Arizona soccer's freshman flipping phenom
If Arizona soccer’s Jaden DeGracie had acted a little jaded when discussing her unique talent, it would be understandable. After all, the freshman midfielder from Gilbert, Ariz., who was twice named Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year, won a state championship in high school, and now leads the Wildcats in assists, is best known for one thing.
She’s the one who does the flip throw.
But even if her other accomplishments are overlooked at times, and she is constantly asked the same questions regarding the flip, DeGracie still seems happy and willing to chat about her special ability.
“I guess I should be pretty good at answering those questions by now, right?” DeGracie joked.
The flip throw-in is a technique players use in order to get more distance when throwing the ball in to their teammates. Only a select few can master it, DeGracie of course being one of them.
“I started when I was 8 years old,” DeGracie said. “I was a gymnast before that, so my coaches showed me a YouTube video and I went out that night and practiced it and have been doing it ever since.”
In order to execute the flip throw-in properly, DeGracie gets a running start, bounds into a handspring, swings back on to her feet and releases the ball with enough momentum to travel 40 to 45 yards, hopefully finding a teammate on the other end. In DeGracie’s case, it often does.
Although she has not recorded a goal this season, her five assists top the Wildcats’ roster, with most of them coming by way of her throw-in.
In Arizona’s 6-0 victory over UC Riverside earlier in the season, one of DeGracie’s throw-ins created so much confusion in the opponent’s penalty area that a defender headed the ball into her own goal straight off the throw-in.
For DeGracie, setting up her teammates is something she actually prefers to scoring goals.
“Scoring a goal is awesome, and everyone loves it, but I actually like assisting better,” DeGracie said. “When you make an assist you see someone else get happy and you know you had a part in it.”
One of the 12 freshmen on the team, DeGracie has helped the Wildcats to one of the best starts in program history. This past weekend, Arizona finished up its non-conference schedule with a 5-1-3 record, and according to assistant coach Kylie Louw, DeGracie has played a big role in that.
“She’s quick, she can get in the air and she gets balls into the box,” Louw said. “Obviously everyone has seen the flip throw. I think she has a lot more control over it than people think. She can get the ball where she wants it and we can use that a lot in our attacks in the box.”
Anyone who has followed Wildcat soccer closely this season can attest to the fact that DeGracie’s talents go far beyond her most famous technique, but that still doesn’t stop the crowd at Murphey Field at Mulcahy Stadium from going wild the first few times she does the flip in each game.
“If people are cheering, you are always going to be excited about that,” DeGracie said. “It’s awesome when they cheer and I love when they cheer, but in the game that can’t be your main focus. I’m always thinking where I’m going to throw it, who I’m going to throw it to and just how can I give us the best opportunity to score.”
— Follow Brian Peel @BrianPeel91