ASU Soccer Faces Pepperdine on Friday

Aug. 28, 2008

The Arizona State women's soccer team returns to action on Friday afternoon when it travels to Malibu, Calif., to take on the Pepperdine Waves (3 p.m. PT). A win on Friday would give the Sun Devils their seventh 2-0 start in the 13-year history of the program.

LAST WEEK

Sophomore Karin Volpe tied her single-game career-high with two goals as ASU came back from an early one-goal deficit to defeat Northern Arizona 4-2 in the season opener for both teams.

Volpe, who last season led ASU in goals (5), points (12) and shots (35), scored both of ASU's first half goals to help the Sun Devils take a lead they would not relinquish the rest of the game.

Sophomores Alexandra Elston and Jill Shoquist added goals in the second half to help the ASU hold on for the win.

Junior goalkeeper Katie Cochran, who made the first start of her career, made six saves, including one on a penalty kick in the game's 73rd minute that would have tied the game at 3-3.

HEAD COACH Kevin Boyd• Second season with ASU• Led the Sun Devils to a 10-9-1 record in his first season. The 10 wins marked the first time ASU posted a double-digit victory total since the 2003 season.• Was the head coach at Cal for 10 seasons (1997-2006) where he led the Golden Bears to eight NCAA appearances. He was the named the Pac-10 Coach of the Year in 2005 when guided Cal to a 16-4-2 record, including a 7-1-1 record in the Pac-10.• Was a four-year letterwinner at Tri-State University (Angola, Ind.) and is a member of its Hall of Fame.• Career record: 135-72-21 (62-42-9 Pac-10)

2008 OUTLOOK

When Kevin Boyd arrived on the scene a year ago he quickly made it clear to his new squad that regardless of what challenges it faced that it would never shift the focus of its annual goal which is making the playoffs and competing for a national championship.

It didn't matter that the challenges included having to adapt to a new system or that 19 of the 26 players on the team were freshmen or sophomores. It didn't matter that it was going to have to find a way to navigate through one of the toughest schedules in the country or compete in a conference which produced two of the four teams competing for the College Cup, including the eventual national champion. Yes, the challenges were aplenty. Yet there were the Sun Devils watching and waiting to hear their name called on the day the NCAA announced which 64 teams would receive invites into its annual tournament.

The team was there because it found a way to win its most contests since 2003. Among its 10 wins was an upset of No. 25 Washington State. Its lone tie (0-0) came to No. 5 Stanford, a game which saw the Sun Devils nearly pull off one of the biggest upsets of the season.

ASU would barely miss out on a berth to soccer's `second season.' However what many would have seen as an ending, Boyd and the rest of the team saw as a beginning.

'I think as much as anything else it was an educational moment,' said Boyd. 'We talked about the games that contributed to us not making it. Just looking at those games they were shaking their heads and saying, `We should have won that one.' I think after that experience our returners understood that [making the playoffs] was possible. That was the first thing they needed to do.'

Not unlike any other year the Sun Devils will once again be faced with obstacles that stand in the way of their goals in 2008. However, as Boyd stresses, it's all about how those obstacles are approached.

'A lot of times when you have the greatest challenges is when you have the greatest successes as well and so we could have one of those types of years,' said Boyd. 'When people have asked me about last season I've said I thought we maximized what we had last year and as a coach if you can maximize what you have then your team has done well and your program is doing great. If we can maximize what we have this year then I will be quite satisfied as well and that is really the key for our team right now.

GOALKEEPERS

One of the biggest challenges the Sun Devils faced coming into the 2007 season was who would replace Kim Bingham, a goalkeeper who only one year earlier had established the school's single-season record for GAA (0.86). Enter Briana Silvestri, who proved she was more than up to the challenge as she responded with a campaign that rivaled those of the most seasoned veterans. By the end of the 2007 season Silvestri had established a new school single-season record of her own for GAA (0.85) while collecting six shutouts along the way.

'Briana had an excellent season last year and we are hoping she can once again carry out a season like that,' said Boyd. '[Silvestri's performance in 2007] is a credit to her, no question, but I think part of the credit also goes to her ability to absorb and learn what she could from the player before her.'

Providing the Sun Devils with adequate depth at goalkeeper are junior Katie Cochran and freshman Leslie Castellano, who both joined the team in fall training camp. Cochran made the first start of her career in ASU's season opening 4-2 win over Northern Arizona. In the first start of her career against Northern Arizona (Aug. 2), Cochran made six saves against the Lumberjacks, including one on a penalty kick in the game's 73rd minute that would have tied the game at 3-3. The Sun Devils would go on to win 4-2.

