Soccer Hosts UNLV, Mexican National Team This Week

Sept. 26, 2006

TEMPE, Ariz. - The Arizona State University soccer team heads into its final week of non-conference action as the Sun Devils play host to a pair of matches this weekend at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe. The weekend opens with ASU meeting UNLV Friday night at 6 p.m. before closing out the weekend with a historic match as the Sun Devils face the Mexican Women's National Team in an exhibition friendly at 6 p.m. Sunday night.

All home Arizona State matches will have live statistical updates available on the official web site home of the Sun Devils, Fans can go to the soccer team page, click on the schedule link and then click on the Gametracker link for the match they wish to view. Fans also can visit, ASU's student radio station, to listen to highlights and other archived clips of Sun Devil soccer home matches.

Fans that will be unable to attend the Sunday match with Mexico will be able to listen live in Spanish on 1190 AM in Phoenix and 1150 AM in Denver, Colo. Ulises Ortez and Oscar Dabutt, a former player for both Tigres de Monterrey and Puebla in the Mexican First Division, will have the call on the match with Jorge Taiman providing color commentary and Albert Gutierrez fielding sideline reports. The broadcast will begin live from Sun Devil Soccer Stadium at 5:30 p.m. and will feature interviews both before, after and at halftime.

When Mexico and Arizona State meet Sunday, one player will be see both of her teams competing at the same time. Christine Nieva is a current member of the Sun Devil side and has competed with the Mexican organization on several occasions, most recently joining the U-20 team at the World Championships in Moscow, Russia, this past summer. For the friendly this weekend, Nieva will play for the Sun Devils.

Nieva is not the only current Sun Devil sporting international experience. Two other players have competed for their national organizations, including Kylla Sjoman (Canada) and Bjorg Thordardottir (Iceland).

Prior to heading to Sun Devil Soccer Stadium Sunday night, fans in the West can tune in to ESPN2 at 10 a.m. to watch former Arizona State All-American Amy LePeilbet and the United States Women's National Team play an international friendly with Chinese Taipei at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.

Arizona State competed once last weekend and dropped a 1-0 decision at San Diego on Sunday afternoon. The loss was the first for the Sun Devils away from Tempe, giving them a combined 3-1-1 record in away/neutral matches and an overall record of 4-3-2 on the year.

The Rebels enter the weekend with a 4-4-2 overall record and are unbeaten in its last three matches, including a 0-0 draw at USC and 1-0 defeats of North Dakota State and Creighton. The Rebels, who are 1-2-1 on the road this year, are led by Katie Carney and Armani Rice, both of which have tallied three goals each in 2006. UNLV also has split time between its keepers with Ciera Nero holding a 3-1-0 record with a 1.00 goals against average while Alicia Lugo is 1-2-1 with a 0.93 GAA.

Several similarities are evident when comparing the Sun Devils and Rebels, including: both teams have ended their last two matches with 1-0 decision, although ASU came out on the losing end both times; both team have won four matches with each team shutting out their opponents in every one of those victories; and both teams have played four similar opponents with ASU holding a 3-1-0 record in those matches while UNLV stands 1-3-0.

The Tricolores are currently ranked No. 26 in the FIFA World Rankings (May 2006) and are certainly one of the top up-and-coming teams in the world after becoming the first Spanish-speaking nation to qualify a Women's World Cup (1999) as well as for the Olympic Games (2004). At the Athens Olympiad, Mexico advanced out of a tough group with China and Germany before falling to Brazil in the quarterfinals. Leo Cuellar, a former member of the Mexican National Team, serves as the head coach of the program on the rise.

Playing a full national team is certainly a first for the Sun Devils in their 11th year of varsity competition. Prior to this season, the Sun Devils had played one team from a higher organization of soccer as they played the San Diego Spirit during the spring in an exhibition match. The match with Mexico marks just the fifth regular-season exhibition the Sun Devils have competed in during their 11 years of action and the first non-collegiate team.

Twice this season, the Sun Devil defense has put together long scoreless streaks with the latest ending over the weekend in Santa Barbara, Calif. After opening the year with a streak of 272 minutes and 14 seconds, the Sun Devils held St. Louis without a goal for the final 25:03 of match before shutting out both Denver and UCF in Las Vegas. Adding in the 22:04 of scoreless play at UC Santa Barbara, the Sun Devils latest streak totaled 286 minutes and 51 seconds.

In the four matches the Sun Devils have won in 2006, all four opponents were shut out. Looking at ASU's two losses this season, both have come by 1-0 scores at home.

With four shut outs so far this season, the 2006 defense has recorded the eighth-most blankings in a season in program history. The 2000 squad set the bar high with 10 shut outs while 2003 (8), 2002 (7) and 2001 (6) round out the Top 4. Overall, teams coached by Ray Leone and his staff have accumulated 34 of the program's 58 shutouts, averaging 5.5 shut outs per season in his tenure with the Sun Devils.

Last year, the Sun Devils posted four shut outs, but did not record their first blanking until the ninth match of the season, a 1-0 overtime victory at home over UC Santa Barbara. This year, ASU has already posted four and allowed just two goals in its four matches. The small amount of goals allowed to open the season ranks as the second-best in program history, just behind the 2001 team that allowed just one goal in its first four matches.

