The offseason is here, with all of Arizona’s sports done for 2021-22 and the 2022-23 campaigns still a little ways away.
Which makes this a great time to step back and see how all of the Wildcats’ programs are doing.
Over the next few weeks, we’ll take a look at each of the UA’s 19 men’s and women’s programs to see what shape they’re in and what prospects they haveBfor the near future. We’ll break down each team and evaluate how it is performing under its current coaching staff, looking at the state of the program before he/she arrived and comparing it to now while also looking at this season and beyond.
Next up: Becca Moros’ soccer team.
How it looked before
Arizona Athletics announced that Moros had been hired to lead the soccer program on June 16, 2021. That was about three weeks after Tony Amato, the most successful coach in Arizona history, took the head coaching position at Florida. Amato is already out at Florida after a 4-12-4 season and player dissatisfaction. Moros is starting her second season with high hopes of having more success than last year.
With Moros landing in Tucson less than two months before the team’s first friendly on Aug. 10, 2021, there wasn’t much time to make major changes. That didn’t stop Moros from making those major changes.
A vastly new style of play was introduced. It’s the only style she wants to coach, Moros said.
“It’s prettiest to watch,” she said. “It’s the most clever and intelligent and demands the most sophistication from the players, the most technical proficiency. I mean, it’s just excellence across the board. I want to see us play the best soccer in the country.”
The Wildcats didn’t completely grasp the style last season. They finished the season 5-13 overall and 2-9 in Pac-12 play.
Where things stand now
The Wildcats may have struggled consistently playing the new style of soccer last season, but they still had career goal-leader Jill Aguilera. Now, they don’t.
“I don’t think you can ever truly replace someone like that,” Moros said. “Jill’s journey from when she first got here to where she was when she finished and graduated. You know, that was a process for her growth and development and building herself into the powerful player that she was when she finished here. And so we have players who have abilities that are great. But it’s up to them what they do with that and how it fits in with what we’re doing.”
The program returns some valuable upperclassmen, including goalkeeper Hope Hisey, defender Mariah Dunn, and midfielder Madison Goerlinger. Moros was also able to do some recruiting this season because she was on campus for over a year. She believes that they will have an advantage of coming into a program where the existing players have some exposure to the system she wants to play.
“There were games where we really felt we were turning a corner and we were going to be able to have that identity and it was going to show up week in and week out, and then we couldn’t put it all together, or we’d lose our way in a game and we had trouble getting it back,” Moros said.
Being able to go into the matches after a full developmental season should help the returning players. They also will need to take inspiration from their former teammate.
“I think, at the end of the day, our goal will be to pick up Jill’s legacy and make sure that each of us is doing a little bit more to sort of carry a bit of her with us on the field,” Moros said. “But I think the players, both individually and collectively, can do that job.”
One big question
There are lots of big questions for this program. One big one is where they get scoring from with Aguilera gone. However, none of that matters if the players can’t put it all together and play the system Moros wants them to play.
One advantage this season is that she already has players in the program who learned the fundamentals last year. The teaching portion of coaching will focus primarily on newcomers.
“I think they were going through that discovery process (last year) and building that identity the entire season,” Moros said. “And I think probably in the spring that solidified a little bit more. (Also) bringing in some new players—not because there’ll be better at it, but because they’ll come into an already formed system, whereas these guys didn’t. We were making it all together at the same time, whereas the players who are coming in next year will fit into a really trained team, and it will be easier for them.”
There isn’t much time to get ready and prove that. The spring development season ended in April. The NCAA allows about a week of regular practice before the season starts in August. Arizona’s first friendly is against NAU on Aug. 7. The regular season starts on Aug. 18 against Iowa State.