For the third time in three years, Arizona soccer's Gabi Stoian earned All-Pac-12 honors.
Stoian was named to the All-Pac-12 Second Team as a freshman in 2014, then was named to the All-Pac-12 First Team in 2015. On Tuesday, Stoian was named as an Honorable Mention on the 2016 All-Pac-12 Team, the Pac-12 announced.
The secret to Stoian's success? A desire to improve as well as heeding to her coach's advice.
“She’s very coachable," Arizona head coach Tony Amato said. "She has a very good understanding of the game and ... she’s talented so you just kind of tweak little things and she always takes those little adjustments into consideration. She does a good job of constantly trying to get better.”
Stoian had six goals and five assists in her junior season, leading the Wildcats with 17 points. She also led the Pac-12 Conference in shots taken (75). While those numbers did get her a spot as an Honorable Mention, they do represent a decline from Stoian's previous level of production.
In 2014, Stoian tallied 33 points (13 goals and seven assists), and in 2015 she had 20 points (six goals and eight assists) despite missing four games.
“I’m grateful that I got named on the Honorable Mention team this year, but individually my season didn’t go the way I would have liked it to," Stoian said. "I fell a little short of my expectations, knowing that I made Second Team and First Team [before], but hopefully I can be back on the First Team next year.”
Being an Honorable Mention might have been short of Stoian's expectations, but it's still nothing to scoff at.
“Anytime a player gets recognized in [the Pac-12]—which is what I would consider the top women’s soccer conference in the country—that’s an honor,” Amato said. "I think she’d like to see those numbers be a little higher, but I don’t think it was for lack of effort or lack of talent. I think sometimes you have to have a few things go your way for those numbers to be a little higher and I think she’ll work on that in the offseason and hopefully have those things go her way next year.”
Stoian was a victim of bad luck at times, sailing shots just high or wide of the mark—or off the post itself—as only six of her 75 shots found the back of the net.
“I think I had just as many shots go off the crossbar as goals," she said. "It’s especially frustrating when things don’t go your way and this season it has been a little unlucky."
The near-misses especially hurt considering six of Arizona's nine losses were decided by one goal.
"You just regret a little bit that it was that small of a margin that contributed a loss," Stoian said. "We were very close in every game we played, but we didn’t start our season off as well as we wanted to. We finished well, but it was too much to make up."
The Wildcats finished the season with a 9-9-1 record, and won three of their last four games, but ultimately missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2013.
“It was disappointing for sure," Stoian said of the team failing to make the postseason. "The past two years we’ve pretty much made it the standard to make a run in the Tournament and to be able to compete with these top teams, so it was definitely disappointing knowing that weren’t making it to the Tournament this year, and knowing that we lost by a goal or so each game.
"Hopefully we get better from here, and we finish off on a good note in my last year."
That's where Stoian's focused has turned: her senior season.
From now until the season opener in August 2017, Stoian said she plans to work on improving her execution on set-pieces, as well as finishing her scoring chances. She also wants to be better at helping the players around her.
Meanwhile, Amato wants Stoian to embrace a senior leadership role.
“I think she really needs to wrap her arms around being a talented senior player that gets recognized in the conference," he said. "I think she’s automatically going to be someone the team looks to. With that comes some other responsibilities like setting the example in training, in the weight room, in the classroom, socially, all those things are going to be really important for her because she’s now a senior."
And Amato thinks she's ready—and willing—to take on that increased responsibility.
"Automatically the team’s going to look to her to help set the example," Amato said. "And I think she’ll embrace that.”
You can follow Ryan Kelapire on Twitter.