If Arizona soccer players are bitter that their old coaching staff are leaving them for Florida, it won’t show.
Senior Defender Sabrina Enciso said it brought her close-knit team even closer. Junior goalkeeper Hope Hisey used as motivation tweet one day after the news broke that “all we have is us!”
That doesn’t mean it was easy. When other teams released their 2021 fixtures earlier this summer, the Wildcats didn’t even have a head coach. It was confusing and annoying at times.
When the school looked for a replacement, Hisey hosted player-only Zoom meetings so the team had a place to comfort each other. She also reached out to the UA administrators to keep players as connected to the process as possible.
They waited and waited and waited.
Becca Moros was finally nominated as the new head coach on June 16, almost a month later Tony Amato‘s departure and only two months before the start of the regular season.
“It was hectic,” said Hisey, “but it all worked out.”
Star forward Jill Aguilera admits she had never heard of Moros, so she googled them and later appeared impressed after an hour-long phone call with the 36-year-old.
Moros’ career path resonates with young players. As a Duke graduate, Moros was an All-American in college, playing in the NWSL for nearly a decade, and then serving two more as assistant coaches in the league.
“I was afraid of the quality of the coach, of course I’m not worried about that now, just because of the quick turn,” said Aguilera. “We all just took it and knew she would help us improve as a team, as individuals and as people, and having a female coach in particular is really empowering.”
Aguilera went one step further and called Moros the “change we all needed”. A weighty statement when you consider that Arizona was a multi-year NCAA tournament team under Amato.
“It wasn’t that I’m happy Tony left or anything. It has nothing to do with it, ”said Aguilera. “It’s more of a change in what we’re used to. I think it’s important to be able to adapt and change because we’ve been fortunate to have the same coach for so many years and it’s important to have different coaches, see different perspectives, become a more adaptable player , and overall so it will also help you grow as a person. You won’t be with the same people all your life. “
It’s almost like Aguilera, a sixth grader, is feeling like a newbie again.
“I used to be able to tell the players what exercises we were doing, but now I don’t know because it’s a brand new coach,” she said. “In a way, it’s really exciting because we can try new things, do different things, things that I assume working women do, and I think that’s a really important perspective. Not only for us who are here, but also for the recruits in the future. “
The Wildcats completed their first week of team workouts on Friday. They are considered voluntary as NCAA rules prevent Moros from training their players until August 5th. In the meantime, you will train with the strength and conditioning team and do your own exercises.
Usually these are led by senior class members, but it was a group effort, as far as they adjust to the change of coach together.
“We talk to our strength and conditioning trainer Scott (Kuehn) about what he expects from us so that we can recover and do another tough training session the next day,” said Aguilera. “Today we did smaller things. Tomorrow we’ll do a little more technical stuff. “
The most important thing is that the players get as close as possible to the form of the game from August 5th. Otherwise, they’ll become prone to injury, Moros said.
Moros said the first week of official training is mainly used to observe and perfect what their players are already doing well. She plans to maintain Arizona’s aggressive style of football, but also incorporate a more possession-oriented attack. How much of this she can install before her first match remains to be seen.
Arizona has an exhibit in San Diego on August 10th.
“I think they’ll be able to do a lot of things in a short amount of time, but five days is really short,” said Moros.
While it’s too early to know what Moros practices will be like, Enciso said the Arizona players are open to anything as long as it helps the team win. Hisey joked about the move from goalkeeper to striker.
“We have a great group of players who are trainable so we can’t handle that,” said Enciso.
That’s a good thing, because Moros doesn’t use the short preseason as an excuse. Expecting to compete in the Pac-12, the Wildcats are pushing for an NCAA tournament offer, just as they were under the previous regime.
“That will always be a goal for us and I think that will definitely be a goal for Becca, especially with her success at Duke,” said Aguilera. “She will challenge us and I think that’s what we’re looking forward to the most.”