UA's Hisey plays against the boys; Biagi prepares for upcoming season
Arizona soccer continued its spring season tune-up matches this week with a contest against RSL Academy’s under-14 boys team on Thursday. Nikki Dallin scored in the 1 - 1 draw.
Goalkeeper Hope Hisey noted that, other than a few recreational matches, she’d only played against other women.
“You’re not thinking about playing teenagers because you’ve got to take it seriously,” she said. “We had that mindset of not underestimating… just focusing on what we wanted to do…control what we can control.”
“It was a bit odd not to be playing against women, I will be honest,” she added.
Hisey is taking advantage of a “COVID year.” The NCAA allowed all players the option of taking a fifth year of eligibility because of lost playing time. As a fifth-year senior, she’s got a few extra responsibilities next season.
“There’s a freshman goalkeeper coming in (Scottsdale native Ciara Ulreich-Power). I’ve been talking to the coaching staff about it. It’s my job to mentor and have her absorb as much as possible in the short time that we’ll be together on the team,” she said. “It’s all about being a mentor, setting the standard for them.”
Biagi takes the reins
Jon Pearlman managed to lead FC Tucson to the playoffs last year, the first time they were able to do so as a full professional side. With the team back in the semi-pro ranks and Pearlman moving to the business side of the club, Pearlman’s assistant Mark Biagi has moved up to be both head coach and technical director.
The two roles were split in FC Tucson’s last run in the semi-pro ranks when Rick Schantz was the coach and Pearlman was technical director. This sometimes led to tension between the two. Their relationship is a lot different and Biagi has much more of the responsibility over player recruitment than Schantz had in those days.
Biagi brings a breadth of connections to call on to bring in players owing to his experience as a US Soccer scout and regional ODP coach.
“I’d say I’ve been on the phone with guys, agents, coaches, college coaches, pro coaches and everything in between,” he said. “We’ve been doing it consistently for three and a half months now.”
Something that has helped with recruitment is the presence of former FC Tucson player Sebastian Pineda on the staff, Biagi says. Pineda, a former professional player and college coach, has been able to tell players about the environment in Tucson from his time playing here in 2015 and 2017.
A lack of cupsets
With FC Tucson’s relegation (can we call it that?), the team was unable to participate in this year’s U.S. Open Cup. Arizona’s only entry this year, Phoenix Rising FC, dispatched one-time FC Tucson rival Greenville Triumph SC in a match on Wednesday night.
Greenville was trying for one of those famous ‘cupsets,” and given their 1 - 0 loss, they almost did it. There haven’t been a whole lot of them in this round of the Open Cup. One of the few occurred that night when third-division Northern Colorado Hailstorm eliminated second-division Colorado Springs Switchbacks this week, which is likely all the more painful for Switchbacks fans since it’s the second year in a row that’s happened.
An amateur team has snuck through as well. Tulsa Athletic beat their crosstown pro rivals FC Tulsa with a J. B. Harris header in minute 67. One other amateur team remains as the last match of the round featuring oddly named side Chicago House AC and USL League One team Forward Madison face off on April 11.
Tulsa seems well positioned for Cinderella status, although their next round opponent is an MLS side. Their match on April 25 is against a dismal Sporting Kansas City will be against a side that has yet to win in league play.
Phoenix Rising avoids playing an MLS team in the next round with a match against New Mexico United on April 26 in Albuquerque.