Can Gabi Stoian reset the record books?
Arizona soccer's Gabi Stoian chases after a ball in the Wildcats' match against Pepperdine on Sept. 13, 2015. For the second straight year, the Waves beat the Wildcats.
Arizona women’s soccer has made significant improvements since Tony Amato took over as head coach in 2013.
In the two seasons since, the Wildcats went 20-15-6. While that’s not an outstanding record, it’s worth noting that the team went 7-27-5 in the two years prior.
This season, the Wildcats have started with a 6-1-1 record and will enter Pac-12 Conference play with the third-best record in the powerhouse conference.
A major reason for the program’s turnaround is the spectacular play of sophomore Gabi Stoian.
As the 2014 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year, a first-team all-conference honoree—a title she also earned while at Scottsdale’s Pinnacle High School—Stoian’s quick rise to stardom wasn’t exactly a surprise.
Amato knew right away he was getting a high-caliber player who could make a major contribution, but he wasn’t sure exactly what type of contribution it would be.
“I knew she was going to be a very good player, but [during] her whole club career she was a central midfield player,” Amato said. “So we kind of had in our head, … ‘If she plays that role, will it equal a lot of goals or … assists?’ ”
As a midfielder, naturally Amato believed that Stoian would be more of a distributor than a scorer, but that all changed shortly after she arrived on campus.
“We thought the production would be more assists, and then within two weeks of working with her we thought, ‘She’s such a good finisher, we’re going to need her to play higher up the field.’ And then once that happened, she got her first goal-—then we knew that she was going to climb that list pretty quickly,” Amato said.
Indeed she has.
Stoian scored 13 goals as a freshman, which is the second-highest single-season amount in program history. That total alone put her at No. 11 on the all-time scoring list. She was also the first Arizona player since 2005 to have a hat trick, and she scored at least two goals in three matches, too.
It wasn’t just her scoring that made her special, though. She posted seven assists, which is third on the all-time list for assists in a single season, and her 33-point total for the season was the second-best mark in program history.
Stoian dominated in high school and in club soccer, but even she wasn’t sure she would have that level of success as a freshman.
“I really didn’t know what to expect. I didn’t know what the records were coming in or anything, but I was just trying to make plays,” she said. “In club [soccer], I was always scoring, and I was hoping I would do the same in freshman year.”
Her freshman year put her on track to easily shatter every major career record at Arizona.
Entering her sophomore year, she was on pace to score 52 career goals, dish out 28 career assists and rack up 132 career points. Those all-time career records, held by Mallory Miller, are 32, 19 and 83, respectively.
Stoian’s prolific freshman season figures hard to match, but her skill level combined with Amato’s offensive scheme should provide her with plenty of opportunities to continue to climb the all-time lists.
“He calls it the green zone, and when we’re in the green zone we just want to go at speed and combine,” Stoian said about Amato’s offense. “He encourages us to take shots and take players on, so that helps a lot. We have good forwards up there, and if we work hard together, then I know we’ll get the goals.”
The Wildcats have taken a staggering 136 shots and have scored 17 goals through eight games this season. Stoian has taken a team-high 27 of those shots and has five goals and five assists already, proving that her freshman campaign was not an anomaly.
She has ascended to fifth on the all-time scoring list with 18 career goals, third on the all-time assists list with 12 career assists, and her 48 points put her fifth on the all-time points list.
Considering that Stoian is not even midway through her sophomore year, it seems inevitable that she will be the all-time leader in several categories and arguably the best player in program history when all is said and done.
“It would be amazing,” Stoian said. “We keep building a legacy here, and that’s what I want to do. I want to leave a legacy and put my footprint on the school and in the record book.”
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