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The Daily Wildcat

The Daily Wildcat

 

Column: Arizona soccer makes case to be best all-time in school history

Arizonas+Gabi+Stoian+%289%29+battles+for+possession+with+Oregons+Shanelle+Simien+%2818%29+on+Sunday%2C+Oct.+5%2C+2014.
Rebecca Noble

Arizona’s Gabi Stoian (9) battles for possession with Oregon’s Shanelle Simien (18) on Sunday, Oct. 5, 2014.

This year’s women’s soccer team is making an early case to be the program’s best team of all time.

After the UA won both games in last weekend’s Sun Devil Desert Classic, they are now 5-0 to start the season, marking the best start in program history.

Arizona women’s soccer is not a traditional powerhouse by any means. In fact, the program has had just four winning seasons since its inaugural season in 1994.

Arizona’s overall record is 140-236-32. That’s a .377 win percentage.

There haven’t been many good soccer teams at the UA, so the current team is already a threat to become one of the program’s best. The 2004 Wildcats, who finished the year with 15 victories and a share of the then Pac-10 title, are currently far and away the program’s pinnacle team. It was the program’s first and only time winning the conference.

They were also the first ranked team in program history and ascended as high as No. 15 in the NSCAA Coaches Poll.

Naturally, the ’04 team featured some of the best players in program history; the team had three All-Pac-10 players that year.

Mallory Miller, who is atop the all-time list in points and assists, was the most notable player on the team. In addition, the roster also included Candice Wilks, who is No. 3 on the school’s all-time points list with 57, and All-Pac-10 honorable mention McCall Smith, who leads the program in numerous goalkeeping categories, including an incredible 20 career shutouts and a goals against average of just 0.84.

Defense on the ’04 team only gave up 210 shots and 11 goals all season. It also had a goals against average of .52 and 11 shutouts. Those are all program records.

The ’04 Wildcats were obviously dominant, but the current team may be even better.

The Wildcats had their best start in school history at 4-0 in 2004, but the ’15 team has already beaten that with a 5-0 start, including wins over Santa Clara and San Diego State, two formidable teams.

The current team also has the same type of star power. Gabi Stoian already has four goals this season and 17 in her career. That puts the sophomore in a tie for No. 6 on the Wildcats’ all-time list.

Stoian had 13 goals last season in her freshman year, which puts her on pace to score 52 goals over four years. At that rate, she will absolutely shatter Miller’s career goal total of 32.

Aside from Stoian, this season’s team also has junior midfielder Jaden DeGracie, who has been one of the program’s best passers. DeGracie is already tied for No. 2 on Arizona’s all-time list with 14 career assists. Miller is No. 1 with 19, but DeGracie should have no trouble topping that number.

Stoian and DeGracie are undoubtedly two of the best players in program history, but it’s not just their excellence that has resulted in the 5-0 start. The offense and defense, as a whole, are playing at an incredibly high level as well.

Through five games, the UA is averaging a blistering 17.6 shots and 2.8 goals per game. The defense has been suffocating, holding teams to just six shots per game and giving up just one goal. Its .200 goals against average is the ninth-best average in the nation.

Freshmen goalies Lainey Burdett and Rachel Estopare have more than held their own despite their inexperience.

The team is well-rounded, and the record-breaking start has been impressive, but it still has a long way to go and a list of things to accomplish before surpassing the 2004 team.

As well as the Wildcats have played this season, it would be unreasonable to expect them to continue playing at this high of a level, especially given how tough the Pac-12 Conference is.

However, this is a special group of players with a real opportunity to become the best team in program history. Wins against two ranked teams in Texas Tech and Pepperdine during this weekend’s Arizona Cats Classic would help their case.

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