From scoring one goal to scoring five — and counting — Jada Talley has already improved more than she expected to in her second year as an Arizona Wildcat.
“By the time I graduate, I want to get more than 20” in a season, Talley said. “I mean, I’m only on my second year but I feel like, last year, one (goal) was really bad … it’s kind of embarrassing because I know what I’m capable of.”
Talley and her team-high five goals will lead the UA into Friday’s Pac-12 opener at top-ranked Stanford. Talley said the key to her success this year has been her mentality — the forward is more positive and aggressive than she was as a freshman.
“It’s a learning experience, you could say,” said Talley, who came to the UA from Corona, California. “I’m leading my team right now and we haven’t even gone into Pac-12 Conference play yet, so consistency is going to be really big for me.”
Talley’s lone 2017 goal was a big one. She came off the bench to score the game’s only goal in Arizona’s 1-0 win over No. 11 Cal last Oct. 1 in Berkeley. Talley said the scoring strike made her realize her potential. Although Talley didn’t score again the rest of the season, she came back stronger as a sophomore.
“I just go in knowing what’s expected of me now, and I know what role I play on the team so I just go out there ready to perform,” Talley said. “I know I can do it, I know what it takes, I know what I’m capable of.”
The 5-foot-9-inch powerhouse attributes her success to being fast and getting to the ball every chance she gets, which is something coach Tony Amato emphasizes in practice. Arizona is outscoring its opponents 21-3 so far this season, and is outshooting them 163-45.
Talley and forward Jill Aguilera (two goals, three assists in 2018) will need to step up against the Cardinal. The Wildcats watched a lot of tape against Stanford leading up to Friday’s match. Between film and their own scouting reports — Talley and Aguilera grew up playing club soccer against many of Stanford’s players — Arizona has an idea of what it needs to do to win.
“We don’t want to get spooked just because of their name,” said Aguilera, who grew up in Redwood City, just a few miles from Stanford. “We can’t accept the loss before we even play the game.”
Stanford is the defending national champion, and was an overwhelming preseason pick to win the Pac-12. Arizona, which made it to the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season , was picked to finish sixth in the league. A win Friday — against the nation’s No. 1 team on the road — could change everything.
“People underestimate us because we’re not USC, UCLA, Stanford,” Talley said.
“But people should watch out for us.”