To commemorate the end of the decade, we will be compiling an all-decade (2010-19) team for each of the major Arizona programs. First up: soccer.
As the 2010s come to a close, so too will the best decade in Arizona soccer history.
It did not start that way. The Wildcats compiled a 12-40-7 record from 2010 to 2012 under then-head coach Lisa Oyen, but their fortunes quickly changed in 2013 when Tony Amato was hired away from Stephen F. Austin.
In seven seasons under his direction, the Wildcats have gone 79-48-16, never once finishing with a losing record. Arizona only made two NCAA Tournament appearances from 1994 to 2012, but it has reached the postseason five times during Amato’s tenure, including each of the last three seasons, the longest streak in program history.
Here’s a look at some of the top players who have contributed to the program’s resurgence. For symmetry purposes, I chose four forwards, four midfielders, four defenders, and a goalkeeper instead of a starting 11.
Jada Talley (2017-present)
After a freshman season that, in her words, was “garbage”, Talley has turned it on the past two years, logging 17 goals and nine assists in her sophomore and junior seasons. The tall speedster has 18 career goals heading into her senior season, tied for sixth-most in program history.
Talley needs 14 more to tie the all-time record held by Mallory Miller (2002-2005). It will take a grand effort to do it, but she did score 10 goals in 2019, becoming the seventh player in program history to reach double figures.
The Corona, California native is most known for her breakaway speed, but she has gotten more and more comfortable on the ball, evidenced by the career-high eight assists she dished out as a junior. Talley’s 28 points were the third-most in UA single-season history and led her to become just the third player in program history to make the Pac-12 All-First Team.
Gabi Stoian (2014-2017)
The 2014 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year, Stoian arrived at the UA with a lot of hype and immediately showed why. The Scottsdale native netted 13 goals as a freshman, the second-most in program history.
Stoian led Arizona in scoring all four years of her career, finishing second all-time in both goals (29) and assists (22). Listed at 5-foot-5, Stoian was not the biggest or fastest player, but she was super technical. She’d likely be Arizona’s all-time scorer and assister had she not battled injuries throughout her career. She finished just three goals and two assists shy of the all-time records.
Stoian’s senior class was the first to make three NCAA Tournament appearances. One of them included the program’s second-ever Sweet Sixteen in 2015. Stoian was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team that season.
She capped her career by winning the Ruby Award, which is given to Arizona’s top senior female student-athlete.
Alexandra Doller (2013-2014)
A junior college transfer, Doller only spent two seasons with the Wildcats but made the most of it, pouring in 15 goals on 116 shots.
Doller scored eight goals as a senior in 2014, including the game-winner in UA’s road win over Oklahoma State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Doller was named an all-conference honorable mention.
Making Doller’s career more interesting is that she actually started it at ASU, leaving Tempe after one season after tearing her ACL.
Jill Aguilera (2016-present)
Despite missing her entire freshman season with a torn ACL, Aguilera has developed into one of the best scorers in program history. The left-footed striker has netted 15 goals in three healthy seasons, steadily improving each year.
Equipped with speed and a powerful shot, Aguilera scored nine goals as a redshirt junior in 2019, three more than she netted in her redshirt freshman and sophomore seasons combined.
Entering her fifth year, the Redwood City, California native is tied with Doller for 10th on the all-time scoring list and realistically can finish as high as third. Aguilera will be paired with Talley once again. In 2019, they became the first UA duo to score nine or more goals apiece.
Jazmin Ponce (2010-2013)
Ponce was critical in smoothing the transition between coaching staffs. In 2013, Amato’s first season, the attacking midfielder led Arizona with 10 goals (five game-winners) and a program-record 92 shots. The Wildcats finished 9-7-2, their first winning season since 2005. Ponce was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team for the second straight year and remains the only player in program history to earn that nomination twice.
In 2012, Ponce had eight goals and 85 shots. The Lawndale, California native is currently tied for fourth on the all-time scoring list with 23 goals.
Kennedy Kieneker (2015-2018)
The winningest player in program history, Kieneker was a steady presence in the midfield for the Wildcats for four seasons. She appeared in 82 games, making 68 starts and racking up 47 wins. Most of the stuff she excelled at—tackling, heading, distributing—doesn’t show up on the stat sheet, but she did tally seven goals and seven assists in her career, including a career-best four goals and two assists in her senior season. Two of those goals were netted during the NCAA Tournament.
