Stark’s First Career Goal Leads Sun Devil Soccer to 1-0 Win Over Arizona

TEMPE, Ariz. – Madison Stark scored her first career goal and Chandler Morris made four clutch saves to help the Sun Devil soccer team defeat Arizona 1-0 on Friday.

With the win the Sun Devils (11-5-4, 4-4-3 Pac-12) not only claimed the point in the annual Territorial Cup Series, but also – although it won’t be official until Monday afternoon – all but guaranteed themselves a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Friday’s win was ASU’s fourth over a team ranked in the Top 40 of the NCAA’s most recent RPI – No. 3 Texas A&M, No. 27 Arizona, No. 28 Oklahoma State and No. 38 USC.

 “I think we should’ve been in (the NCAA tournament) no matter what (Friday’s result was) and I feel strongly about that because our resume is too good and we’ve beaten too many good teams, but I didn’t want it to go to chance,” said ASU head coach Kevin Boyd.  “When you compare us with teams 15 spots on either side of us (in the RPI), I believe our resume is better than all of them. Why we are at 42 in the RPI is just beyond me. I think we should have been right at the same spot as Arizona (No. 27) was, to be quite honest. I think we should be in the mid-to-high twenties in the RPI. So now this (win) takes some of the intense glare off of us, so we should be mid-to-low thirties after this game.”

Every one of the saves Morris made on Friday was clutch. The first big one came in the 11th minute after the second of consecutive Arizona corner kicks created a scrum in front of the Sun Devil goal. The Wildcats came out of it with a shot that was on its way into the net before Morris grabbed it inches from the goal line to prevent the goal.

The Sun Devils would strike in the 21st minute when Aly Moon, with her back to the goal about 25 yards out, turned and passed to Stark who received the pass in stride to the right of the box. Stark dribbled toward the goal and fired her shot over Arizona goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman for what turned out to be the game’s only goal.

While Stark became the 11th Sun Devil to score a goal this season, she was only the fourth Sun Devil – Cali Farquharson, Tommi Goodman and Aly Moon – to score a goal in conference play. Having the offense come from another source was something Boyd was pleased with.

“We’ve needed more players to get on the board,” said Boyd. “For your right back to make that type of run, to go all the way into the box and get fed a ball and then absolutely just stuff it in the goal, you’ve got to love that kind of effort.”

Of the goal, Stark said, “I just made an outside run from the right back and Aly Moon gave me a great ball and I just finished. I can’t think of a better time to score my first career goal. We really needed this one so it was a great feeling.”

Farquharson (four shots) just missed adding to her team-leading total of 14 goals on a few occasions as she tied Moon for the team lead on Friday with two shots on goal.

Unable to make a clean break from the Wildcats on the scoreboard, the Sun Devils would have to finish the job by doing it on the defensive end.

In the final minute of the first half, Morris made a diving save on a hard shot that was headed toward the far left post.

The Sun Devils battled for the win right to the very end as the Wildcats got an open look from just outside the six in the final minute of the game, but Morris was in the right place at the right time as she quickly steadied herself and made the save.

“We knew they had a few dangerous players up top and we knew that we had to manage that,” said Stark, who has logged the most minutes on the field for the Sun Devils this season. “Overall we tried to stay calm and play our game and for the most part that’s what we did. They had a few chances at the end but I thought we did a great job of containing them and not letting them get through us.

“I wouldn’t want to play on a back line with anyone else. They are all so supportive and everyone works hard for each other.”

With Friday’s win, the Sun Devils figure they will definitely be playing soccer for at least one more week. Boyd felt strongly that the Pac-12 should have nine teams included in the NCAA’s field of 64 teams.

I think nine teams (from the Pac-12) should be in,” said Boyd. “They had nine teams from the ACC last year. It’s not about how many from your conference get in, it’s about who deserves to get in. The truth is, the Pac-12 is the best conference in the country and we’ve been proving that all year long. When we get into conference we beat each other up and it makes things even more difficult to figure out. I think nine teams belong in. There’s going to be nine of us in the top 40 and all of us legitimately belong.”

The Sun Devils will now await word on where they will be headed for 2014 NCAA Tournament. The NCAA Selection Show will take place on Monday at 2:30 p.m. MT on NCAA.com.

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