The old adage says success breeds success, and it is certainly true for Arizona soccer.
The Wildcats are currently enjoying their best stretch in program history, reaching the NCAA Tournament three times in the last four years, which has led to an uptick in recruiting.
Look no further than freshman Brooke Wilson.
Here are just some of the accolades the Vista, California native entered the program with:
- Ranked the No. 54 recruit in the country and No. 11 prospect in Southern California by TopDrawerSoccer
- Named to the U.S. Soccer Development Academy’s Best 11 in 2018
- Named to the 2017 ECNL Best 11 in 2017
- Called up to four Team USA soccer camps
Put that all together and Wilson is the most decorated recruit Arizona has ever landed and the headliner of a 2018 recruiting class that ranked in the Top 15 nationally.
Unsurprisingly, Arizona head coach Tony Amato was “super pumped” when Wilson committed in her freshman year of high school (more on that in a second).
“Anytime you get good players, you get excited about that,” he said. “Now they have to come out and follow it up with performing and doing well, and it is years away, but in the moment it happens you’re excited and you just start working with them at that point to get them prepared for when they’re here and we expect her to do great things while she’s here.”
Wilson was named of one of eight “top impact signees” by TopDrawerSoccer before the season, and that nomination has been prophetic so far. Through four games, she has two goals and five shots on frame in 158 minutes, helping guide the Wildcats to a 3-1 record.
“The biggest thing with Brooke that stood out to us is that she is a grinder,” Amato said before the season. “She’s a forward and some forwards are kinda fancy and she’s someone who will grind. She’ll work hard, she’ll defend, she’ll be scrappy, she’ll get on the end of things. And ultimately that has equaled goals and success for her because she also is talented, can strike a ball, can finish.”
That much was clear when she did this for her first career goal:
Let’s not overlook the quality of Brooke Wilson’s goal last night pic.twitter.com/eU98xmGn6l— Arizona Soccer (@ArizonaSoccer) August 27, 2018
“Brooke is a great, strong forward. She’s fast, she can stretch the field, but she can also control the ball,” said UA defender Morgan McGarry, an all-conference player. “You saw that goal. It was a 50-yard ball, she brings it down on her chest, and volleys it into the goal. I mean, she’s a great player that can do a lot for us.”
I sat down with Wilson to talk about her recruitment, her goals at Arizona and how she deals with the pressure of being such a highly-ranked recruit (that apparently I put on her).
What was Tony’s pitch that made you really want to play here?
It is a program that is getting big and that is what I wanted to be a part of. I didn’t want to go to like a Stanford and have to fit into that top group. The last starting 11 on the (U.S.) national team, every one of them were Stanford players. There’s not really a chance that you’re going to get some playing time. But I knew if I came here there was I chance I could make an impact and I know they’re on their way to getting better and I want to be a part of that.
What other schools were you considering?
Santa Clara, that was probably my other one. Notre Dame, Colorado.
When did you commit to Arizona?
My freshman year of high school.
So how young were you when you started your recruiting process?
It all hit me at once. I played in Nationals in freshman year in about July, and I must have just done something good and I got noticed. I was getting phone calls all the time and it was really overwhelming. Another thing about Arizona is they did not pressure me at all. A lot of schools were super pressuring, trying to make me commit right away. But Arizona, they weren’t going to let me wait until senior year, but they gave me my time and helped me through the process rather than just trying to pitch themselves.
When you say they helped you through the process, what do you mean?
When they would talk on the phone, they would ask about me. They would make it like it was a personal conversation, rather than a business conversation.
Why did you commit so early? Why not wait until your sophomore or junior year?
I really just loved it. I didn’t want this spot to be taken by anybody else. My mom is also an alumna from here. She wasn’t pressuring me, but she was like ‘oh, what about there?’ So I loved it. I couldn’t wait.
What do you remember about Tony’s reaction when you committed?
I committed on the phone. I felt like it was rare. But I came to the school and I was not planning on coming here. I thought it was going to be dirt and rocks, and I think they knew that. So I drove down from Phoenix and came here. And then they took me on a six-hour tour and I expected it to be 30 minutes. … And then we got back to the hotel room and I was like ‘mom, I loved it.’ I loved everything about it. And then I called Tony and he was excited.
Why did you love the visit so much?
(Assistant coach) Paul (Nagy) was very convincing. Paul showed me the student union and the Experience Room. I had goosebumps coming out of there. I loved that. That was a really good attention grabber. And then coming out here (to Mulcahy Stadium) was really cool, because I had never seen a college stadium. I have only seen the ones in San Diego and this one was way cooler than that one.
The Experience Room?
You go in there and there’s a soccer video and then a full sports video.
Where is it?
In the football area. (the Lowell-Stevens Football Facility. No other details could be given.)
What do you like about the style of play here?
They used to be a team where you would come out here and the ball would go ‘kick and kick and kick.’ (Note: Arizona used to play a direct style of soccer, using long balls and flip-throws to set up scoring chances.)
But we’ve been training combinations in practice and even in the final third, which a lot of coaches will say ‘just get it in the box and shoot it!’ Tony’s like, ‘let’s combine in the box or around the box’ That’s exciting to me.
It is early, but how is the gameplay different from club or high school soccer?
Here, it is a lot more elite. People are stronger, it’s way more competitive, which I love. In club, it was always kind of me, not yelling at my teammates, but encouraging them. Here everybody is encouraging people, there’s tons of communication and it’s super cool.
What is it like to be able to train in those Team USA soccer camps?
I’m super excited, because when you go there it’s the best of the best. So it’s just super exciting to train with them and increase my level of play, even if it’s just those week-long camps. I can notice right when I get out of there that I was faster than I was when I was starting the camp.
Tony said that you’re not only skilled, but you also have some scrappiness to you. Where does that come from?
I have a twin brother. He never ever let me get anywhere without a little bit of scrappiness, and we go at it all the time.
You said you came here knowing that you could make an impact, so then what has it been like coming off the bench?
I don’t mind it at all. If I come off the bench and make an impact, it’s pretty much the same thing. Even sitting on the bench for a little bit and being able to study our opposing team, that’s fantastic because I can look at the outside back and know that I can beat her with my pace or I have to go inside. It’s almost helpful in a way.
So what are your goals here?
Well, hopefully I can get a second goal in at some point. (Note: She scored the very next day.) I would just like to help keep growing the program and get far in the tournament.
What about going pro?
Of course I’d love to go pro. I’ve thought about going pro internationally which I think would be super cool. Of course, playing in the U.S. too because they’re very good here, but I guess it depends how these next four years go.
You enter the program as one of the highest-ranked recruits Arizona has ever landed — if not the highest — so how do you deal with that kind of pressure?
That’s a hard question.
(Amato interjects with a joke: “She didn’t think about it until you mentioned it.”)
Yeah, I don’t really think about it. I just come out and try and play my own game.