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Breaking down Arizona soccer’s 2020-21 schedule

Photo by Ryan Kelapire

Arizona soccer announced its schedule on Monday, a 16-game slate that begins Feb. 4 and will feature 12 games against Pac-12 opponents instead of the customary 11. The extra match is a home game vs. ASU that will not count toward the conference standings.

Arizona’s four non-conference matches are against GCU, UTEP, New Mexico State and NAU, which are pretty unusual opponents as I’ll explain below.

As of now, fans will not be allowed to attend Pac-12 soccer games, per a league mandate. Parents are OK on a school-by-school basis, though Arizona is not allowing them right now.

Every game matters a great deal since only 48 teams, not 64, will play in the NCAA Tournament this season, which was postponed from the fall to the spring due to coronavirus pandemic.

The Wildcats will be trying to make the postseason for the fourth straight year. They have 13 freshmen and return 10 players who started at least one game last season, including leading scorers Jada Talley and Jill Aguilera.

Here is the schedule along with some takeaways. (TV info will be announced at a later date. The game times can be found here.)

  • at GCU—Friday, Feb. 4
  • vs. UTEP—Sunday, Feb. 7
  • vs. New Mexico State—Saturday, Feb. 13
  • vs. Northern Arizona—Saturday, Feb. 20
  • vs. UCLA—Friday, Feb. 26
  • vs. Washington—Friday, March 5
  • vs. Washington State—Sunday, March 7
  • at Oregon State—Friday, March 12
  • at Oregon—Sunday, March 14
  • vs. ASU—Friday, March 19*
  • at USC—Friday, March 26
  • vs. Stanford—Friday, April 2
  • vs. Cal—Sunday, April 4
  • at Colorado—Friday, April 9
  • at Utah—Sunday, April 11
  • at ASU—Friday, April 16
  • Selection Sunday—April 18

*doesn’t count toward Pac-12 standings

Takeaways

  1. This is the first time in the Tony Amato era (2013-present) that Arizona is facing New Mexico State, UTEP and GCU in the regular season. The Wildcats usually avoid scheduling them because of their poor RPI. However, this season there is an emphasis on facing regional opponents in order to cut costs amid the pandemic. Among those three teams, only UTEP (10-7-3) had a winning record last season. While Arizona does not usually play those teams in the regular season, they do play them in spring exhibitions quite often. The Wildcats dominate. They destroyed UTEP 5-0 in spring 2020, thanks to a hat trick by senior forward Hannah Clifford.
  2. This will mark the first time Arizona will play NAU since 2015 when they beat the Lumberjacks 4-0 in Flagstaff. NAU is coached by Kylie Louw, who played for Amato at Stephen F. Austin and was an assistant coach at Arizona from 2013 to 2016. The Lumberjacks went 8-8-3 last season.
  3. Winning games against non-California schools is always critical for Arizona, so the five-game stretch from March 5 to March 19 against Washington, WSU, OSU, Oregon and ASU could make or break the season. UA went 4-1 against those teams last season, the lone loss coming at Washington—a game the Wildcats led 2-1 in the 84th minute. Arizona also finishes with road games at Colorado, Utah and ASU, a good opportunity to make up ground late in the year if need be. However, UA lost to Colorado and tied Utah last season.
  4. While beating (or even drawing) the vaunted California schools is an uphill battle, Arizona gets to face all of them except USC at home, where the Wildcats are 18-3-2 over the past two seasons. The downside is that means they face most of the non-California schools on the road, making those important games all the more tougher.
  5. Arizona does get to host Washington and Washington State, though. The Cougars are coming off a magical run to the Final Four but are 0-6 in their last six games vs. UA.
  6. This is the first time Arizona will host Stanford, the defending national champions, since 2016. Arizona also hosts UCLA to open Pac-12 play. That means three Final Four teams will play in Tucson this season.
  7. Six other Pac-12 teams (including Arizona) made the NCAA Tournament last year, so the conference is expected to be elite as usual.
  8. Arizona only faces one California team in their first 10 games, which could be a good thing since they have to get so many new players up to speed. Or it could be a bad thing if it means they drop winnable games because of their inexperience.
  9. Early in the season, Arizona has three straight weekends—Feb. 12 through Feb. 28—with only one game per week. Perhaps that is a window to make up or add a non-conference game in the event of a postponement.
  10. Arizona has not lost to ASU since 2015, so I’m sure they are fine with playing them twice. ASU, by the way, lost its second-leading scorer—Marleen Schimmer—to GCU. The Lopes and Sun Devils also play each other twice this season. Awkward.