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Breaking down Arizona soccer’s ‘challenging’ 2021 schedule

Sixth-year senior Jill Aguilera is back after leading Arizona in scoring last season
Photo by Ryan Kelapire

The Arizona soccer team will have its first official practice Wednesday and it released its 2021 schedule on Monday as Becca Moros’ first season at the helm quickly approaches.

The Wildcats return eight starters from last season’s team that went 9-5-1 overall and 4-5-1 in the Pac-12, falling just short of the 48-team NCAA Tournament field.

Here’s how the 2021 schedule lays out along with some analysis. Head here for the exact game times.

  • Tuesday, Aug. 10 — at San Diego State (exhibition)
  • Saturday, Aug. 14 — vs. Grand Canyon (exhibition)
  • Friday, Aug. 20 — at Utah Valley
  • Friday, Aug. 27 — vs. NAU
  • Thursday, Sept. 2 — vs. LSU (in Tempe)*
  • Sunday, Sept. 5 — vs. Cal State Northridge (in Tempe)
  • Thursday, Sept. 9 — vs. Texas Tech
  • Sunday, Sept. 12 — vs. Nebraska*
  • Thursday, Sept. 16 — vs. Gonzaga
  • Friday, Sept. 24 — at Washington State*
  • Thursday, Sept. 30 — vs. UCLA*
  • Sunday, Oct. 3 — vs. USC*
  • Thursday, Oct. 7 — at Oregon*
  • Sunday, Oct. 11 — at Oregon State
  • Friday, Oct. 15 — vs. Washington*
  • Thursday, Oct. 21 — at Cal*
  • Sunday, Oct. 24 — at Stanford*
  • Thursday, Oct. 28 — vs. Utah*
  • Sunday, Oct. 31 — vs. Colorado
  • Friday, Nov. 5 — vs. Arizona State*

*on Pac-12 Networks

What stands out

  • Utah Valley, Gonzaga and Cal State Northridge are strong mid-major opponents. Utah Valley went 13-5-4 and won the WAC last season. Playing them on the road to open the season will be tough for an Arizona team that will just be finding its footing. Gonzaga went 7-3-1 last season and has had a winning record every year since 2017. CSUN didn’t play in 2020 due to the pandemic but finished 12-7-3 in 2019.
  • NAU, which Arizona is slated to play every year for the next 10 years, isn’t too shabby, either. Coached by former UA assistant Kylie Louw, the Lumberjacks went 7-2-1 last season. One of their two losses was a 3-0 drubbing by Arizona.
  • LSU is a decent SEC opponent. The Tigers return the majority of their team that went 8-8-3 last season, plus added some key transfers. They appear to be on the upswing after going 3-12-3 in their first year under head coach Sian Hudson in 2019. Arizona will face them—and Northridge—as part of the annual Sun Devil Desert Classic in Tempe. Temperatures are usually in the 100s for those games, so depth is always key.
  • Texas Tech and Nebraska will be Arizona’s first big challenge at Mulcahy Stadium. Led by Tom Stone, Tech had a losing record (5-6-2) last season but is typically one of the best programs in the West. 2020-21 was their first losing season since 2008. Before that, the Red Raiders had won nine or more games every year since 2010, including a 15-win season in 2019. They have seven NCAA Tournament appearances in the last nine seasons. TTU returns fifth-year senior forward Kirsten Davis, who was an All-American and the 2019 Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year after scoring 19 goals, third-most in a single season in Tech history.
  • Nebraska soccer was a powerhouse in the late 1990s and early 2000s, but has been pretty mediocre since then, making just two NCAA Tournament appearances since 2006. The Huskers are 6-15-7 over the past two years. Nebraska went 2-5-3 last season, all against Big Ten teams, with a 6-16 goal differential. The Huskers, who have been coached by John Walker their entire existence, added Arizona transfer goalkeeper Sami Hauk this offseason.
  • Arizona’s Pac-12 schedule is difficult to start but soft to finish (relatively speaking, of course). They open with a road game at Washington State and home games vs. the Los Angeles schools. All three are expected to be ranked to start the season. UCLA and USC, which added Arizona transfer Jada Talley to its already-lethal attack, are usually in the Top 10. Combine that with what’s a difficult non-conference schedule, and Arizona will need to be sharp early in the season in order to stay within realistic reach of an NCAA Tournament bid.
  • Arizona plays Stanford, the 2019 national champions, on the road for the fourth time in the last five years. UA beat the Cardinal, who had a rare down year, in Tucson last season for their first win in that series in their last 15 tries. Some coaches view playing Stanford and other elite schools like UCLA and USC on the road as a good thing because that means your more winnable Pac-12 games are at home. Others see it as a bad thing, as it means a potential season-changing upset is even more unlikely.
  • Arizona can make up a lot of ground at the end of the season with three straight home games against Utah, Colorado and Arizona State to close out the regular season. ASU was the only one of those three to make the NCAA Tournament last season but the Wildcats have beaten them six times in a row, including twice last season.
  • The Pac-12 is returning to a Thursday-Sunday schedule after conference games were held on Fridays and Sundays during the COVID season.
  • Arizona’s regular season schedule was constructed entirely before Moros was hired in mid June.
  • Moros’ takeaway: “We’ve had to come together quickly but this team will be ready. After the unprecedented 2020 season, getting to play in front of fans again will be special. Our home schedule is challenging but one I believe our fans will enjoy.”