Arizona soccer coach Tony Amato said Thursday that seniors Jill Aguilera, Sabrina Enciso and Hannah Clifford have informed him that they will be returning for the 2021 season, taking advantage of the NCAA rule that gives all student-athletes an extra year of eligibility in the wake the coronavirus pandemic.
Their other senior, Jada Talley, is still deciding. The speedy forward may go pro. She was claimed by the NWSL’s Racing Louisville FC in January.
“She’s just trying to see what her pro contract would look like versus coming back, and if it’s better to be a pro this year or next year,” Amato said.
Either way, the Wildcats now have a strong core to build around next season. Aguilera, who was claimed by the NWSL’s Chicago Red Stars, led the Wildcats with nine goals plus five assists this season, second-most on the team behind Talley. Those two are fourth on Arizona’s all-time scoring list (24), eight goals shy of Mallory Miller’s all-time record.
Enciso, a tough defender, has been a four-year starter along the backline.
Clifford, a physical forward, had a goal and two assists this year, turning in what Amato said was her best overall season.
“Obviously what that does is now instead of freshmen having to come in and start and make an impact right away, they add depth to the squad,” Amato said.
Many Pac-12 teams will be in the same boat, possibly creating the most competitive playing field in league history.
“It will be really interesting,” Amato said, “because seniors or fifth-year seniors, it usually goes one of two ways. Some have a foot out the door and don’t have great seasons and others are all in and make it a great season. So I think it really depends on where your returning players lie.”
4 players enter transfer portal
Amato said freshman goalkeeper Sami Hauk, freshman midfielder Alex Day and sophomore defenders Molly Shannon and Sabrina Hillyer are in the transfer portal. None were starters and they only played a combined 135 minutes this season, so it isn’t surprising.
The Wildcats are bringing in nine freshmen and a junior college forward—Cariel Ellis—for 2021, meaning they are slated to have 29 or 30 players next season depending on Talley’s decision. Amato didn’t rule out adding more.
“We don’t feel like we have to go get someone,” he said. “If we add someone it’s because we think they can come in and play for us pretty quickly.”
Arizona went 9-5-1 in the shortened 2020-21 season, missing the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2016.