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No Gold for the Miners as Soccer Beats UTEP 3-1

Feb 4, 2021
Nicole Douglas celebrates after scoring the first goal of the game against UTEP.

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Sun Devils mined for gold and came up with the season-opening win thanks to a strong defensive showing and goals from Nicole Douglas and Olivia Nguyen in a 3-1 win over UTEP at Sun Devil Stadium on Thursday night. 

The Sun Devils held University of Texas, El Paso scoreless through 79 minutes of play, giving up the game's sole opposing goal in the 80th minute. 

With two goals tonight, Douglas pushed her way further into the program's record book and is now tied for ninth in all-time career goals in program history. Stacey Tullock (1998-01) tops the list with 50 career goals. 

"I think we have really good chemistry as a team," Douglas said. "We knew that after 15 months, we wanted to give it everything and wanted to outplay our opponents, and that's what we did, so we're all happy to be back on this field, especially during this pandemic we're very lucky."

Junior midfielder Olivia Nguyen made her own history in the 2020-21 opener, scoring her first collegiate goal early in the second half. 

"For me, scoring was just surreal. I grew up watching ASU soccer, watching the girls on the field, so to finally be the one out there scoring the goal was just an out of body experience. It was awesome," Nguyen said.

Sophomore goalkeeper Amanda Green made her starting and collegiate game debut between the pipes for the Sun Devils. Fellow sophomore Kiki Stewart made her college debut as well. 

Freshman Lucy Johnson saw her first collegiate start tonight, getting valuable minutes against UTEP, where she received praise from Coach Winkworth postgame. 

HOW IT HAPPENED

  • The Sun Devils engaged in a back and forth battle with UTEP for the first 35 minutes of play. Nicole Douglas broke the spell and scored her first goal of the season - the 19th of her career - to get the Sun Devils to a 1-0 lead by halftime.
  •  ASU continued the strong energy that closed out the first half, initiating a fantastic chance in Miner territory off of a corner kick
  • At the 55 minute mark, Alexia Delgado threw the ball in on the far left side directly to senior Olive Jones, who directed the ball into a scrum at the center of the goal, allowing Olivia Nguyen to beat UTEP's keeper for ASU's second goal of the match.
  • Halfway through the second frame, the Sun Devils continued to press on the Miners, holding them to their own half and limiting UTEP's offensive opportunities.
  • Olivia Nguyen led the team into the final ten minutes of play with a run opportunity from midfield with a shot that barely missed the right post. 
  • As time wound down, the Sun Devils kept their momentum going with Nicole Douglas' second goal at the 86-minute mark to help seal the deal for ASU. 
  • The Sun Devils stifled the Miners offensive attempts for a solid 88 minutes but gave up one goal two minutes after ASU's third and final goal to bring the score to 3-1
  • With less than two minutes left in the half, Douglas and Vildan connected with Delgado for another opportunity in the Miner box that Vildan shot just above the crossbar.

ASU's next game of the season is Sunday, February 7th, in Tempe, where the Devils host New Mexico State. 

A WORD WITH WINKWORTH
On what the win means for the program: 
"The first win came as soon as we stepped on the pitch, for me, tonight. We've been 15 months without a game, gone through a world pandemic, the girls have been remarkable, and their professionalism in their kind natures, and looking after one another just to play soccer again- win, lose, or draw, it was going to be a huge success today as far as I'm concerned. The fact that we've managed to put in a reasonable performance on top of that just is the icing on the cake. So yeah, it's nice to get wins, it's nice to play first off, but also I'm delighted to win, and I think it's something to build from."

On successful high press and practice during the season: 
"Yeah, they did a great job in the press. We have worked on it, yeah, obviously I think they were well organized, and the girls did a remarkable job listening to instructions that we've given them and created a few chances from that. We're not going to press every game. Some games we'll high press, sometimes we won't. We just felt like watching UTEP from how they played last season, we didn't have any film on them, but how they played last season we just felt like it was an opportunity for us if they played the same was for us to press because they are a team that likes to play soccer on the ground and move the ball around, I thought we picked our times to press very well and high off the pitch and from that created some good goal scoring opportunities. I think we probably should have scored a few more. 

On new players' performances:
"I was delighted, not just new players as in new to the program, but new players as in we got players that are returning that were making their debuts today. One player I want a special shoutout to is Kiki Stewart. She's been with the program. She was a freshman last year and didn't make the 22 on one occasion tonight. She got on the pitch, and she was excellent at what she did. I was so proud of her, and why I say that is because she's the type of player who stays behind after practice every day when she's not having the success she wants. She's a worker, she stays behind after practice and just works on the things that we ask her to, and she's keen to learn, and those are success stories as far as I'm concerned, so it's great to see some new faces I thought a few of them really stood out I think Johnno down the left was pretty good, and I thought she was a standout player tonight. But like I said, I'm also delighted for Amanda in the goal. She's been with us a long time now and made her debut. Just really happy for a bunch of them. And I thought Liv, even though she's not new, her minutes were much greater today than she's played in the past, she really utilized those minutes well and gave herself a chance for the next match."

