It’s a mild March night in Phoenix when No. 28 rises up from Arizona’s bench and onto the field at GCU Stadium.
“Who’s that?” a fan asks as UA and GCU are deadlocked 0-0 late in the second half.
A quick scroll through Arizona’s online roster is no help. It skips from No. 25 to No. 32.
No. 28 is nowhere to be found.
“Her name is Taryn,” Arizona head coach Tony Amato revealed after the Wildcats escaped with a 1-0 victory to begin their spring season. “She walked onto the team.”
Taryn Siegele is the proverbial new kid on the Arizona soccer team.
There are 21 players on the Wildcats’ spring roster, and all of them were on the team during the regular season in the fall — except Siegele. She joined the team in January.
“It’s a little intimidating coming to a team and being the only new one,” she said. “They’ve all already played a season together, so it was a little scary at first.”
Fast forward to late April and Siegele has made a smooth transition with the Wildcats as they finished their spring season with a 5-0 record.
In Arizona’s penultimate game, Siegele notched her first goal as a Wildcat in a 3-2 win over New Mexico before being embraced by a swarm of teammates.
“As a walk-on, we didn’t know what to expect,” said junior midfielder Gabi Stoian, “but she gives 100 percent every time, so it was good for her to get that goal. I’m happy for her.”
Siegele has proven she belongs on the field, while blending in with her new teammates off the field.
“When we have team meals, they are all like ‘come here and sit with us’ and when we go on the bus to away games they all sing and have you join in with them,” Siegele said.
“They’ve been really sweet on and off the field. Even when we’re not practicing we’ll go and hang out by the pool.”
“She was a little quieter (at first),” adds Stoian, “but we found ways that we could include her.”
Siegele’s personality made it easy.
“She’s just very social and nice, the kind of person that’s easy to become friends with,” Stoian said. “I think she fit in quickly with our team.”
A team that, a year ago, Siegele wasn’t good enough for.
A second chance
Siegele is in her second year at the UA, but is listed as a freshman on Arizona’s roster (yes, No. 28 is on there now).
The forward hails from Katy, Texas — a suburb of Houston — but, being a triplet, she wasn’t too keen on going to college in the Lone Star State.
“In high school we were all known as the triplets and I wanted to get out and branch out on my own,” she said. “So I came here and I just fell in love with the campus and the community.”
Leaving Texas meant she was turning down offers to play soccer at the collegiate level, however. Siegele was All-State First Team at Cinco Ranch High School and garnered interest from smaller schools in the area.
“But I wanted to go to a big university,” she said, “so I didn’t go there.”
Her passion for soccer remained, though, leading her to contact Amato, who granted her a two-hour tryout in her first year on campus.
He wasn’t impressed.
“It was like, ‘yeah, no, we’re good,’” Amato recalled. “She wasn’t better than what we had.”
But she was determined to be.
“It was definitely hard and sad to hear, but I just knew that no matter what I was going to keep trying,” Siegele said. “It kinda even motivated me to just try harder.
“I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to come back next year’ and me and Tony kept in contact throughout the summer.”
“Kept in contact” is an understatement. Over the next year, Siegele bombarded Amato with emails and phone calls, seeking another shot.
“She was a pest,” Amato said, with a laugh.
“In the beginning I was just like, ‘yeah…maybe you could be one of our managers or something.’ She was like ‘no, I’m a player. I want to play.’”
Siegele’s persistence paid off and eventually she was given the second chance she was badgering Amato for.
But it wasn’t a two-hour tryout this time.
It was a 14-day tryout.
“You’ve got 14 days to prove that you can play,” Amato told Siegele in January.
For two weeks, Siegele shadowed the team as if she were already a member of it.
Practice. Weight training. Conditioning. She did the whole nine yards.
“It was definitely intimidating, but you just have to get out of your head and do your hardest,” Siegele said.
Amato called it a “sink or swim” scenario. He knew it was a difficult situation for Siegele as the only new player in the group, but he didn’t necessarily go out of his way to accommodate her.
“It was like ‘if you’re going to make it work, Taryn, most of this is coming on you,’” he said. “And I find that the grinders that are able to deal with that and not make excuses can help the team in those situations.”
Evidently, Siegele is one of those “grinders.” No excuses were made.
“The thing that stuck out to me is she just worked,” Amato said. “Grinded and worked and seeing that good spirit to her I said, ‘OK, I’ll give you the spring.’
“And then I said ‘if you ever let up in training or ask for playing time or complain or be a bad teammate, this probably isn’t going to work.’
“And she’s done none of those things.”
Which means Siegele has officially made Arizona’s roster heading into the 2017 season.
As far as what type of role she will have, Amato says he can envision her being a “thrower on top” and her relentlessness being used to create havoc on opposing backlines or provide positive energy for the Wildcats if they’re ever lacking it.
For similar reasons (and because of her blonde hair), Amato says Siegele is reminiscent of Whitney Chamberlin, who played for Amato while he was the head coach at Rollins College in the early 2000s.
Chamberlin was on Rollins’ crew team in her freshman year before walking onto Amato’s team in her second year on campus.
“She was raw, but worked and was a great person,” Amato remembers. “And [Siegele] kinda reminded me of her and I thought, ‘well, let’s give her a chance.’”
A chance he can only hope yields a similar result.
“[Chamberlin] eventually became someone we relied on,” Amato said. “She went on to be our team captain by the time she was a fifth-year senior.”
Following in Chamberlin’s footsteps would be quite the career path for Arizona’s newest walk-on, but at this point No. 28 is just happy to be on the roster.
“This time I made it,” Siegele said. “Luckily.”
You can follow this author on Twitter at @RKelapire