National Signing Day passed without much fanfare for Arizona soccer this year.
But that had less to do with who the Wildcats signed and more about when they signed. This year marked the first time women’s soccer held its signing period in the fall rather than the spring, allowing it to be overshadowed by the NCAA Tournament.
Arizona introduced its signing class on Nov. 14, just two days before it faced Tennessee in the Round of 32.
“It was really tricky. I didn’t love it from a timing standpoint,” said Arizona head coach Tony Amato. “I’m sure we’ll get better at it moving forward but it was the first year that it was in November and it’s right in the middle of the season, so it’s very hard to have (signing day) look how you want it to look.”
Still, Amato says he is excited about Arizona’s seven-person class, which is smaller than usual since the Wildcats are only graduating four seniors.
“There’s not 11 of them, so it’s a little smaller than last year’s class, but we think that over time they will find roles and help us,” Amato said.
Recruiting rankings are scarce for women’s soccer, so it’s hard to tell where Arizona’s class stacks up nationally. But when asked how UA’s 2019 class compares to its previous classes, including the prestigious 2018 class, Amato said it’s “all over the place.”
“I would say every year we are growing and improving as a program and that includes recruiting, but there are going to be players from that first class that are just as good and better than some of the players we’re getting in this class,” he said. “It’s all individually based.”
The Wildcats are in the midst of their most successful stretch in program history, only making it easier for them to attract top talent these days.
“In the beginning, it was a leap of faith,” said Amato, who just finished his sixth year with the program. “It was very much like, ‘okay, we are going to win, here’s how we’re going to win, come on board and help us do that.’ And now we can actually connect the dots to we’ve grown the program, we have tangible results, we’ve gone to NCAA Tournaments, we’ve gone to the second round or better four times in five years.
“Those are things that really help convince them that you’re going to be in NCAA Tournaments and a part of winning teams and winning seasons. That’s one of the biggest things that’s changed the overall brand of Arizona soccer. I think that tied into the fact that we’re in the Pac-12 which everyone, at least in the West Coast footprint, knows is a big deal.”
The incoming freshmen will visit the UA in January before joining what will be an experienced team in July, as the Wildcats are set to return nine starters.
Before then, let’s take a look at each signee along with Amato’s analysis of them.
Taeya Schueppert, MF
- Hometown: Highlands Ranch, Colorado
- High school: Mountain Vista
- Club team: Real Colorado
Amato’s take: “She might be the highest-ranked one because she was called into (U.S.) national team camp recently and her team won the (Development Academy) national championship and she led the charge and scored goals and was basically their MVP of that run. ... But she is a left-footed player who is very good when she gets the ball to her feet and being dangerous in attack using her left foot, and she’s someone that we would think would come in and have an attacking role that could contribute goals and assists from a midfield position.”
Hope Hisey, GK
- Hometown: Tucson, Arizona
- High School: Canyon del Oro
- Club team: FC Tucson
Amato’s take: “Lainey (Burdett) is graduating and we knew years ago that we’re going to need a goalkeeper to come in this year, and we started identifying, and it was unbelievable that we found (Hisey) right here close to home. She is super athletic, dedicated, wants to be a successful athlete and I promise you — you’ve been around women’s soccer now for a couple years — that if Hope walked into the room you’d know that she’s a goalkeeper. She looks the part, and being close to home here, we’ve seen her train a bunch. She’s been to our camps, we’ve gotten to know her, she’s a super smart student, and has the potential to be a really good goalkeeper.”
Mariah Dunn, D
- Hometown: Rancho Cucamonga, California
- High school: Rancho Cucamonga
- Club team: SoCal Blues
Amato’s take: “Mariah is on one of the best club teams in the country, So Cal Blues, and she’s a starting back and her coach often matches her up against the best attacking player. So she’s super tough, has played in big games and will definitely be someone we think will add to just the mentality and toughness of having to stop some of the best players in the country, which we have to deal with being in the Pac-12.”
Molly Shannon, D
- Hometown: Cincinnati, Ohio
- High school: Ursuline Academy
- Club team: Ohio Elite Soccer Academy
Amato’s take: “Molly is a player we identified at one of our ID camps.* She’s not necessarily in the typical footprint of our recruiting being from Cincinnati, but she is a left-footed player as well, which are hard to come by. And we feel like she’s a left-footed left back that will help add some competition to that position.”
Sophie Jones, F
- Hometown: Upland, California
- High school: Claremont
- Club team: Slammers FC
Amato’s take: “Sophie comes out of another awesome club. Very, very good skillful player inside the box from an attacking standpoint. If she gets focused and is committed to being the player she can be, she’ll score goals at this level, which isn’t an easy thing to do.”
Sabrina Hillyer, D
- Hometown: Katy, Texas
- High school: Pope John XXIII
- Club team: Albion Hurricanes FC
Amato’s take: “Sabrina comes from a club that we used to recruit a lot of out in Texas when I was at Stephen F. Austin, and so one of her coaches — she was kind of one of those off-the-radar (recruits) — called me and said this is someone you want from a mentality, toughness (standpoint). Someone that we feel like if we took her out of our team, you would notice a big difference. And because I trust him, and then we got to see her and she came to camp, we feel the same about her. You always feel differently when you train them for a couple years, and man she’s not someone who’s winning all these awards, but she makes a difference in your team. We feel like she could do that.”
Madison Goerlinger, D
- Hometown: Orange, California
- High school: Villa Park
- Club team: LAFC Slammers FC
Amato’s take: “She comes from another awesome club, one of the better clubs in the country, and she is super athletic, can play multiple positions. She’s definitely a legit Pac-12 player. We don’t know exactly what her role will be because she’s athletic and good, she can play midfield, forward in the back. And so she’ll be as a freshman that player you use wherever your hole is. She can help fill it, and then as her career moves forward, I would think she would establish herself as a very important piece.”
*What is an ID camp?
Every summer Arizona hosts recruits at “ID camps” which give prospective student-athletes a chance to stay on campus and train with UA coaches.
“That camp is focused around identifying players that we have never seen before, identifying players that we’ve seen a little, and then the players who are committed to us, being able to work with them in our environment,” Amato said.