Arizona soccer celebrates seniors at last home game
One day you’re signing your national letter of intent to play Division 1 soccer at your dream school, and the next you're playing in the last home game of your collegiate career. Such was the case for some members of the Arizona women's soccer team this weekend.
The seniors on the University of Arizona soccer team were celebrated and given a Senior Day at Mulcahy Stadium on Sunday, Oct. 21. As the regular season is coming to an end, Arizona played its final home game of the 2018 season. The Wildcats sent their seniors out on top with a 2-1 win over the Washington State Cougars.
Both goals were scored in the second half. Brynn Moga put one in the back of the net at the 61st minute and Amanda Porter scored the winning goal in the 72nd minute.
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Before the game, seniors Lainey Burdett, Kennedy Kieneker, Hailey Mazzola and Taryn Siegele were accompanied by their families, given a bouquet of flowers by their teammates and given a giant custom big-face cutout of themselves to honor their special day.
Coaches, teammates and fans all cheered and clapped as each one of the seniors were called up to be recognized. On the sideline were the players' jersey numbers painted in white for everyone to see.
Four years ago each one of these young women made a decision to commit to the UA soccer program and dedicate their time to "Building A Legacy."
During their time here they've managed to go to the NCAA tournament twice (2015, 2017) and possibly three times if they get good results out of the remaining teams left to play in the Pac-12: Oregon, Oregon State and Arizona State.
As freshmen, they reached the Sweet 16. That was only the second time in program history this had been done.
“It’s an incredible feeling being here, and it’s awesome. I love Arizona, and I’m honored to have had the opportunity to have played my four years here and help build this program in the direction that its going. I’m going to miss this place,” Burdett said.
Burdett, the team's goalkeeper, now has her name in the record books. As a freshman, that was only something she could imagine. Now having the shutout record under her name, she says, is incredible. However, she says she still credits all her success to her teammates.
Although breaking records and making the NCAA tournament are what these players strive for, it seems that the parts of this journey they are most appreciative of are the lifelong friendships made, and how they have grown.
“I feel like I’m a lot wiser. I’m not a young, silly freshman. Tony [Amato] has done a really good job of picking out each of our strengths and utilizing that to help support the team,” Mazzola said.
Head coach Tony Amato said he is aware of how valuable each one of these four players are, and how the team will miss them next season. But college sports are not just about playing the sport; it's about lessons that you wouldn’t be able to learn anywhere else.
“The change from the first time we met them to now, they’ve all grown and developed," Amato said. "At the end of the day, winning is awesome but it’s about seeing those players develop have some success and be able to take what they learned in the program for four years and apply that in the work force once they’re out of here.”
Not all four seniors have been a part of this program for four years. Siegele joined the team two years ago after trying out once and not making it, and then trying out again and joining as a walk-on.
“I only got two years here, but it honestly feels like I’ve been on the team forever,” Siegele said. “I’ve have really special friendships and so many lessons learned that I can apply to everyday life.”
The big question once college ends is, “What are you going to do after you graduate?”
For Kieneker, that was easy to answer. She said, “wherever Lainey gets drafted, you’ll find me there.”
With tears in her eyes, she admitted that Burdett and Mazzola were her best friends and that she’ll miss everything about her time at Arizona.
On Sunday they celebrated Senior Day, the “last time” they would set foot on their home field and play a game. Burdett is optimistic that this won’t be the last time the stands are full of fans wearing red and blue and cheering on the Wildcats. In the time these seniors have been here, they have hosted NCAA tournament games twice, and they are hoping for that again in 2018.
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