After being the Pac-12’s doormat for years, Arizona soccer has been a top-20 program in the country over the last five seasons.
Don’t take it from me; take it from SoccerWire.com, which ranked the Wildcats as the No. 18 program in the country since 2015. The rankings are based on “a combination of United Soccer Coaches Polls and Rating Percentage Index (RPI).”
Four other Pac-12 squads made the Top 25: Stanford (1), USC (7), UCLA (14) and Washington State (22). Cal isn’t that far behind at No. 36.
Since 2015, Arizona has gone 59-33-10 overall and 27-22-6 in the ultra-competitive Pac-12, with five wins in four trips to the NCAA Tournament.
In the five seasons before that, three of which were led by former head coach Lisa Oyen, Arizona went 32-55-13 overall, 12-36-5 in the Pac-12 and only made the NCAA Tournament once—in 2014, which ended a nine-year postseason drought.
Arizona’s recent improvement is even starker when you break it down by coaching eras.
- Oyen (2010-12): 12-40-7 overall, 4-24-3 Pac-10/12
- Tony Amato (2013-present): 79-48-16 overall, 35-34-8 Pac-12
Amato, who was hired away from Stephen F. Austin, has never had a losing season in seven years at the helm, despite the Wildcats posting a losing season every year except two in their first 19 years of existence.
Arizona has turned it around with high-press defending and an attack that has shifted from direct to possession-oriented as the talent level has improved and players’ strengths have changed.
UA players tend to be fitter than the opposition too, thanks in part to Jim Krumpos and the rest of the strength and conditioning staff.
“We founded the program on being able to think outside the box and overcome obstacles and present things differently,” Amato said earlier this offseason. “That’s a message we shared from the moment we got here and we’ve been able to do that over the years.”
This year, the Wildcats have the chance to reach the NCAA Tournament for the fourth straight year for the first time in program history, though they will have to overcome the coronavirus pandemic that has delayed the start of the season and roster turnover that saw them lose half their players from a very successful 2019 campaign.
“Three straight years (of making it to the NCAA Tournament) is really important to us because when we went in 2014, a couple of people said to me, ‘Oh, it’s great to have a good season,’” Amato said. “And some people even said, ‘Can you make sure it’s more than one season? Is it just kind of a flash-in-the-pan kind of season?’ And we went back in ‘15 and made a run, missed in ‘16, and then have gone back in ‘17, ‘18. ‘19, which I think shows the consistency of the program, the stability of the program, how hard our players work, how we keep improving and that getting better means a lot to us.”