When Haley Moore sank her national championship winning put, she capped off a rollercoaster few days for her team. She also punctuated a very successful year for Arizona’s women, which isn’t even over yet.
The majority of Arizona’s postseason headlines were negative. First there was the Foster Farms Bowl loss to Purdue, then there was that other sport with the round ball and the cherry baskets that lost to the upstate New York school (I promised myself I wouldn’t get into it).
But diving beneath the revenue sports, Arizona actually had a pretty good year — despite what I’ve written — and it’s all thanks to the women.
Starting in the fall, the soccer team had a program year. They started off with a top 20 victory over Oklahoma, but then struggled against lesser teams in non-conference play. But the talent was still there, and there was the feeling that this team was going to turn it around and compete with the big dogs. Once conference play started, the footy ‘Cats (I’m trying to make this a thing so help me make ‘footy ‘Cats’ a thing) turned a page and started playing outstanding soccer. They played the number one team in the country, UCLA, to a 2-2 draw after 110 minutes and earned four points in four games against the California schools, four of the top women’s soccer programs in the nation. UA won a school record seven games in the Pac-12 and went 7-2-2, including a win over ASU. The ‘Cats hosted a tournament game for the first time in program history. They eventually fell in the round of 32 to Florida State and Ballon D’or finalist, Venezuelan national Deyna Castellanos, but not before coming back from 1-0 in the last 30 minutes down to defeat TCU.
The golf team had a rough start to their season, finishing tied for eleventh and shooting 17 over par at the Dick McGuire Invitational back in September and continued to struggle until the end of 2017, finishing fourth and shooting 17 over yet again at the Golfweek Conference Challenge, and finishing sixth and shooting a whopping 21 over par at the Windy City Collegiate. However, once February rolled around, the ‘Cats got their act together. They finished the first day of the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge at one under par and tied for the lead, until they dropped to fourth by the third day. But in their next tournament, the Wildcat Invitational, they finished in second place and shot eight under par.
The ‘Cats won the El Tigre Invitational and then turned around and won the Ping ASU invitational, beating ASU at the tournament ASU hosted and ASU didn’t win, U of A won, not ASU. (Editor’s note: So wait… who won? Are you sure it wasn’t ASU?) The ‘Cats tied for third at the Silverado Showdown and then tied for third at the Pac-12 championships, as well.
UA finished fourth at their regional, which guaranteed the ‘Cats a spot at the championship tournament in Stillwater, OK. Arizona was one of seven Pac-12 teams in the field of 24 at the national championship. That’s really impressive. Also worth noting, the Pac-12 is one of the best conferences, if not the outright best, in all three of the sports mentioned: soccer, golf, and softball. The ‘Cats finished tied for seventh place after the first day of stroke play, tied for fourth place after the second day, and in third place after the third day. That third place finish earned Arizona a spot in the final 15 for one last day of stroke play before the format switched to match play. After the fourth day, Arizona was tied for eighth place with Baylor, and defeated the Bears for the eighth and final seed in match play.
Individually, Arizona’s Bianca was tied for first place individually at five under par after the second day, but finished the individual tournament at six under par and in second place.
In the second to last day of the national championships, the ‘Cats beat UCLA in match play in the quarter finals and then beat Stanford to reach the finals against Alabama.
The dramatic championship match went down to the final match between Arizona’s Haley Moore and ‘Bama’s Lakareber Abe. That final match was also tied after 18, which forced a replay of the 18th hole. Moore birdied and secured the victory for Arizona (Suck it, Greg Byrne).
The Arizona softball program is great, the sky is blue in Tucson, and water is wet. The ‘Cats had an up and down regular season, including a 14-1 start, but also including a 12 game stretch in conference play in which UA went 3-9. They still went 13-11 in conference despite that stretch, and 43-15 overall. The ‘Cats spent the entire season in the top-15 of the NFCA/USA Today poll, hovering between nine and thirteen.
The ‘Cats are led in the circle by Taylor McQuillin, who has a 27-11 record with a 1.64 ERA and a national best 15 shutouts. At the plate, Arizona is led by shortstop Jessie Harper, who is hitting .335 18 home runs, and 51 RBIs, along with Alyssa Palomino, who’s hitting .364 with 18 round trippers and 40 RBIs. Harper and Palomino’s 18 home runs are tied for 16th nationally.
Arizona was the 14th seed in this year’s NCAA Super Regionals before being knocked out by UCLA — a team that going into the College World Series only has five total losses. Before that, UA hosted a regional and went undefeated against St. Francis, North Dakota St. and Mississippi St.
All three of these teams deserve much more attention next season. The softball team always has great crowds at Hillenbrand Stadium, which is receiving a much-needed face lift this off season, but not enough students go to the games. Hey, ZonaZoo: start going to the games!
Additionally, the soccer team doesn’t get the attention they deserve, especially from the ZonaZoo and student body, because they are a few successful seasons away from becoming a national force. The soccer games are a ton of fun –- trust me, I went to the TCU game instead of basketball’s season opener against TCU and I regret NOTHING.
Finally, golf doesn’t play at home besides their invitational, so, uh… maybe give them a shout out on Twitter?