Kieneker’s best skill was using her head to win balls in the midfield or knock in corner kicks.
Jaden DeGracie (2013-2016)
DeGracie graduated as Arizona’s all-time assist leader (24) and still holds that title to this day. She racked up most of those assists with flip throw-ins, which were once a trademark of Arizona soccer but have not been part of the team’s attack since she graduated.
DeGracie tallied one-third of her assists during her freshman season in 2013, leading the team with eight. The Gilbert native was also a two-time member of the Pac-12 All-Academic Team.
Kelcey Cavarra (2016-2019)
Much like Kieneker, with whom she shared the midfield for three seasons, Cavarra embodied the grit that Amato-coached teams have prided themselves on. Consistency, too. The Littleton, Colorado native appeared in every game during her four-year career, starting in 63 of 80, including all 41 as a junior and senior.
After missing the NCAA Tournament as a freshman, Cavarra’s senior class became the first to make three straight postseason appearances. Arizona advanced to the second round all three seasons. Cavarra had five goals and three assists in her career, none bigger than last October when she knocked in the game-winner at No. 15 Washington State.
Samantha Falasco (2016-2019)
Falasco was famously the last addition to Arizona’s 2016 recruiting class, but arguably the most important. The center back was a four-year starter for the Wildcats, only missing a handful of games due to injury. Teammates often lauded her for her toughness, tackling, and penchant for always being in the right place at the right time.
The Newport Beach, California native was also a threat on set pieces, banging in eight goals in her career. The most memorable one was in 2017 when Falasco scored the equalizer in an eventual 2-1 win over TCU in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. She also netted the lone goal in the 2016 win at ASU.
Morgan McGarry (2015-2019)
McGarry is the perfect example of why you stick it out. A lot had to happen before she became an all-conference player.
McGarry tore her ACL in her senior year of high school and opted to redshirt in 2015, her first year at Arizona. The Danville, California native only appeared in four games in 2016, leading her to switch positions, from an attacking role to outside back, ahead of the 2017 season.
Her career took off from there. McGarry earned a spot on the All-Pac-12 Second Team as a redshirt sophomore and started in every game she appeared in in her final three seasons. She completed her career with three goals and three assists, often initiating the offense by delivering crosses and corner kicks from the right flank.
In 2019, McGarry became Arizona’s first fifth-year player since 2010. Her maturity was evident on and off the field. Playfully nicknamed “Gram,” McGarry was a leader by example at training, graduated in May 2019 with a degree in accounting, and often stashed her younger teammates in her Chevy Tahoe to haul them to practice.
Sheaffer Skadsen (2012-2015)
Skadsen’s career wasn’t all that different from McGarry’s. A former forward, Skadsen moved to center back when the new coaching staff arrived prior to her sophomore season. It was an ideal position for the vocal Vancouver, Washington native.
Skadsen anchored Arizona’s backline for three seasons, playing in all but one match during that stretch. She was an all-conference honorable mention in her senior season when she played 2,011 minutes, only leaving the pitch for 13 minutes.
Skadsen scored three goals that year, all were clutch—late equalizers against Colorado and Texas Tech plus an insurance goal on a penalty kick in an NCAA Tournament win over Northern Colorado.
Her most noteworthy feat was actually in the classroom. An aspiring dentist, Skadsen was the 2015 Pac-12 Scholar Athlete of the Year, accumulating a 4.0 GPA as a public health major.
Hayley Estopare (2012-2015)
Listed as a defender but more of a defensive midfielder, Estopare was a key member of the 2015 team that reached the Sweet Sixteen. Always willing to do the dirty work, she scored five goals, second-most on the team, and was a threat in the air, both offensively and defensively.
The craziest part of her and Skadsen’s time at Arizona is that they joined a program that won one game in 2011 and helped turn it into a 14-game winner by 2015. That is still Amato’s best team to date.
Lainey Burdett (2015-2018)
An early enrollee, Burdett beat out Estopare’s younger sister Rachel for the starting goalkeeping job as a true freshman and never looked back. By the time her career ended, Burdett finished as Arizona’s all-time leader in shutouts (26) and goals-against average (.80). Her 268 saves are fourth-most in program history.
A boisterous goalkeeper known for trash talking and shot stopping, Burdett was Second-Team All-Pac-12 in 2017 and Third-Team All-Pac-12 in 2018.
She spent the 2019 season as a backup with the Orlando Pride, becoming the first Amato-era Wildcat to play in the NWSL.