second baseman Reyna Carranco, and pitchers Alyssa Denham and Mariah Lopez.
Star catcher Dejah Mulipola is in that group too, but it’s unclear if she will be around in 2020. Mulipola will miss the season if she makes the U.S. Olympic roster, which seems more likely than not.
Julia Patterson — Volleyball
Patterson is the Aaron Rodgers of Arizona volleyball—or at least that’s how head coach Dave Rubio described her importance last season. Like Rodgers, Patterson is the quarterback of Arizona’s offense (and defense for that matter). The setter led the Pac-12 in double-doubles, averaging 10.74 assists and 2.86 digs per set.
Patterson enters her senior season with 2,388 assists, ninth-most in school history. The Wildcats doubled their win total by going 22-11 last season, and it was a big help that Patterson was durable enough to play all 125 sets. Take her off the court and the Wildcats are a completely different team.
Samantha Falasco — Soccer
Center backs often do the dirty work without receiving much recognition, so here is a salute to Samantha Falasco, who’s played darn near every minute for the Wildcats over the past three seasons, anchoring a backline that has been one of the best in the Pac-12.
After four years of Lainey Burdett, the Wildcats will be breaking in a new goalkeeper this season, so Falasco is expected to take on a greater leadership role.
Falasco is known for making tackles and defending one-v-one, but she’s made an impact offensively too, notching six goals in three seasons, including the game-winner against ASU in 2016. Falasco has a knack for scoring on set pieces, even if that has meant taking a ball or two to the face.
Also, quick shout out to defensive midfielder Kelcey Cavarra, who, like Falasco, has been a steadying force for the Wildcats over the past three seasons. She’s a tough, hard-nosed player who wins balls in the midfield.
Alejandro Reguant — Men’s tennis
2018-19 was a banner year for Arizona men’s tennis, which finished in the Top 30 and returned to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2010.
Alejandro Reguant had strong finish to the year, going 13-3 in the spring to finish 15-6, including eight straight wins from early February to early March. The Spaniard also was one of three Wildcats to win a match against No. 12 Stanford during Pac-12 Championships.
Reguant is the lone senior listed on the 2019-20 roster, but he’s used to a leadership role, having been a captain in his sophomore season.
Arizona returns several key contributors, including star sophomore Jonas Ziverts, so it should be in good shape to return to the NCAA Tournament this season.
Natalie Anselmo — Beach volleyball
All Anselmo does is win.
The defender went a team-best 26-3 last season, including a 17-0 record when paired with Madison Rigdon in the No. 3 spot, the only qualifying pair in the NCAA to post a perfect record. Anselmo also went 2-1 in the No. 1 spot and 5-1 in the No. 2 spot.
As a team, the Wildcats finished inside the Top 12 and went 25-6, their highest total since becoming an NCAA-sanctioned sport in 2016.
Sandra Nordaas — Women’s golf
Nordaas and Yu-Sang Hou, a junior, are the only golfers remaining from the 2018 national championship quintet. Nordaas’ junior season was her best to date, as the Norwegian finished with a career-low 74.61 average and a career-high four top-20 finishes.
The new-look Wildcats have their work cut out for them in 2020 after winning a championship in 2018 and reaching the NCAA semifinals in 2019.