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The Daily Wildcat

 

Soccer seniors’ road trip swan song

Savannah+Douglas+%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AJazmin+Ponce+%28left%29%2C+Shannon+Heinzler+%28center%29%2C+and+Ana-Maria+Montoya+%28right%29%2C+are+seniors+at+the+University+of+Arizona.+The+girls+will+be+taking+their+final+road+trip+with+the+UA+soccer+team+this+November.+
Savannah Douglas
Savannah Douglas / The Daily Wildcat Jazmin Ponce (left), Shannon Heinzler (center), and Ana-Maria Montoya (right), are seniors at the University of Arizona. The girls will be taking their final road trip with the UA soccer team this November.

No matter the sport, road trips are never easy for a team.

Not only do you have to factor in the travel aspect, but there is also the difficulty of playing in a hostile environment and encountering issues that likely wouldn’t come up in front of a home crowd.

If it all comes together, though, winning on the road builds camaraderie, strengthens your relationship with your teammates and helps form an unbreakable bond of friendship.

“I like the pranks in the hotel and on the bus,” said senior midfielder and forward Jazmin Ponce. “That will probably be one of the things I miss the most.”

For Arizona soccer, this weekend in Los Angeles will likely be the Wildcats’ final road trip of the season, and for the team’s only seniors, Ponce and midfielders Shannon Heinzler and Ana-Maria Montoya, Friday at USC could be the last time they travel together as teammates.

That is, unless Arizona is able to regain its early season success and make a run at the NCAA Tournament in November.

“I don’t really see it as my last road trip,” Ponce said. “I feel like we are going to make it and we are going to have another chance at playing on the road.”

Ponce’s confidence in her team is not misplaced, considering how its recent string of losses were all close to actually being in the Wildcats’ favor. Still, this is the Wildcats’ final scheduled road game of 2013, with the final five games after this weekend being played at Murphy Field at Mulcahy Stadium.

In their four seasons together at Arizona, the three seniors have been all across the country from Nebraska to Ohio, all the way to Florida, as well as up and down the West Coast, but all three women admitted that going back to their different home states is still their favorite trip to make.

For Ponce and Heinzler, this weekend’s game in Southern California will be a sort of homecoming. Montoya had her own homecoming last weekend up in Oregon.

“I’m from Oregon, so going home is always super special,” Montoya said. “Seeing friends and family is very close to my heart.”

Besides being able to make a quick trip back home, pranks finish a close second for the seniors when discussing their favorite parts about traveling.

“My sophomore or junior year, when one of the assistant coaches went to count us off in the bus, I hid under one of the seats and the other girls pretended that I got left at Baskin Robbins,” Montoya said. “Half the bus was freaking out because they really thought that I got left behind and it wasn’t until about 10 minutes later that I came back up.”

With the season winding down, it’s no wonder Ponce, Heinzler and Montoya are reminiscing about all the memories they’ve had as Wildcats. For the three seniors, there will be mixed emotions, starting this weekend.

“It’s going to be bittersweet,” Heinzler said, a thought also shared by Ponce and Montoya. “It’s been great to travel to all these places that I have never been to before — like Oregon, Washington or even Colorado and Utah — these past few years, and I’m going to really miss it. Traveling has been fun.”

—Follow Brian Peel @BrianPeel91

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