UA Fall Sports preview

UA fall sports carry big expectations into 2014

2014-08-20T22:00:00Z 2014-08-20T22:08:39Z UA fall sports carry big expectations into 2014By Zack Rosenblatt Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star

As per usual, Arizona football is the talk of Tucson.

Who will play quarterback? Who will replace Ka’Deem Carey at running back?

Some questions will be answered when the season kicks off against UNLV on Aug. 29. In the meantime, a number of other UA sports are already underway, or will be soon.

And all of them are coming off fairly successful seasons in 2013, particularly the women’s cross country team, which came in second place at last year’s NCAA championships.

Here’s a closer look at what’s to come for Arizona’s non-football sports coming down the pipeline over the next few weeks.

UA women’s soccer

Coach: Tony Amato (2nd year at UA)

Season opener: Friday at Florida International, 4 p.m.

Last year: 9-7-4 overall, 4-6-1 Pac-12. Best overall mark since 2005, and four Pac-12 wins were second-most in program history.

Key player: Jaden DeGracie. The sophomore midfielder from Gilbert is well-known for her flip throw-in technique and is one of the Wildcats’ most talented returners. As a freshman, she led the team with eight assists and was named an All-Pac-12 second-teamer by College Sports Madness.

Impact newcomer: Gabi Stoian, a midfielder from Scottsdale, scored a goal in the UA’s scrimmage against New Mexico last week. She was also the 2014 Arizona Gatorade Player of the Year.

Who’s gone: Jazmin Ponce, a forward who scored a combined 18 goals the last two years and is third all-time at the UA with 23 career goals.

Big number: 7. The Wildcats opened the 2013 season by going undefeated through seven games, the best start in school history. Not bad, considering the UA won only seven combined games in the two previous years, including a 1-16-2 mark in 2011.

Women’s volleyball

Coach: Dave Rubio (23rd year at UA)

Last year: 21-13 overall, 10-10 Pac-12. UA’s best overall record since 2005. Lost to San Diego in second round of NCAA tournament.

Season opener: Friday, Aug. 29 vs. South Dakota, 2:30 p.m.

Key player: Madi Kingdon. Far and away the UA’s best player, the senior outside hitter is on track to close her career as one of the greatest Wildcat volleyball players ever. In a cross-sport comparison, Rubio called her the Nick Johnson of the volleyball team. Translation: She’s good.

Impact newcomer: Kalei Mau. The Wildcats need Mau, a sophomore transfer from Minnesota, to step up on the outside after the offseason departure of Jane Croson. Mau had four kills in two sets last season for the Gophers.

Who’s gone: The aforementioned Croson left the program after just one season. Croson was second only to Kingdon in kills — and talent. Arizona will also have to replace Olivia Magill, a talented middle blocker who transferred to Hawaii, and Candace Nicholson, who finished her UA career as its all-time digs leader.

Big number: 551. Number of kills Kingdon needs to pass Barb Bell for second all-time on the UA career list. She had 508 last year.

Cross country

Coach: James Li (13th year at UA)

Season opener: Sept. 6, George Kyte Classic

Last year: It was a good one for cross country, especially on the women’s side. The Wildcats women earned a second-place finish at the NCAA Championships, the best-ever finish by an Arizona women’s team, and Li won Pac-12 Coach of the Year.

Key athletes: For the women, Nicci Corbin will try to alleviate the loss of All-American Elvin Kibet, who ran out of cross country eligibility. Corbin was an All-American as well and made the All-Pac-12 first team last year. For the men, Elvin Kibet’s brother, Collins, is one to watch. As a freshman, he was the top finisher for the men’s team in four of his six races.

Impact newcomer: Bailey Roth has the look of the next great UA track star — in July, he broke the high school 3,000-meter steeplechase record.

Who’s gone: The incomparable Lawi Lalang, with his eight NCAA titles, including one in cross country, is gone. Whether it’s Corbin or someone else, the women will need to find a replacement for Kibet.

Big number: 6. The women won six of seven competitions last year. The one they lost? The NCAA championship, where they came in second.

Golf

Coach: Women: Laura Ianello (5th year at UA); Men: Jim Anderson (3rd year)

Last year: The women finished tied for 7th at the NCAA Championships in March and ended the season ranked No. 9 in the country. The men missed out on the NCAA Championships and also just missed out on the Top 25, with the 27th-most votes in the final poll.

Season opener: (Men) Sept.  8, North Ranch Intercollegiate; (Women) Schedule not available

Key players: Alex McMahon (men); Manon Gidali (women). McMahon, an Ironwood Ridge product, has had a great summer, winning the Arizona Amateur last Saturday. He was an All-Pac-12 honorable mention. Gidali tied for seventh overall at the NCAA championships.

Impact newcomers: George Cunningham (men); Natalia Forero (women). Cunningham is also a Tucsonan, having been home-schooled in the Old Pueblo. He’s also one of the most highly touted recruits ever to come play golf for UA; he’s ranked No. 2 nationally by Golfweek magazine in the class of 2014. For the women, Forero — plus Salpointe Catholic’s Krystal Quihuis — make up one of the better recruiting classes in the nation. Forero is ranked No. 47 in the world for girls 17-under.

Who’s gone: The women return everyone from last year’s standout squad. The men, on the other hand, lose their No. 1 golfer in Erik Oja, who graduated.

Big number: 72.36. Career scoring average for Oja, good for fourth-best in UA history. It’s better than Rory Sabbatini’s mark, who has six PGA tour wins and tied for second place at the 2007 Masters.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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