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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

The gift of Gabi Stoian

Rebecca+Noble+%2F+The+Daily+Wildcat%0A%0AGabi+Stoian+%28%239%29+runs+warm+up+drill+at+Rincon+Vista+Sports+Complex+on+Tuesday%2C+September+9.+
Rebecca Noble
Rebecca Noble / The Daily Wildcat Gabi Stoian (#9) runs warm up drill at Rincon Vista Sports Complex on Tuesday, September 9.

Towards the end of practice on Tuesday, Arizona soccer head coach Tony Amato had his players line up in rows of two for a little test of mental and physical will. Two at a time, the various Wildcats would have to sprint for about 10 yards against each other, then line up and do it again when it was their turn once more. For most of the Wildcats, it looked like some sort of sadistic torture. For freshman midfielder Gabi Stoian, it looked like a stroll down Fourth Avenue.

“Ugh, I have to go up against Gabi?” groaned one of her unfortunate teammates racing against her.

“Why do you have to be so fast?” cried another.

Really though, for anyone who has been following Arizona soccer so far this season, Stoian’s dominance on the pitch should come as no surprise.

On Monday, after one of the best individual weekends for an Arizona soccer player in years, Stoian was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week.

In two games last weekend in Tempe, Ariz., at the Sun Devil Classic, Stoian scored three goals and assisted on two others when the Wildcats tied No. 6 Texas A&M on Friday night before beating Oklahoma State in a thrilling fashion Sunday morning. As a team, Arizona scored five goals over the two game stretch, with Stoian contributing to each one, including the game winner against Oklahoma State.

“It was an honor to receive it this early in the season,” Stoian said regarding being named Player of the Week. “I was excited to get it, but I couldn’t have done it without my teammates.”

After a slow start to the 2014 season in which the Wildcats lost their second game of the season to Florida Gulf Coast and struggled with NAU, Arizona is starting to play much better with plenty of help from Stoian.

Through five games so far this season, Stoian has three goals and three assists, worth nine total points overall and tied for third best in the Pac-12. While not physically imposing at only around 5-foot-5, Stoian uses her quickness and feel for the game to create scoring opportunities for herself and her teammates. Even though she is only a true freshman, Stoian doesn’t believe her transition to the college level has been too challenging.

“It’s been pretty easy,” Stoian said. “My teammates have made it simple and I like playing with everyone. It hasn’t really been a difficult task so far.”

Amato is encouraged from what he has seen from his young superstar, who is still growing as a player.

“Gabi [Stoian] has done well so far, but we know there is still even more there,” Amato said. “Even when you have a lot of talent, you still have to learn how to work and win at this level and so you’ll see some of that go on with even a player of Gabi’s ability early on, but I think she is starting to find her way a little more every game.”

Stoian, who was born in Portland, Ore., but moved to Scottsdale, Ariz., when she was an infant, not only had a dominant weekend for her team but also got to play in front of friends and family in Tempe.

“It was great to see everyone again in Phoenix,” Stoian said. “It was a really good atmosphere to play in and just a really fun game to be a part of.”

After a stellar senior season last year at Pinnacle High School in Scottsdale where she scored 24 goals and was named the 2014 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year, Stoian had plenty of offers from colleges around the country. In the end, staying in state and helping build on an up-and-coming program, like the UA, was what swayed her to become a Wildcat.

“We showed her that we were going to be committed to her and committed to making this program top notch,” Amato said. “She believed in that and she wanted to stay in the state of Arizona and wanted to be a part of the University of Arizona. It all just worked out that it was a good fit for us and a good fit for her.”
Soccer, family and friends weren’t the only reasons Stoian chose to attend Arizona. She is currently in the pre-physiology program and wants to become a nurse practitioner whenever her soccer career finally ends.

If the start of her freshman season as a Wildcat is any indication of how long she will continue to play, she might have to hold off on that medical career for a while.

—Follow Brian Peel @_brianpeel

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