In the summer of 2016, Hope Hisey and her parents toured McKale Center with the Arizona soccer coaching staff. Their attention was divided.
The UA baseball team was playing Coastal Carolina in the College World Series championship game, and it was streaming on the jumbotron overhead.
“We would stop and watch,” UA head coach Tony Amato recalled. “They were super engaged in wanting baseball to win that. It was vivid to me how bought in they were to U of A.”
The Arizona ties run deep in Hisey’s family. Her father, Jason, pitched for the Wildcats from 1987 to 1991. Her mother, Faith, was on the cheerleading squad as Wilma the Wildcat.
The opportunity to follow in her parents’ footsteps and play in the Pac-12, arguably the top conference in women’s college soccer, made for an easy sell. Hisey committed to Arizona a month after her visit.
“And it was right when a lot of the new facilities had come up,” she said. “They were building the C.A.T.S. (Academics) Center and stuff like that, and I just thought that everything was moving in the right direction, and I really wanted to be a part of something like that.”
The Wildcats were ecstatic to add the Tucson native.
“We felt she was the No. 1 prospect on our board for that class in terms of a goalkeeper,” Amato said. “And to have her commit shortly after that visit, (we) definitely felt some relief there and some security moving forward.”
Fast forward three years, and Hisey is on the verge of starting her own UA legacy. The Wildcats’ first official practice is Aug. 5. She said it feels like a long time coming but also a little surreal.
“(I’ve) watched the people that are already on the team for years now...and so being a part of the team with them is really cool,” she said. “And then having the anticipation of going to those games and watching him and then finally being here and being like, ‘okay, now it’s my turn,’ that’s really cool too.”
Hisey might not have to wait long to make an impact. Four-year starter Lainey Burdett is gone, and the only other goalkeeper on the roster is sophomore Kendyll Humphreys, making it a two-player race for the starting position.
Like Hisey, Humphreys has yet to officially debut for the Wildcats. She sat behind Burdett last season.
Unlike Hisey, Humphreys was around the program in 2018 and played during the spring season, so she presumably has a leg up in the race.
Still, Amato said both goalkeepers are “very good” and the starter will be the one who is “the most comfortable, the most confident and producing in the moment.”
“I think it’s going to be a competition, and that’s the most fun part about it,” Hisey said. “Obviously Lainey...left the program, so the door is really wide open. And I’m really excited to compete for it because that’s something I didn’t really get to do in club: compete for a position.”
Hisey spent her club career with FC Tucson, leading her squad to a state championship this summer, the highlight of her career to this point.
Hisey only played one year of high school soccer—her senior year—when she led Canyon del Oro to its first playoff appearance in over a decade. She was a team captain and named second-team all-state.
Before that, she starred for CDO’s basketball team.
“Senior year, I really needed to double down on soccer, so then I played and...it was a really positive experience for me to develop as a leader more than just a soccer player,” Hisey said.
Hisey’s biggest challenge at Arizona will be exactly that—developing into a leader. It’s something that all goalkeepers have to do as the orchestrator of the defense, but it’s particularly challenging for freshmen since they have little time to adjust to their new team.
Consider: UA’s first exhibition is only 11 days after its first official practice.
Amato noted that Hisey has been quiet in social settings so far, but eventually he expects her to blossom into the kind of vocal leader she was with FC Tucson.
“It’s definitely different,” Hisey said. “Even in the first couple player-run practices we’ve had, I was a little hesitant at first being like, ‘Okay, do I speak up? What do I do? How do I insert myself as a leader on the field, even though I’m the youngest person?’ And the older girls have been really helpful by being like, ‘no, stay confident. You have to step right in and do what Lainey used to do, because we’re not trying to take a step back.’”
While Hisey lacks experience, she is brimming with athleticism. Listed at 5-foot-9, she has the height and mobility to cover every stretch of the goal. She once made 25 saves in a high school game, setting a school record.
“Her basketball background of going up and getting balls out of the air, especially if it’s vertical straight up, would jump off the page if you walked out to her training in Tucson,” Amato said.
“Sometimes (assistant) Paul (Nagy) tells me I need to dial down my athleticism because I’m a little too jumpy at times,” Hisey added.
Hisey is the first Tucsonan on Arizona’s roster since 2017, immediately making her a fan favorite. She experienced that first-hand this summer when she was a counselor at Tony Amato Soccer Camp.
“When I’m talking to the kids from Tucson, their parents would come up to me and ask me, ‘how did you do it?’” Hisey said.
“It” is Hisey’s status as a Pac-12 player. Few Southern Arizonans have ascended to that level. Hisey is the only Tucsonan in the conference this season.
She credits her club coaches Dave Cosgrove, Lisa Frazier and Nagy, who trains FC Tucson’s goalkeepers, for helping her get to this point.
Now, she hopes to pay it forward by being a “pioneer” for young Tucsonans who dream of playing college soccer at the highest level.
“There were 5- to 14-year-olds in that camp, and she was working with those young players,” Amato said. “And when they hear she’s from Tucson and she’s gotten a Pac-12 scholarship and going to the U of A, I mean she doesn’t even have to say much and the players can look at her as a role model and get some inspiration from that.”