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Arizona soccer to open spring season Saturday vs. UTEP with shortened roster

Hannah Clifford
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

The Arizona soccer team released part of its spring schedule Tuesday, announcing that it will host UTEP this Saturday at 3 p.m. MST and face BYU on March 21 in Tempe.

It’s a quality slate. UTEP is coming off a 10-7-3 season and BYU went 21-1-1, its only loss coming against national champion Stanford in the Elite Eight.

The Wildcats, who went 12-7-1 and advanced to the Round of 32, enter the spring season in a precarious situation, with only 13 players on their roster, barely enough to form a starting 11 assuming everyone is healthy.

Arizona graduated seven seniors (three starters) and lost seven others to transfer, including two starters and some key reserves.

Starting defender Hallie Pearson recently joined forward Brooke Wilson (UA’s third-leading scorer), midfielder Emily Knous, goalkeeper Kendyll Humphreys, midfielder Jules Dominguez, defender Dorian Goodwin, and forward Sophie Jones as the latest to leave the program.

Thus, Arizona’s spring roster looks like this:

  • Jada Talley, F (20 starts in 2019)
  • Sabrina Enciso, D (19 starts)
  • Madison Goerlinger, D/MF/F (17 starts)
  • Hope Hisey, GK (16 starts)
  • Jill Aguilera, F (14 starts)
  • Iyana Zimmerman, F (9 starts)
  • Hannah Clifford, F (9 starts)
  • Iliana Hocking, MF (7 starts)
  • Ava McCray, D (4 starts)
  • Grace Santos, MF (2 starts)
  • Mariah Dunn, D (0 starts)
  • Sabrina Hillyer, D (0 starts)
  • Molly Shannon, D (0 starts)

The Wildcats return an abundance of firepower in their attack, including their two leading scorers from last season in Talley and Aguilera, who will be seniors in 2020.

They are also in good hands at goalkeeper, returning Hisey, a member of the All-Pac-12 Freshman Team.

The backline is the biggest area of concern now that Pearson is transferring. The Wildcats graduated fellow center back Samantha Falasco and outside back Morgan McGarry, leaving Enciso as the lone returning starter from that unit, though McCray did get extended playing time there last season and Goerlinger, who can play anywhere, chipped in at times as well.

The spring will be a tremendous opportunity for defenders like Dunn, Shannon and Hillyer to get on the field after not playing much, if at all, in the fall.

As for why so many players transferred away, the reasons vary. Some wanted more playing time, others were looking for a different role, and some were unsatisfied with the team’s chemistry, which, at least according to several former players, deteriorated during the 2019 season.

“We understand that [transferring] is a part of college athletics and it’s hard for people to know the best fit for them when they are coming out of high school, whether that’s academics, whether that’s social, whether that’s with their teammates, whether that’s with coaches...and sometimes it may even be financial,” Arizona coach Tony Amato said in December.

“And so I think these days with the portal, it’s definitely in everybody’s heads that this is what college athletics is now, and it’s always been that way, just now the portal is a little more open and visual.”

Three added to 2020 recruiting class

With so many departures, the Wildcats made three late additions to their 2020 recruiting class—goalkeeper Samantha Hauk, defender Jasmine Young, and forward Jordan Hall.

Hauk, from Dallas Texans DA, was originally an Oklahoma commit but changed course after the Sooners’ head coach left for another job. Young plays for Strikers FC ECNL in Southern California. Hall is a product of Tophat DA in Atlanta.

Altogether, the Wildcats are set to welcome 11 freshmen in the fall. (You can read about the eight others here.)

Arizona could still add to their roster via the transfer portal. It wasn’t until April last year when they announced the additions of McCray and Santos from Cal Poly and William & Mary, respectively.

“Every year you try and bring in about 10 players knowing that there may be some flexibility in your roster from year to year,” Amato said in December. “That’s why every Power 5 soccer team across the country is typically bringing in a bigger number—10 at a time and more. I think we’ve had years here where we’ve had 13 a couple years in a row. So we just know that that’s part of it. And you got to make sure you have a roster that’s full and has depth and has talent.”

Transfer tracker

At least four of UA’s transfers have decided where they will continue their careers:

  • Wilson —> Tennessee
  • Jones —> Long Beach State
  • Knous —> Boston College
  • Dominguez —> UNLV