On midfield play tonight: 
"We were outnumbered in the middle of the park, so they played their diamond very, very central, and so I thought Iz, Eva, and Alexia did a great job sliding over and taking out the most dangerous attacking player, or the most advanced attacking player, and switching over to the strong side when the ball is on that side as well, and they did a great job working as a pivot, all three of them. I thought we were a little bit shaky at the beginning of the game, but the fact that we only had about 15 minutes of looking shaky after 15 months out, I think was remarkable, so I was really pleased with the midfield. I thought we moved the ball quite well, sometimes a little bit too safe in our play I thought we could have played forward a little bit earlier. Not direct, but we have opportunities to turn and slice open the opposing team a little bit quicker, but I thought overall they did a great job."

On Lieske's performance:
"She's a leader of the pack, she's very good offensively as a defender but I thought tonight she did a great job defensively, and to be fair I thought all three of them did a great job defensively, and we need to drop a little bit quicker when we were playing the long balls, and then we need to get up a little bit quicker when we've managed to play out. Overall, I thought the three in the back were something different for us, and we haven't done that for quite a while, and certainly different for the likes of Jess, who's usually playing outside, but Jess is a very good one-v-one defender with a lot of pace, and I felt like the 66 from watching UTEP last season was a dangerous player, and I thought Jess did a great job in taking care of it. And at times, physically, there were some mismatches, but we dealt with them very, very well."

On strategy to play three in the back:
"Yeah, I did. I noticed last season how they play, and I just felt like there were some opportunities to advance Johnno, and Talia, and Kiki, and Vildan when she played in that wingback position. I thought three at the back would allow us to push our fullbacks a little bit higher, and getting around them that way it was pretty tight out there, and I thought it would open up the field a little bit more, and I think we probably should have gone at the end of a few crosses. I know that Liv got a great cutback in at the end, and Johnno put in some nice ones as well, so, yeah, we saw how they played, and we felt like it would be a better way of getting around them."

On the team's relief after Nicole's goal, and then getting the experience to play in Sun Devil Stadium
"It was a great finish, to be honest, I think the game was a little bit, I didn't feel threatened really, I think they were causing us too many problems, but I didn't feel like we were causing them enough problems, and so once Dougie scored what was a great goal and a nice pass from Johnno I think it settled us down, and we started to create a few more chances and relaxing possession a little bit more. Playing in this stadium, thank you ASU Football, thank you Ray Anderson, and all the administration, it was a real treat. A special environment, I'm a bit sad that the 55,000 fans couldn't come, but I know they would probably try to see over the walls because I know that 55,000 would have filled this tonight if they were allowed. But, seriously, it was a great environment for fans or no fans. It's a great environment, and we're very blessed, and again thank you to the administration and all the people that made this happen because there's a lot on behind the scenes and Mike Chismar and his staff did a great job in making this happen and I think it's been a huge success and I'm looking forward to Sunday. 

On what the next couple of days look like for the team, and the adjustments the team will make:
"The girls hopefully, if they're doing what I've asked them to do, hopefully they're going back and relaxing and enjoying the moment it's important that we appreciate winning, and it's important that we appreciate the experience that they've had tonight and enjoy that moment, so we want it again, and again, and again. So hopefully, the girls are going away and are enjoying each other in their socially distanced houses, staying safe, but hopefully, they're enjoying the moment, talking to their families. Me, as soon as we get done here, our analyst will give us a scouting report on New Mexico State and we start work on the next game. Obviously, it's very difficult preparing for a team that hasn't played in a competitive game yet for them, so we'll look at what they did last season, see who's still on the roster, and prepare the best we can. But tonight, we'll start evaluating our game film and then starting on the next one as well. Friday and Saturday mornings, we'll have practice, very light practice, but some of the players that didn't have as many minutes, we'll work them hard tomorrow as well make sure that they're staying fit so that they can be ready to go in when called upon, but we'll train, and we'll start working on the next game tomorrow morning, but right now the girls need to enjoy the moment."

Nicole Douglas Quotes
On first goal of the game:
"I think after 15 months, we were a bit nervous in the first game back in the first 15 minutes, but once we scored that goal, we got our confidence levels up, and it just continued from there to create our chances, and ultimately we were scoring goals. We could have scored more, but it will come as we played more games. 

Taking us through the first goal:
"I knew there was only one defender that was coming up beside me, and I saw the keeper off our line, and I thought why not give it a chance, and that's what I did, and I was totally surprised when it went in if I'm being totally honest, but every goal counts. I'm happy, I'm pleased to score my first goal."

On playing in Sun Devil Stadium:
"It's a great experience for us, we're very lucky that we were able to play on this field. Not many teams get this opportunity, maybe none at all really, so we're very lucky to have this experience. The fans that we're able to come, we're very grateful for them, and the people watching on the live stream we're very grateful for them too, we just can't wait for the next game."