Douglas nearly ties single-game school record in Sun Devil Soccer’s 6-1 season opening win
TEMPE, Ariz. – Returning All-Pac-12 standout Nicole Douglas scored a pair of goals and assisted on three others to tie the second-highest, single-game point total in program history (seven) in helping lead Sun Devil Soccer to a 6-1 win over Central Arkansas in the 2021 season opener.
Olivia Nguyen (one goal), Jayda Hylton-Pelaia (one goal, one assist), Eva van Deursen (one goal, one assist), Cori Sullivan (one goal), Dai Williams (one assist) and Lucy Johnson (one assist) also got into the scoring column for the Sun Devils.
Following the game, head coach Graham Winkworth explained how much he enjoys coaching this year's squad that returns virtually everyone from last season's team that helped ASU reach the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2014 and came just short of advancing to the Sweet 16 for the first time in program history.
"I love gameday, but I love these people more than anything else," Winkworth said. "I am so blessed to not only work with an incredible group of young ladies, but also an incredible staff. I am so fortunate and I know that every day when I come into work. I am excited to come in every day to be around these people."
A pair of true freshman goalkeepers – Julia Ortega and Birta Gudlaugs – and a strong defensive effort from ASU's backline held the Bears scoreless over the last 84-plus minutes after Central Arkansas jumped out to an early 1-0 lead.
Nguyen, set up by fellow senior Douglas, responded with the equalizer less than a minute later. Douglas then put ASU ahead for good with two goals in less than five minutes to give ASU a 3-1 advantage entering the 27th minute.
"I told the team I am going to make mistakes tonight, you're going to make mistakes tonight and I don't care. We get better by making mistakes," explained Winkworth. "Central Arkansas played two exhibition games to build up for this match; this is our first game of the season… It looked like we hadn't played together at the beginning of the game, but I thought after about fifteen minutes we settled down. We got a goal and we started to control the game much more comfortably."
Hylton-Pelaia, a graduate transfer defender who joined ASU from East Carolina, made her debut a memorable one. In addition to contributing to the team's effort on defense, Hylton-Pelaia assisted on Douglas' first goal and then found the back of the net in the 41st minute to give ASU a 4-1 advantage at the half.
van Deursen drilled a shot from just outside the penalty arc in the 52nd minute to score the first of ASU's two goals in the second half.
Douglas' third assist set up Cori Sullivan, who scored ASU's final goal of the game in the 66th minute to give the fans one final light show courtesy of the stadium's new lighting system.
For all the team did right, Winkworth stressed there is always room for improvement.
"We were attacking a lot of the game so we have to recognize when there is space in behind and when there's not. Sometimes, I think we were a little bit impatient. With our attacking playing, we were going to goal, when we should have gone back and switched the point a little bit. There is always something we can learn from. I think set pieces are another thing that I don't think we were particularly strong on, today, and that's another area that we can work on before the next one."
After playing all of their home games at Sun Devil Stadium due to COVID-19 last season, the Sun Devils returned to Sun Devil Soccer Stadium for the first time since 2019 and extended their unbeaten streak in non-conference, regular season games to seven (6-0-1) going back to the 2019 season.
The Sun Devils return to action on Sunday (7 p.m. MST) when they host Southeastern Louisiana at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium. Fans can purchase tickets by clicking here. The game can also be seen via ASU's Live Stream.