When facing an undefeated opponent, players on historic runs are good to have. That’s what Arizona soccer (2-1-2) has in Nicole Dallin and Hope Hisey as the Wildcats head into Thursday night’s match against Texas Tech (5-0-1).
Dallin is one of just four Division I soccer players to have scored in every match this season. After leading the team with five goals all season last year, she already has five goals in five contests this season. She leads the Pac-12 in goals and points (10) despite being just No. 18 in shots taken.
As for Hisey, she surpassed the 300 mark in career saves against Boise State last Sunday. She’s now third among active DI goalkeepers. She has also crept closer to taking over second on Arizona’s career saves list.
Hisey came into the season with 289 career saves. That put her three behind third-place Inger Airheart (1997-2000), who ended her time at Arizona with 292 saves. Hisey passed that in the first match of the season when she had four saves against Iowa State.
The Tucson native now sits five saves behind second-place Gabby Kaufman (2012-14) and 44 behind No. 1 Jen Weibel (1994-96). In order to catch Weibel, Hisey will need a total of 56 saves this season. She has never had fewer than 61, which was her mark last season.
Hisey isn’t the kind to make insincere statements about her stats or her place in the Arizona record book. She knows where she stands and where she wants to get.
“It means a lot to me,” Hisey said. “I’m not gonna lie. It’s been an honor to play here, from my hometown, and be able to make saves, contribute to the team being successful. I really pride myself on being available and being able to play as many games as possible throughout my career, and I think that’s a testament to me achieving that success.”
Hisey said she didn’t know which save got her to 300 during Sunday’s match against BSU simply because the judgment of saves can differ between the stat keepers at various schools. She did know how many she needed to get there going into the game, though.
Arizona head coach Becca Moros wants to see her team help Hisey attain the individual goals that are within her reach.
“It’s huge,” Moros said. “I mean, her career has been unbelievable and she’s close to breaking the shutout record here. And I was talking to her about it the other day because it’s on her mind. She’s a really big team player, but it’s a huge opportunity for her for an individual statistic, and I believe that would be very meaningful to her and icing on the cake for her career. But two years ago when we got here, I think we had one clean sheet the entire season. So, she’s actually building back up from kind of a little bit of lull in that season. So, it would be great if we could protect her a little bit and give her an opportunity to break that record.”
On the offensive end of the pitch, Dallin has made huge strides this season. She did not play her freshman season, which coincided with the final season of former coach Tony Amato’s tenure at Arizona. In 2021, she scored just one goal as a sophomore.
Dallin’s sophomore season did show her potential, though. Despite having just one goal, she put 50 percent of her 12 shots on goal. She also produced her numbers while averaging just over 20 minutes in 13 games played while sharing an offense with Arizona career goals leader Jill Aguilera.
Last season, it took Dallin a while to get started. She didn’t score her first goal until Oct. 6. It was a huge one, though. Dallin’s goal was the only one by either team in Arizona’s 1-0 upset of USC.
There’s been no such delay this year. Dallin came out of the gates hot. She doesn’t think anything about her game has changed to increase her ability to finish.
“I’ve just been growing as a player with our coaching staff that we have now,” Dallin said. “They’ve helped me develop my ability to score. So, I don’t think I’ve changed anything necessarily. I’ve just grown.”
Part of her improvement is simply related to being healthy. She had been struggling with a congenital issue that caused soreness in her knee. That has been addressed to a degree that she’s finally in form.
“I had some stuff that I was born with that was giving me issues that I hadn’t had as big of issues before,” Dallin said. “But we have a great medical staff that helps me with rehab and getting strength in it to not even have to worry about it now.”
Exactly how much of a difference has that made for Dallin?
“Oh, it’s a huge, huge blessing,” she said.
The word Moros uses most often to describe Dallin is “classy.” On Tuesday, she stressed it, calling her senior captain a “classy, classy, classy soccer player.”
The coach also speaks of her forward’s soccer IQ. That IQ is borne out by Dallin’s percentage of shots put on goal this season. An amazing 83.3 percent of the shots she has taken are on goal. That just dropped below 100 percent after the match against Boise State on Sunday. She’s finding good openings rather than trying to force what isn’t there.
“I think having the ability to score in every game no matter how we’re playing and how well the game is going for us, this is a really good sign for her and I’m sure she draws a lot of confidence from it,” Moros said. “And I know the team draws a lot of confidence knowing that in any game she could open up and change the score line for us.”
It will be important for Dallin and Hisey to stay on track as the team takes on future Big 12 conference mate Texas Tech on Thursday evening. The Red Raiders have yet to drop a match this season. They have posted victories in five of six matches with a 1-1 draw against New Mexico being the only blemish.
On the other hand, TTU has played a rather soft schedule up to this point. Arizona will be its first major conference opponent. Its only trip away from Lubbock resulted in the tie in Albuquerque. The Red Raiders have done what they’re supposed to do against the kind of competition they have faced, though.
TTU has held its opponents to under a goal per game while scoring 3.67 goals per match so far. The Red Raiders have a +19 goal differential this season, outscoring their opponents 22-3. They have taken 106 shots compared to 35 for their opponents and have put 49.1 percent of those on goal.
Arizona has tended to get the better of Texas Tech in this series. With this being the programs’ final meeting before they start facing each other more regularly as members of the Big 12 next year, the Wildcats have the opportunity to improve their non-conference record against the Red Raiders to 5-2-3.
With only three matches to go before the final brutal campaign in the Pac-12, it’s about more than just the record and the end results this weekend.
“I’d like to see it open up in the final third,” Moros said. “I think there’s a confidence that’s growing in the team. And I think that that will translate well in the attacking third. We’ve definitely improved our backline organization. We’ve improved our possession play and the consistency of what we’re doing, but I think it’s all got to come together and it’s got to come together soon.”
Texas Tech Red Raiders (5-0-1) @ Arizona Wildcats (2-1-2)
When: Thursday, Sept. 7 at 7 p.m. MST
Where: Mulcahy Soccer Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.
TV/Streaming: Arizona Live Stream 2
Stats: Arizona Live Stats
Utah State Aggies (2-3-1) @ Arizona Wildcats (2-1-2)
When: Sunday, Sept. 10 at 11:30 a.m. MST
Where: Mulcahy Soccer Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.
TV/Streaming: Pac-12 Insider
Stats: Arizona Live Stats