Lemons to Lemonade: Soccer Looks to 2020-21 Season with Glass Half Full
TEMPE, Ariz. -- It's been more than a year since Sun Devil Soccer took the pitch for a match - 452 days, to be exact. It's an incredible amount of time for any sport, yet fourth-year head coach Graham Winkworth and staff are determined to turn the lemons of 2020 into their "lemonade year" in 2021.
WHEN LIFE GIVES YOU LEMONS
You know the saying, "When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade." Sun Devil Soccer is taking the notion to heart amidst a global pandemic, racial injustices, and protests for equality - each time the team steps foot on the pitch for a competitive match, they know they're a lucky group.
"It's been a crazy year, I'm just excited for the team to get to play soccer again. We're hoping to win every game we play but the biggest focus right now is making the most of our "lemonade year" and making the most of a difficult situation," Winkworth said. "We're just enjoying that we get to be on the soccer field together as teammates and enjoying the moment. Whatever the results, we're very blessed to be in this position."
"The first glass of lemonade was the intrasquad scrimmage and the second glass is Thursday night. So that's the goal is to keep ourselves healthy and then putting in the best performance we can by playing hard and for each other and hopefully a positive result will come of that.
QUICK REVIEW FROM LAST SEASON
Winkworth's third squad in 2019-20 won six games in a season that started with an impressive five-game undefeated streak through non-conference. The Sun Devils worked both sides of the field, scoring at least three goals in four of six wins while always holding their opponent to one goal or less. Nicole Douglas, the team's leading goal scorer, was a staple of the 2019 season along with her fellow internationals, Eva van Deursen, Alexia Delgado, and Lieske Carleer.
The Sun Devils got off to a hot start winning their first match of the season, 4-1, at Cal State Fullerton, before going on to post back-to-back 7-1 wins over Central Arkansas and Tennessee Tech. The pair of games with seven goals matched a program-high for goals in a single game, and marked the first time ASU had scored seven in a match since 2012.
The Sun Devils continued their dominant start to the season, securing five-straight wins for just the second time in program history, and carded their best start to a season since winning nine straight to start the 2000 season.
The Sun Devils battled through Pac-12 play, but the tall-task of playing in the nation's best conference would prove a very difficult challenge for the young Sun Devil team, as the squad would finish the 2019 season with a 6-11-3 record.
GOOD NOTE: Nicole Douglas etched herself in the program's single-season record book in 2019 with her 26 points tied for seventh, 11 goals tied for sixth, and three game-winning goals tied for eighth. She scored three game-winners in her freshman season as well.
NOTES ON RANDOM STATS: ASU saw a lot of growth on offense through the 2019 season. As a team, the Sun Devils combined to score 33 goals on the year, marking the best offensive output for the Sun Devils since scoring 34 goals in 2015. Individually, sophomore Nicole Douglas led the way for ASU, scoring eight goals and adding four assists to finish the year with a team-high 20 points. In goal, freshman Giulia Cascapera finished the season with 78 saves, and a 0.743 save percentage, marking the seventh-highest number of saves in a single-season.
ASU WINS BY AT LEAST DOUBLE UNDER GRAHAM WINKWORTH
ASU 3 at UC Irvine 1 (Sept. 6, 2019)
ASU 7, Tennessee Tech 1 (Aug. 30, 2019)
ASU 7, Central Arkansas 1 (Aug. 25, 2019)
ASU 4, Cal State Fullerton 1 (Aug. 22, 2019)
ASU 4 at Oregon State 0 (Oct. 28, 2018)
ASU 3, Washington State 1 (Oct. 18, 2018)
ASU 2 at South Dakota State (Sept. 10, 2018)
ASU 4, Southeast Missouri State 0 (Sept. 2, 2018)
ASU 3, Montana 1 (Aug. 23, 2018)
ASU 4, Beijing Normal University 0 (Aug. 20, 2017)
A WORD WITH WINKWORTH
On battle for starting role: "The goalkeeper area is up for grabs going into the first game of the season. I know G has been the starter before the year, and maybe she'll earn that spot again, but right now, it's up for grabs. Amanda Green has shown incredible fight and pushed the position so no one can truly be comfortable in that starting role. She's competitive and a great teammate on and off the pitch. I'm looking forward to the starting keeper battle going into the matches."
On Pia Bozic's transition to college-level: "It's been a big step up for her and the quality that she's facing because we know she's coming from playing in Slovenia to now facing national team members from all over the world, so it's an excellent opportunity for her to step up. She's been an excellent teammate, and she's come right in and mixed well with the team, so she's a great addition to the squad."
On Lucy Johnson: "Johnno is one of the freshmen that has made a positive impact immediately. She's come in good physical shape, and she's a natural left-footed player, which is a plus for us when we play with good balance, and she's a defender first and an outstanding one-on-one defensive. She also isn't afraid to get forward and provide another area of attack for us. She is one who will be in contention for a lot of minutes very early in her career."
