Arizona soccer star Jill Aguilera is winding up her sixth and final season as a Wildcat. She has never lost to Arizona State. No one on the team has. How do they stretch that streak for another year?
The Sun Devils have been unable to emerge from the rivalry game with a victory since 2015. They are 4-7 in the Territorial Cup over the past decade including losing to Arizona twice last season due to the pandemic-altered schedule. In a season that has been disappointing on the field, ending it with a win over the team from up north would be a high point for the 4-13 Wildcats.
There are other emotional elements to pull at the heartstrings of both fans and teammates. The game will be the final collegiate competition for Aguilera. That’s not on her mind right now, though.
“I’m really not trying to focus too much on that until it’s really over,” Aguilera said. “Just trying to win the next game.”
Her coach is thinking about what it means for the seniors to move on, though.
“For me, I have a lot of mixed feelings,” head coach Becca Moros said. “I wish I had more time with them, so I feel a little sad that it’s the end. We’ve had a really good experience getting to know them, but I feel like it’s just the beginning. So I feel like I’m almost losing something a little bit...I know they’ve been here a long time, they’ve contributed a lot to the program. They really have been amazing. So I’m excited to see what they go on and do, but for the team, it’s the culmination of a long, hard season for us.”
It was especially hard to see fifth-year defender Sabrina Enciso go down with a season-ending injury in the Oregon game on Oct. 7. It’s been difficult for the team to deal with, but there’s something they can give her to repay her for what she’s done for them.
“I know that the team wants their seniors to go out on a high note,” Aguilera said. “And it’s just unfortunate that Sabs will not be on the field. But as always, she’s been really inspiring and a really big important part of our team. And that doesn’t change whether she’s playing or not.”
The coaches have duties to Enciso that go beyond just sending her off with a win. Moros is looking towards Enciso’s future in the sport.
“I don’t think Sabrina has really missed any games in her whole career,” Moros said. “Barely missed any minutes up until now. So I think that’s pretty devastating for her and for us. For a player who’s as durable as that and has played that many minutes and have no injuries and is just very professional, takes care of her body, and works her butt off, it’s just heartbreaking timing. She wants to go on and play pro, and we want to help her do that. So to have her miss these games, she knows she’s got a big hill to climb. And we’re going to support her doing that and help her get back to full fitness.”
Aguilera, too, will go pro once her time at Arizona is through. She was acquired by the Chicago Red Stars of the NWSL in 2020 and will start her career with them when she leaves school. There are things to accomplish at Arizona before then, though.
Winning the last rivalry match is certainly one of them, but the talented forward is in line for a personal milestone, as well. With one goal, she will tie Mallory Miller for the program lead in career goals scored. It’s something her coach wants for her.
The young Arizona team will also be using this time to gain momentum for next season. In addition to super seniors Aguilera and Enciso, there are four other seniors listed on the roster. Those four—defenders Ava McCray and Jordyn Schulte, forward Iyana Zimmerman, and midfielder Iliana Hocking—all have the option of coming back next year to join the three juniors and 17 underclassmen on the current roster. Moros said that it’s not set in stone yet, but she believes that half of the seniors will return for their own super senior seasons.
Most importantly, both Aguilera and Moros want to keep the Arizona winning streak against ASU going for at least one more year. While Aguilera is well-acquainted with this particular rivalry, it will be the first experience for Moros. She thinks she knows what she’s getting into, though.
“I went to Duke, so we had a similar kind of hate relationship with UNC and close proximity, and just really a great, great college rivalry,” Moros said. “So I think I have an idea. I’m still learning more about the specifics of the Arizona and Arizona State rivalry, and the roots of it, and the history of our program, our soccer program, and theirs, and things like that. But I think I have a pretty good idea. And it’s not hard to fall in love with a rivalry like this. I mean, it’s easy to hate ASU, so I’m on board.”
Considering that the Sun Devils have lost the last six games and been shut out six times in the last decade, yet still refer to Wildcats in derogatory terms on their official social media accounts, it is not difficult to see why the hatred of this new rival would come quickly. Now, Arizona needs to use that fuel to post their second Pac-12 win of the season and send their seniors out on a positive note.
Arizona State at Arizona
Date and time: Friday, Nov. 5 at 7 p.m. MST
Location: Mulcahy Soccer Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.
TV and stats: The match will be aired on Pac-12 Arizona. Stats can be found at Arizona Live Stats.
History: Arizona leads the all-time series 9-8-1. The Wildcats are on a six-game winning streak which is the longest by either team in the history of the series. ASU’s longest winning streak was three games from 2000 through 2002.