It’s a team sport, but there will be a big individual matchup when Arizona (8-6-3, 5-4-1 Pac-12) and Arizona State (8-5-3, 4-5-1 Pac-12) play their rivalry game Friday evening in Tempe. Arizona senior goalkeeper Hope Hisey will be the final defense against Arizona State’s fifth-year forward Nicole Douglas.
Douglas is playing in her final regular-season game as a Sun Devil. The graduate student from London, England leads the Pac-12 in goals (14) and points (31) despite playing the second-fewest minutes of her career. She also holds just about every offensive record in ASU program history: career goals (60), points (140), game-winning goals (18), goals in a season (19), points in a season (45), goals in a game (4), and points in a game (9).
“She’s somebody we will be acutely aware of, and we’ll talk about in our scouting report, talking about her tendencies and things that she’s good at,” said Arizona head coach Becca Moros. “Obviously, she’s good at a lot of things, so those are players you have to shut down in order to get the results you want. So that will be our goal. Obviously, she’s versatile and comes up with goals in lots of different ways. She also has assists. She affects the game in more ways than just scoring, so she’ll be a handful and somebody we will be really looking to close down.”
As a team, the Wildcats score far fewer goals than the Sun Devils, but they are also slightly stingier on defense. Arizona has given up 16 goals this season compared to ASU’s 22. On offense, the Wildcats spread the offensive load out a bit more.
Douglas accounts for 40 percent of the Sun Devils’ goals and almost 28 percent of their points. Nicole Dallin, who leads the Wildcats in goals (5) and is tied for the lead in points (10) is responsible for 31.25 percent of the team’s goals and 18.5 percent of its points.
The Sun Devils present a number of challenges. Some of those are because of similarities between the teams.
“They’re a possession-based team,” Moros said. “They have some savvy players. They’re creative on the ball. They can get in a big shape and stretch people out, and they think quickly. So I think there are a number of similarities in the philosophies and styles of the teams. Obviously, personnel has differences. And I think formation wise, we match up exactly on with them, so that’s going to be a different challenge for us as we face a lot of teams in different formations. There’s more natural pockets of space that form when you’ve got two different formations, whereas we’re all going to be kind of evenly marked up all over the field.”
A large part of UA’s success on defense is because of Hisey, who has been named the Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week three times this season and has six shutouts. Her .792 save percentage is fifth among conference keepers while her six shutouts are tied for third.
Even better than having Hisey in goal for the final game of the 2022 regular season is knowing that she will return next season. The Tucson native announced on Wednesday that she would take advantage of the extra year offered by the NCAA due to the pandemic and stay home for one more season. The congratulatory messages she has received have been impressive.
“I feel good about it being out to everyone now,” Hisey said. “My teammates, my coaches have known for a while, but mostly just the reception that I got from it being announced and the amount of people that were really excited by it, I think I didn’t quite expect that kind of reaction. So it felt really nice to see all that and to see people so excited to have me back.”
The support of the Tucson community was something that Moros thought likely influenced Hisey to continue.
“She was pretty determined to come back right from the start,” Moros said. “I think she’s had really great experience here at Arizona, both on the soccer side and academically. She’s been close to family and enjoyed that a lot. She’s well supported by the fans here. She’s kind of our local hero. So I think she has a unique...kind of fortunate way to go through college athletics. To have that kind of family support and fan support, local support, not everybody gets a chance to do that at such a big program. So I think it’s been pretty cool for her.”
There’s still a lot for Hisey to accomplish.
“She’s also grown a lot in the last year and a half, so I think she’s excited to add more and more to that over the next year,” Moros said. “And she’s also got some records she wants to break or set.”
Hisey is currently third on the Arizona list for career saves with 289. She needs 56 to tie Jan Weibel (1994-96) for first in program history. Hisey has at least 61 saves each year of her career, including a huge performance with 102 saves last season.
Hisey is also tied with McCall Smith (2004-2005) for second with 20 solo shutouts in her career. That places her six behind program leader Lainey Burdett (2015-18).
The records weren’t the deciding factor, though. Hisey’s decision to return came long before she knew she would have a shot at those records.
“I had decided after last season that I was going to come back,” she said.
The battle of the two stars and their respective teams has a lot on the line. ASU had been in the top 20 of the RPI for much of the season before an inexplicable loss to conference cellar-dweller Oregon State last weekend. It caused them to plunge from No. 19 to No. 34. Despite winning both of its games last weekend, the Wildcats dropped from No. 39 to No. 41 this week because of other matches going on around the country. So, both teams could use a positive result on their NCAA Tournament resume.
“I think with a win we’ll feel pretty confident and draw is probably pretty good for us too,” Moros said. “I know there’s a possibility even with a loss that we go into the tournament, but I think we want to control our fate a little bit. And the better we do here in this game is gonna really help us feel confident that we’ll get in that at-large bid and be able to go into the tournament and continue kind of building the way we’ve been building. So I know we’re excited about that.”
For Arizona, it’s also about prolonging the streak against its rival. The Wildcats have not lost to the Sun Devils since 2015, a winning streak currently sitting at seven in a row. Even the Arizona team that struggled last season, getting just two conference wins, was able to take the rivalry match. It provided a storybook moment, giving former Wildcat Jill Aguilera the program career record for goals scored.
“It’s been one year for me, so I’d like to keep that going,” Moros said. “It’s a great rivalry and I you only have a winning streak until that one game snaps it. So, really, this is the only game that matters to us at this point, but we’re aware that that’s kind of how the luck has fallen for us over the years.”
This year, a win would be the cherry on top of an incredible run in Moros’ second season at the helm. The Wildcats have not lost since they dropped a match to No. 1 UCLA on Oct. 9. They are 4-0-1 since that point and are 5-1-1 since they upset then-No. 8 USC on Oct. 6.
The Wildcats are doing everything, even engaging in some superstitious rituals, to keep their unbeaten streaks going, including putting their #ForksDown. The team has not used forks to eat all week.
“I don’t know how serious that is at times, but it’s not a total joke,” Moros said. “I think the team has kind of their ways of getting up for this game, and it’s kind of a week long thing. And they talked about rivalry week and they’re excited for the other rivalry games in the Pac-12. So I think it’s just an intense week across the Pac, and I think all the players really enjoy that fierceness of competition and watching all the dust settle at the end of the season and seeing where everybody kind of shakes out.”
Arizona Wildcats (8-6-3, 5-4-1 Pac-12) @ Arizona State Sun Devils (8-5-3, 4-5-1 Pac-12)
When: Friday, Nov. 4 at 7 p.m. MST
Where: Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe, Ariz.
TV: Pac-12 Arizona
Stats: In-game stats will be on Arizona Live Stats
Rankings: Neither team is ranked in the United Soccer Coaches poll. ASU is No. 34 in RPI. Arizona is No. 41.
Standings: Arizona is fifth in the Pac-12 with 16 points. ASU is sixth with 13 points.