DEFENSE

Arguably one of the biggest keys to ASU's success last season was its ability to keep games close with a stingy defense that made the opposition earn everything. In all, ASU's opponents scored one or zero goals 17 times in 20 games last season.

The defense is led by returning starters senior Kylla Sjoman and junior Liz Harkin. Both bring a tremendous amount of experience and will be counted on to help ASU's younger players be successful on the field. Harkin gained even more valuable experience this past summer as a member of the U.S. U-20 National Team.

One player who Boyd feels will significantly help the Sun Devils in the backfield this season is sophomore Jessie Richardson who spent the entire spring at one of the outside back positions after seeing some time there last fall.

'I am extremely happy with the way Jessie has performed leading up to the season,' said Boyd. 'Her game is outstanding and I think will have a big year for us.'

Freshman Katie Shepard is one of the leading candidates to play at the other outside spot after initially joining the program as a forward. According to Boyd the challenge for Shepard will be learning the intricacies and tactical decisions of the position.

Others who will compete for playing time include freshmen Courtney Giovanni and Kate Sangster.

MIDFIELD

The Sun Devils figure to be solid in the midfield where a pair of starters return in the form of junior Carly Kallas and sophomore Alexandra Elston, who earned All-Pac-10 Freshman honors last season.

'To be honest, I think Alexandra's first year was the tip of the iceberg,' said Boyd. 'As well as she did last year, she is significantly better this season and she'll be really strong for us.

'Carly played very well on both side of the ball last spring and I expect she'll continue to do so this season.'

Gone from last season is Alissa Oldenkamp, who culminated her Sun Devil career by earning All-Pac-10 honors. The leading candidate to take the spot in the starting lineup vacated by Oldenkamp is sophomore Jill Shoquist.

'I thought Jill was our most improved player in the spring,' said Boyd. 'She is mobile and transitional and she has the ability to both defend and attack.'

Both Elston and Shoqist tallied goals in the second half of ASU's win over NAU.

Like the backline, Boyd figures the key to sustained success will be how well the younger players perform when they are called upon. One unexpected blow to the Sun Devils projected depth came during the offseason when rising junior Lindsey Johns was injured and lost for the 2008 season.

'Her mobility is something that would have really helped us,' said Boyd. 'She was excelling in our winter conditioning program and we were really looking forward to what she'd be able to contribute.'

Sophomore Erin Seto and freshman Keri Shane will look to contribute as they gain on-the-job training throughout the season.

FORWARDS

With one starter returning on the front line from 2007, the competition at forward has been more intense than any position according to Boyd.

Leading the pack is sophomore Karin Volpe who emerged as the team's leader in 2007 in points (12), goals (5) and shots.

'Karin did a great job last season and she has continued to do well during our fall preseason,' said Boyd. 'She has the most experience of anyone on our frontline and we are expecting her to take that experience and help the players around her.'

In the season opener at Northern Arizona, Volpe picked up right where she left off last season, scoring a pair of first half goals to give the Sun Devils a lead they would never relinquish.

Although she has not been a regular starter, senior Carla Scanniello has accumulated quite a bit of experience since, playing in 28 games since her first season as a Sun Devil in 2006.

'Carla has come on really strong,' said Boyd. 'This is the best I have seen her play and and at the same time she is also providing some leadership. I think she will be a positive link to our young front line in helping them try to get it and understand how to work through the season.'

Redshirt freshmen Erica Long and Molly Simmons-Stuber are both returning from injuries and will look to work their way into the lineup. Long actually started the first three games of the 2007 season before a knee injury against Texas ended her season.

'It was a big hit when we lost Erica last year,' said Boyd. 'She is an even more powerful athlete after a year of rehabbing and as she gets her game back, I think she is will be very good for us.

'Molly is someone who would be able to contribute because of the way she plays the game,' said Boyd. 'She is a thinking player who is very calm when she is in front of the goal.'

Freshmen Sierra Cook, Leeza Henderson and Courtney Tinnin all bring strong credentials to the Sun Devils.

'Sierra is every bit as good as we thought she'd be,' said Boyd. 'She is fast and dangerous and she has no thought in her head other than going to the goal.

'We knew Leeza was a strong athlete coming in, but she has shown she has more to her game and I think she can help us out down the line.

'Courtney has impressed with her ability to handle the ball and the runs that she makes. Her finishing is excellent and she has a nose for the goal. She knows where to put the ball to beat the goalkeeper and that is a great trait.'

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