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Arizona soccer plays to draw against No. 11 USC on senior day

Arizona soccer honored eight seniors before taking on USC: Hope Hisey (0), Hannah Mitchell (1), Jasmine Young (4), Megan Chelf (6), Sarah Rice (7), Jordan Hall (9), Mariah Dunn (17) and Nicole Dallin (23),
Photo courtesy of Arizona Athletics

For most Arizona teams, senior day is held the final home game even if that game falls on the rivalry game against Arizona State. Wildcat soccer does things a bit differently, holding theirs against No. 11 USC on Sunday instead of waiting two weeks when No. 24 ASU comes to town.

“The girls usually prefer to do it one game before [the rivalry game],” Arizona head coach Becca Moros said. “And last year we were away for the rivalry game, so it was...our last home game but it becomes a little bit early when you have rivalry game at home for the last weekend.”

Perhaps playing a top 15 team on senior day provided extra motivation. If that was the plan, it certainly worked as the Wildcats played USC to a 1-1 draw. For the second straight season, a ranked Trojans team was unable to defeat Arizona, but the Wildcats were looking for more.

“It feels like a draw,” Moros said when asked if the quality of the opponent made it like a win. “We were all-in for this game, and I think it was a super strong opponent. They did a great job. They challenged us as much as we’ve been challenged so far this year. I think the team responded well to the challenges. I think they fought hard, and they fought for each other. They backed each other up. There was a lot of emotion today being senior day, and us having eight seniors who have contributed immensely to the program and to their teammates. So, I think, all in, we’re happy with the work rate and all the things that were really positive in the game. But, of course, I think we wanted the result in the end.”

In addition to holding the visiting team to a draw, several Wildcats reached milestones and made memories that go beyond one game. The biggest was fifth-year goalkeeper Hope Hisey grabbing six saves to tie the career saves record at 345. She now stands even with Jan Wiebel with three games to go.

Hisey has always been one to acknowledge that she knows where she stands in regard to records.

“You see it on the scoreboard,” Hisey said. “I’m not going to lie to you guys and say, I had no idea, but at the end of the day, I’ve gotten good about just accepting when the thoughts come in and be like, that’s not really important right now. What’s important is the game. Then after the game and then after the season, you can look back and enjoy it. But yeah, I noticed it, but it doesn’t distract me, so I feel good about it.”

Hisey also set or tied other records during the game. She surpassed the program record for career games started with 83, edging past Sabrina Enciso. She also tied Enciso and Iliana Hocking for games played with 84. All three trail Jill Aguilera, who leads the program with 92.

It was a different benchmark for fellow senior honoree Jasmine Young. Young did not play last year and had not appeared in a game this year until the Wildcats played No. 2 UCLA on Thursday. Against USC, she made just her second appearance since Nov. 5, 2021 when Arizona defeated ASU to end the season.

“My sophomore year and junior year, Jazzy was one of the most instrumental pieces of our defense,” Hisey said. “She’s the most resilient person I know, battling through injury and coming back and playing today. And she just has such a natural tendency to be in the right space at the right time. Her timing on her tackles is just so good. And it’s her work ethic that has gotten her back on the field that I think you can see when she’s playing. And I’m just so proud of her. And she was definitely the difference-maker in the game.”

Young played for 51 minutes on Sunday after appearing in 20 on Thursday. Her coach said that the comeback has been a long, difficult one, especially considering that Young appeared in 29 games with 14 starts as a freshman and sophomore.

“She’s fierce and she’s been relentless in pursuing her opportunity to get back on the field,” Moros said. “She’s really never dropped her passion or focus or intention around getting back, and I think she’s had ups and downs and setbacks and things that can be really trying when you’re as competitive as she is. And when you had such a big impact as a young player and then kind of feel that disappear for a little while, injury can be really lonely. It’s isolating. You don’t get to do the things you normally do on the field, in training, and every day. You know, sweating together. You know, experiencing the wins and losses together and riding through stuff. So, she’s had a tough long journey and she’s really been relentless in getting back in. Her fitness is up, so we’re hoping she’s in a great position to continue to build her minutes and finish out the year.”

An offensive milestone was set by an unlikely player, though. It was sophomore defender Ella Hatteberg who got her first career goal to put Arizona up in the 32nd minute when a rebound off Nicole Dallin’s shot ended up at her feet.

“I have never scored a goal before, so it was definitely stressful,” Hatteberg said. “I was like, ‘Don’t miss this.’ But, I mean, I really just kicked it in. I was just hoping.”

The Wildcats held their lead until the 58th minute when USC’s Maribel Flores scored off the assist by Zoe Burns.

Both teams created several opportunities to go ahead, including USC having an especially dangerous ball go off the crossbar, but neither could take the lead.

Arizona had solid execution with its passes in the midfield, particularly in the second half, but that’s something Moros feels has been improving for a while. She puts that down to improving health and slowly working players back into the rotation.

“We’ve had some unfortunate injuries and players in and out, which has made it hard for players to all be played in at the same time,” Moros said. “It’s like we get one played in and then we miss somebody else...[W]e have depth on our roster, but you can’t play in everybody at the same time.”

She said for a professional, it takes about three games to really get back up to speed and in tune with the other players, but at that level, those games usually take place over a matter of weeks with training in between. At the college level, games happen in a matter of days with little training in between so it can take a player a bit longer to get back where she was.

In addition to Hisey and Young, Arizona honored Hannah Mitchell, Megan Chelf, Sarah Rice, Jordan Hall, Mariah Dunn, and Nicole Dallin before the game. While Hisey, Mitchell, and Dunn are all graduate students, the other five are seniors who could potentially play at Arizona or elsewhere next season with the extra year of eligibility granted by the NCAA due to the pandemic. Both Dallin and Chelf have already indicated that they will be returning to the Wildcats for their fifth seasons.