On Lieske Carleer: "She was one of our most consistent performers last year, and I think as a defender she's very strong offensively, she's very comfortable in possession of the ball and can start the attack with wonderful distribution. She's very good with her recovery runs and making last-ditch challenges when necessary and when needed. She's working hard on the one-v-one defending and adding that element to her game as well. Ultimately after last season, I am looking for her to become more vocal and help lead the players around her. Even though she's young, she's one of the more experienced defenders on the roster, so that's something we're looking for for her."
On Nicole Soto, Jaylin Borden, Jessica Hale, Anna White, and Erin Anderson: "They've all improved their conditioning levels. Soto is very fit. She's missed a bit of preseason due to national call-ups. Erin and Jaylin are improving their conditioning levels as well. Anna returning from a number of challenging injuries and we are hopeful she will get into competitive shape. She offers a level of composure playing out the back and has all the qualities to improve our defensive efforts. I'm excited for Jess Hale; she's taken on a more significant leadership role too."
On Kiki Stewart: "She's one of those stories that I absolutely love because she didn't play a minute in 2019 and has really given me some headaches when it comes to who is going to play in the fullback position this spring because she is the kind of player that goes away and trains every day and wants to get better. She is one of the most coachable young ladies and likable young ladies you'll meet, and I couldn't be happier with the place she's put herself in with all the hard work she's put in over the last 18 months."
On Tahlia Herman-Watt: Tahlia is another freshman that has come in and one of the top-three fittest on the roster, so I'm really pleased with the place she's put herself in to compete."
On Callie Darst: "Callie is another defender that played more minutes than anyone else on the roster last year, and she's doing a great job this preseason. We're looking forward to her building off of 2019."
On Lara Barbieri: "It's difficult to know where she fits in really since she's only just arrived in the U.S. We need to assess Lara when she gets back and see what her fitness levels are looking like. She is a very technically talented player. We just don't know what sort of shape she's going to be in because we haven't seen her for almost a year now. I'm excited to see her again. Not only can she play, but she is an awesome, awesome person, so I can't wait to give her a covid-style high-five and have her back."
On Jazmine Wilkinson: "Jaz is one of the most competitive players I've ever coached. Very, very fiesty.. wants to win at everything. If you played a game of Scrabble, she's going to throw her Scrabble pieces out the window if a word is not real or something. She is very competitive, and I love it. She's going to be an impactful player for us - you can play her in the midfield or up top, so she's going to be a real handful for our opponents and a delight for us to have on the team."
On Isabel Dehakiz, Alexia Delgado, Eva van Deursen: "Iz, Alexia, and Eva are all returners who played a lot of minutes and were the center of midfield last year. The only thing that's changed is they've gotten even better. Those players need to make sure they defend first as that's an area we're looking to improve, and I think they're working hard on that, but they all have the ability to score goals."
On Julia Koharko and Hikaru Minami: "Julia and Hikaru are two of the most wonderful humans you can imagine. They work extremely hard, they are technically gifted players, and they are also making sure that the midfield is competitive every day in training, and hopefully, they can continue to do that. They can also earn playing time moving forward; they're excellent competitors."
On Olivia Nguyen: "Liv is playing as a forward now. She's played some minutes in the past, but she has the potential to increase those minutes. She's working incredibly hard and playing a new role for her and doing a great job of it. Hopefully, she'll pop in with a few goals as well."
On Nicole Douglas: "She was phenomenal last season, but she can absolutely keep getting better. She's done well, but she can still take her game to the next level. We want her to improve her conditioning levels a bit, but I'm certainly hoping she'll increase her goal-scoring and especially against some of those bigger opponents that we'll face. Obviously, she's a huge talent for sure."
On Vildan Kardesler: "V has got electrifying pace and quickness, and she's going to cause a lot of problems for opponents with that. She's got collegiate-level experience in addition to national team experience, and I'm excited to have her on the roster now.
On Dai Williams: "Dai was probably our biggest threat going forward, offensively, last season. She's got to improve on her conditioning for this season, but I have every confidence in her that she will do that and then continue to be a real threat to opposing teams.
On Olive Jones: "Olive is another player that has moved to the more attacking part of the pitch. She started playing there as a freshman. She's a wonderful teammate and does the job for us on the part of the field that we needed more competition. We feel it's time for her to go back up top and play this spring, competing with the other forwards. She has great athleticism and power that gives defenders a lot of problems."
On Cori Sullivan (suffered an injury this fall): "We're optimistic and hoping we'll get Cori back at some point during this spring season."
ON OPENING NIGHT
"I can't imagine how opening night is going to feel. Our intrasquad scrimmage was powerful, emotional, 80 minutes of joy. Getting out there and enjoying moments like scoring goals and just those things that the team missed and the competitive nature and talk. The passion that goes into playing the game they love, the passion in their faces when they score a goal or when a decision goes for them or against them, just the feeling you get when you're a part of a match, even though it was just an intrasquad game, was awesome. I can't imagine how it's going to feel to finally play against somebody different."
The Sun Devils open the season this week against UTEP (Feb. 4) and New Mexico State (Feb. 7) in Tempe. Follow along on all things Sun Devil Soccer by adding the program on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook, @SunDevilSoccer.