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Q&A: Brynn Moga on her big week, working in special education, and the Oregon road trip

Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Brynn Moga is a prime example of how patience and persistence pays off.

The sparsely-used junior popped up with two goals last weekend, helping the Arizona Wildcats escape with two critical wins against the Washington schools.

Moga headed in the game-winner against Washington in double overtime, then scored the go-ahead goal in UA’s win over WSU a few days later.

They were the first two goals of her career and she played 32 minutes in each of those games, easily surpassing her previous high this season, which was just 18 minutes.

Moga was nominated for Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week, though did not win the honor because USC forward Penelope Hocking, the twin sister of UA midfielder Iliana Hocking, scored five goals.

Still, it was a feel-good week for Moga, who has had a seesaw career at Arizona. The forward appeared in 18 games (11 starts) as a defender as a freshman, but lost her starting job and battled an ankle injury as a sophomore, limiting her to just seven matches.

She has not been playing a ton as a junior, either, but still managed to produce two of the biggest goals all season (which you can watch below).

There is a lesson to be learned there, said Arizona coach Tony Amato.

“She’s stuck with it, continued to work hard, she’s gotten some opportunities and she capitalized on the ones lately and helped the team win,” he said.

“And I think all our players stay focused on, ‘how can I help the team when called upon?’ They’re doing work behind the scenes. There are players that don’t get to travel that are still working and trying to get better, even one percent better. And when they do, they’re ready for the team when there’s an injury or when we go deeper into the rotation. And I think that’s a real credit to our team, our players and our mentality.”

We caught up with Moga to talk about her big week, her desire to work in special needs, and more. Here is what she had to say.

Looking back on that week, what was it like?

“It was crazy. It was an amazing feeling. I was glad to help the win and go through to this upcoming weekend.”

What is it like to have a moment like that when you haven’t played that much the past couple years?

“Last year of course was hard, but it just teaches me that I have to keep pushing and not give up. Because when you get an opportunity like that and execute it, it’s really exciting.”

What has been the toughest part of your career?

“I think going from starting as a back to then not playing at all in some games. Now I know I have to push extra hard to get those minutes.”

How did the switch from defense to forward happen?

“I played defense, but then my club coach moved me to forward. And then (Arizona coaches) were like, ‘no, we’re recruiting her for defense.’ So it was kind of up in the air when I came here and then I started at defense ... I was honestly more comfortable as a defender, because I had done it so long throughout club.”

When you’re not playing, what do you try to bring to the team?

“Positive energy. Just be encouraging and if someone’s down on themselves to lift them up.”

Are you one of the more vocal players on the team?

“I would say I am very loud. (Hailey Mazzola) for sure and Lainey (Burdett) and Kelcey (Cavarra) for sure, but I do talk a lot.”

Is being a vocal leader a role you want next season when Mazzola, and her famous dance moves, graduate?

“Potentially. I don’t know if I’m going to be as good as her, but I’ll try.”

You talked to your team about autism and its importance to you. Why?

“I started nannying for this boy (Rory) and he has autism and I became really passionate about that and now I want to go into that when I graduate school, like be a teacher and specialize in special needs.”

What do you like about it?

“It just challenges me. Obviously it’s harder than nannying for someone without autism, so it just teaches me a lot of patience.”

(Teammate Hannah Clifford: “I think it shows another side of (Brynn). She’s by far the best person with kids. She connects with kids so well. She was so happy to show us the kid that she works with.”)

So when you went in front of your team and talked about it, what did you say?

“I gave background on autism. He also has this other disease where he does not get full,so he doesn’t know when to stop eating, so that is really hard for me. I talked about that and then I talked about what daily life is like when I’m watching him.”

So what is a typical day like?

“So I normally would pick him up from school everyday, we go to Starbucks and I get him a cake pop and then we go to his house and if it is nice out we go swimming for about an hour and then go on a walk. Then when we get back, we do his homework and then get go get dinner. That was pretty much a routine.

“He loves to swim and is such a good swimmer. He also loves to dance.”

Do you still do that?

“Yes. When I go home (to Phoenix) for summers.”

What is the team’s mentality heading into the Oregon road trip? (Arizona plays Oregon State on Thursday and Oregon on Sunday.)

“Just keep it going. Win.”

What is difficult about that road trip?

“It’s just long and we’re missing a lot of school, so we have to focus on that too, but also stay focused on the games. ... We just have to make sure we don’t lose track of what we’re going there for.”

Does practicing on the turf (at Bear Down Field) in the cold and rain Tuesday help your preparation?

“Yeah, it was really fortunate that it was raining right now because obviously we’re not used to a lot of rain and the skip of the ball.”

The goal vs. Washington

The goal vs. Washington State