It’s a large group. Arizona soccer will honor its eight seniors and graduate students this weekend. Sending them out with wins over No. 2 UCLA and No. 11 USC would be a fitting way to celebrate their careers. It might also be the only way the Wildcats can maintain any hopes of getting to the postseason. It’s a huge task, but last year showed it’s not impossible.
“I’m ready to have these two teams in especially,” said senior forward Nicole Dallin. “Last year, USC was I think a game changer as far as mindset goes for me. And then I have some revenge that I need to take for UCLA. I hit the post last year against them which I think would have solidified our win last year. So, I’m ready to take it to them.”
The Wildcats upset USC 1-0 in Los Angeles last season. Three days later, they lost a close 1-0 match at UCLA. Since that time, Dallin has been a goal-scoring machine.
Dallin did not play her freshman season. Heading into that USC match, she had only scored one goal in her entire career. Since then, she has 13 including eight this season. She is third in the Pac-12 in goals scored this year.
It won’t be Dallin’s last opportunity to score goals at Mulcahy Stadium. In addition to having three games left on the schedule after this weekend—including hosting ASU to end things—she has an entire season left to play.
“I definitely made the decision,” Dallin said. “I’m very grateful for the journey that I’ve had here and I can’t imagine walking away from it if I don’t have to. So I think it goes without saying and I’ll be here for another year.”
Dallin is one of five players who are listed as seniors on the Arizona roster. Those players have at least one extra year due to the extra pandemic-related season granted by the NCAA. Several of those five and the three additional players listed as graduate students have not played at least one season over the course of their careers, as well. The juggling act of recruiting is nothing new, but the extra year adds an extra wrinkle for coaches.
“I think recruiting is always juggling and with the transfer portal you’re juggling even more things,” said Arizona head coach Becca Moros. “So, it’s just kind of part of the landscape. With Nicki, we’ve known for a while that she wanted to come back. Doesn’t mean in the end that it happens. So, we’ve been able to plan for that a little bit and anticipate it, which is great...[We] have a largish class coming in next year and I think for the forwards and strikers coming in, it would be great for them to have the opportunity to play here with Nicki and learn from her and be led by her and she can pass the torch. So we’re really excited about it.”
In addition to Dallin, the seniors who have played big roles this season are midfielder Megan Chelf, defender Sarah Rice, and forward Jordan Hall. Senior defender Jasmine Young has not played for the past two seasons. The status of those four players for next season is currently unknown.
As for the graduate students, the big name who will be honored on senior day is goalkeeper Hope Hisey. Hisey is joined by defender Mariah Dunn, who was expected to have a big role this year before her career ended with a knee injury. Fellow graduated student, backup goalkeeper Hannah Mitchell, got into one match this season in relief of Hisey.
Hisey’s love for the University and the Tucson community has been as important as her impact on the pitch. The daughter of two alums, including dad Jason Hisey who pitched on Jerry Kindall’s Arizona baseball teams from 1987-1991, dreamt of being a Wildcat from the time she was little.
“Hope has been a tremendous part of the program for a long time,” Moros said. “Longer than [the coaching staff has] been here. So, she certainly helped us with our transition into Arizona soccer and into the community here. And she is like, Wildcat through and through. She loves the university, loves the team, loves everything about being a part of this community and family, and I’m sure that stretches back to her parents being alums and having had great experiences here. And she just grew up with it as a little kid and it makes her a tremendous leader. It helps new players coming in see what it means to be passionate about this school and about this program and what we’re doing here.”
Hisey will likely end her time at Arizona as the career leader in saves. She currently has 335. She needs 10 over the final five matches to tie Jen Weibel (1994-96) at 345. Hisey has averaged 4.1 saves per game over the course of her career. This season, she is averaging 3.3 saves per match.
She will likely tie Sabrina Enciso (2017-21) for the lead in career games started when Arizona takes on UCLA. Assuming all goes as expected, she will take over first on the list against USC on Sunday. Hisey is currently at 81.
Hisey is also on her way to take over second place in career games played. She currently sits at 82, which puts her in a tie for third with Brianna Caceres (2005-08), Jaden DeGracie (2013-16), and Kennedy Kieneker (2015-18). After this weekend, she should be in a tie for second with Enciso and Iliana Hocking (2018-22) with three games to go on the schedule. Arizona would have to qualify for the NCAA Tournament and advance to the national semifinals for Hisey to tie career leader Jill Aguilera (2017-21) with 92 games.
Hisey currently stands three shutouts behind career shutouts leader Lainey Burdett (2015-18) for that record. Burdett had 26 in her career. Hisey came into the season with 20 and has three so far this year.
Her coach is rooting for her to take the records that are within her reach.
“You want it for her, for sure,” Moros said. “She’s just helped us win games time and time again. Oregon State was probably one of her best games of the year in terms of the quality of the saves that she made to keep us in the game. So, we’re used to that. Big shoes to fill. Great keepers keep you in games, they win games for you, and she’s been known to do that time and time again since we got here. So, I would love for her to have that accolade and the icing on the cake for her and to celebrate all the hard work she’s put in for years now.”
Hisey hopes to go on to a professional career in the sport. She said that she will meet with the coaches after the season and talk about what that looks like. For now, she’s focused on the last few weeks she gets to wear the A on her chest.
“Obviously it’s emotional, but I’m really proud of the team this year and just everything that I’ve been through throughout my career,” Hisey said. “And it’s been a great opportunity to be able to come back for one more year and have this group of people to do it with, so I feel nothing but just pride and joy to be able to continue to be a Wildcat.”
No. 2 UCLA Bruins (12-1, 6-0 Pac-12) @ Arizona Wildcats (4-6-4, 1-4-1 Pac-12)
When: Thursday, Oct. 19 at 7 p.m. MST
Where: Mulcahy Soccer Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.
TV/Streaming: Pac-12 Los Angeles
Stats: Arizona Live Stats
RPI/Rankings: UCLA is ranked second in the United Soccer Coaches poll. The Bruins are No. 9 in RPI. Arizona is No. 105 in RPI.
Quotable: “I think the biggest thing for us is that you’ve got the defending national champions coming to your home so you get to play in front of your fans,” Moros said. “It’s a game you live for, the game you get excited for, the game you can prove yourself, and I think for us we always get up for these games. And USC was a huge game for us last year as was UCLA, where we really felt like we solidified our style of play and were able to put together 90-minute professional performances. So, I know the returning players are excited for this matchup. And we certainly know we have a steep hill to climb but we like the challenge and we liked that opportunity to go after the reigning national champs at our field.”
No. 11 USC Trojans (9-2-1, 5-0-1 Pac-12) @ Arizona Wildcats (4-6-4, 1-4-1 Pac-12)
When: Sunday, Oct. 22 at 1 p.m. MST
Where: Mulcahy Soccer Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.
TV/Streaming: Arizona Live Stream 2
Stats: Arizona Live Stats
RPI/Rankings: USC is No. 11 in the coaches poll and No. 22 in the RPI. Arizona is No. 105 in RPI.
Quotable: “I’m sure they do. I would,” Dallin said about whether USC would be looking for revenge for last season.