Late goal, solid defense helps @SunDevilSoccer remain unbeaten in win at Mississippi State
STARKVILLE, Miss. – For the second time in as many games, the Sun Devil soccer team refused to let overtime decide the outcome as the team remained unbeaten following its 1-0 win at Mississippi State on Thursday.
Senior Nicole Douglas scored her third goal of the season – the 30th of her career moving her into a tie for fourth place on ASU's all-time list – in the 89th minute to break a scoreless tie and help the Sun Devils move to 3-0 on the season and extend their winning streak in regular season, non-conference games to nine (8-0-1) going back to the 2019 season.
"I thought it was an excellent game, a really tactical game between both sides," ASU head coach Graham Winkworth said. "Mississippi State is very well coached team and I felt it was almost like a game of chess, but on a soccer field. I was delighted with the team and the way we were disciplined, and our defensive work. I was delighted with our patience, offensively, and ultimately, I think we came away with the result that we deserved. We gained the victory, but it was a very hard-fought game and well played by both sides."
The Sun Devils started the week in similar fashion as senior Olivia Nguyen scored two goals in just under 11 minutes, including the game winner in the 90th minute of ASU's 2-1 win over 2021 NCAA Tournament participant Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday. In Thursday's win, Nguyen once again played a big role in the game's deciding sequence as the senior forward made a quick inside move to shed her defender before delivering a perfectly-placed pass at the last possible second to Douglas whose quick shot produced the game-winner. Now with 11 career game-winning goals, Douglas needs one more to tie Elizabeth Bogus (2002-05) four fourth on ASU's all-time list.
ASU doubled up the Bulldogs (1-2) in combined shots (14-7) with each team placing five on frame. Despite not being able break through until late in the game, the goal ASU scored seemed to be building as the game wore on. An outstanding save kept Dai Williams from finding the back of the net in the 82nd minute. Despite not being able to finish some quality looks, the Sun Devils did not let impatience become a factor in the outcome by not forcing anything that was not there.
"I think we probably should have finished a chance or two that we had in the first half that we had and we were unfortunate not to come in at halftime with a goal or two, but in the second half we created a couple of good chances," Winkworth said. "The keeper fought off a fantastic save from [Dai Williams'] chance, but we didn't stop. We continued to be patient and the way we played, we didn't force it and eventually, credit to Liv going '1 v 1' with a player and pulling the ball back and a lovely finish from [Nicole Douglas] in the last couple of minutes. Really, really happy with it."
The opportunity to win the game would not have been possible without a tremendous effort by the Sun Devils on the defensive end. In the first complete game of her career, true freshman goalkeeper Birta Gudlaugs made five saves and, with invaluable contributions from the back line, came away with a shutout.
"(Birta) did very well," said Winkworth. "I think she handled what she needed to very well. I don't think she was too busy, which is great. You don't want to be too busy when you're playing ninety minutes against a team as quality as Mississippi State, and so I think that's credit to her, but also credit to the players in front of her for limiting the opposing team's opportunities. I thought she did great. She's very vocal, and I'm really proud of her for keeping a clean sheet."
Douglas, named the Pac-12's Offensive Player of the Week after coming within a point of tying the school's single-game record for scoring in ASU's season opening win over Central Arkansas, placed all three of her team-high three shots on frame on Thursday. With her goal vs. MSU, Douglas tied Nguyen for the team lead with three goals.
In addition to Gudlaugs, defenders Lieske Carleer and Callie Darst and midfielders Eva van Deursen and Jazmine Wilkinson played the full 90 minutes.
The Sun Devils close out their first road trip of the season on Sunday (12 pm CDT/10 am MST) when they play at UAB.