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Arizona soccer’s bubble bursts

The Wildcats will miss their third straight NCAA Tournament

arizona-wildcats-soccer-ncaa-tournament-bubble-2022 Photo courtesy Arizona Athletics

Arizona soccer entered its regular-season finale against Arizona State on a five-game unbeaten streak. The Wildcats had not lost since a 1-0 defeat at the hands of No. 1 UCLA on Oct. 9, going on a 4-0-1 streak over that period. It wasn’t enough to convince the selection committee, as what seemed like a decent argument for inclusion was ended when the NCAA Tournament bracket was released on Monday afternoon.

The Wildcats’ status became very tenuous when ASU ended a seven-year losing streak to UA on Nov. 4. The Wildcats dropped 11 spots in the RPI to No. 52. They still had some hope, though. Chris Henderson of independentwoso.com projected the team in the field even after the loss, albeit as one of the last teams in. The main argument was the win over then-No. 8 USC and the way UA closed the season.

It wasn’t to be. The committee took just five Pac-12 teams this season, instead including ACC teams like NC State (7-7-5, 2-6-2) and Wake Forest (9-6-3, 3-6-1). The Wolfpack had not won since Sept. 29, going 0-4-2 over that period but had an RPI of 39 due to its tough schedule both inside and outside the ACC. The Demon Deacons went 0-3-1 to close things out but had an RPI of 45, edging Arizona out by 7 spots.

UCLA’s upset loss at the hands of USC and Stanford’s shocking draw against California in their rivalry game hurt the Pac-12’s overall RPI. The Bruins dropped from first to third while the Cardinal fell out of the top 10. Both results likely played into Arizona’s big drop in RPI as well as its loss to ASU.

Their absence means the Wildcats have now missed three straight tournaments. Arizona likely would have made it in the delayed 2020 tournament that was held in the spring of 2021, but that field was limited to just 48 teams.

They ended the season 8-7-3 overall and 5-5-1 in Pac-12 play. Arizona finished tied with ASU for fifth in the league by points, although the Sun Devils won the head-to-head competition this season.