According to the latest Pac-10 statistics, the Sun Devil defense still remains in the upper half of the rankings, sitting fourth in two major categories and ranking among the Top 6 in two others. The Sun Devils have allowed the fourth-fewest goals in the conference this year, giving up six through nine matches for a 0.63 goals against average, also the fourth-best. The team ranks fifth in saves with 37 and tied for sixth in shutouts with four on the year.

GK Kim Bingham and her defensive teammates have been impressive so far in 2006 as the senior continues to rank among the Top 5 of the Pac-10 in five categories Bingham currently ranks third in both saves (35) and save percentage (85.4 percent) while sitting fourth in goals against average (0.64) and shutouts (four). She also ranks fifth in the league with a 3.89 saves per match average.

In the Pac-10 statistics, two individuals are currently ranked in the Top 10 with Brittney Doty leading the way as she ranks tied for fourth in goals scored with four on the season. Her two game-winning goals also ranks tied for sixth in the league. Kylla Sjoman, the team's leader in assists with three, is tied for the fourth-most in the Pac.

As a team, the Sun Devils have slipped into the lower half of the conference, sitting around six and seventh in the three major categories. Arizona State is ranked sixth in the Pac-10 with 12 assists while standing seventh in both points (34) and goals scored (11).

Through nine matches this season, Brittney Doty has scored four total goals, including a two-goal performance earlier in the season. In the first two of her three matches she has scored, one of her goals has gone down as the game-winning strike. Not only is she tied for the second-most winners in the league this season, she also ranks tied for eighth on single-season list and ninth on the career ledger. The single-season record is seven game winners.

Courtney Crane has found a scoring touch this season, netting three goals in 2006 to bring her career total to nine goals, the 10th-most in program history. After scoring in the first two matches of the season, Crane found the back of the net again, this time against UCF, as Kylla Sjoman played a free kick to Crane's feet before she turned and scored. Crane recently added an assist, ranking her tied for ninth in the Pac-10 with seven total points this season.

Individually, the Sun Devils have seen eight different players record assists this year. Included in the list is Kylla Sjoman, the team leader with three, Alissa Oldenkamp and Dante Perea, the only other Sun Devils with multiple helpers in 2006, and GK Kim Bingham, who assisted in the first match of the year to record her first career point. Christine Nieva and Courtney Crane recently added their names to the list during the road match at UC Santa Barbara that ended in a 2-2 tie.

Heading into the final non-conference weekend, the Sun Devils are currently ninth in the Pac-10 standings, although the rankings will change next weekend when the standings are base upon points earned for wins and ties against conference foes. The Sun Devils are tied with Oregon with a .556 winning percentage, but the Ducks occupy the No. 8 slot based upon having one more win on the season than the Sun Devils.

As always, the Sun Devils will once again play a solid schedule of opponents, including two of the Final Four teams from one year ago in Florida State and UCLA. Arizona State also has matches slated against five foes ranked in the preseason NSCAA Top 25, including No. 2 UCLA, No. 6 FSU, No. 10 California, No. 17 Arizona and No. 20 Pepperdine. Of those five foes, only the match with Cal is on the road in 2006 while the rest will visit Tempe.

Christine Nieva, a sophomore on the ASU squad, recently gained international experience with the Mexican U-20 team as she and her teammates traveled to Moscow, Russia, taking part in the 2006 FIFA Women's U-20 World Championships. Nieva, who holds dual citizenship with Mexico and the United States, played in three matches and started all three. In the first match, the Mexicans scored a 4-2 defeat of Switzerland before dropping a tough decision to Germany, the defending champions before being knocked out of the event by eventual World Champion Korea. Nieva and her teammates' victory over Switzerland marked the first time in Mexican history that a women's team had won a match in World Cup play.

Former Sun Devil Amy LePeilbet and current assistant coach Nancy Augustyniak Goffi have been training with the U.S. Women's National Team in the recent months with LePeilbet also earning playing time during several international matches throughout 2006. LePeilbet has competed in 10 matches so far this season and brought her career cap total to 20. Augustyniak Goffi recently returned from the WNT residency camp with LePeilbet at the Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif., as the team prepares for two more international matches on home soil in the coming month.

A pair of seniors will serve as the team's captains this season. Both Kim Bingham and Katie Mahoney were selected for the duty this year.

In recent years, the members of the Arizona State University soccer program have been the walking definition of a 'student-athlete' as the Sun Devils have held the top team grade-point average (GPA) of any varsity team on campus, signified by earning the Sparky Award since its inception three years ago. During the 2004 season, 20 of the team's 21 players recorded a 3.00 GPA or better while the 2005 edition saw 21 of the 25 rostered student-athletes attain the same standard. Also in 2005, the Sun Devil soccer program enjoyed success academically among the Pac-10 Conference as well as the nation. In the league, the Sun Devils saw a school-record 11 student-athletes attain Academic All-Pac-10 accolades, including a program-best four first-team honorees. Among the 10-team league, the Sun Devils had the most first-team honorees (four) and placed the third-most student-athletes on the overall list with 11 total. On the regional level, ASU also placed five of its players on the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Academic All-District VIII lists, including Elizabeth Bogus and Manya Makoski on the first team.

Pac-10 play opens next weekend for the Sun Devils as they play host to the Oregon schools. The weekend opens with Arizona State and Oregon State meeting at 7 p.m. Friday night before closing out the weekend with a 1 p.m. match Sunday with Oregon.

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