@SunDevilSoccer travels to SEC Country to face Mississippi State
After opening the 2021 campaign with a pair of home wins – vs. Central Arkansas (6-1) and vs. 2021 NCAA Tournament participant Southeastern Louisiana (2-1) – the Sun Devil Soccer team goes on the road for the first time this season for contests at Mississippi State on Thursday (7 pm CDT/5 pm MST) and UAB on Sunday (12 pm CDT/10 am MST).
With Sunday's win, the Sun Devils extended their unbeaten streak in non-conference, regular season games to eight games (7-0-1) going back to the 2019 season.
IN THE RANKINGS
The Sun Devils are currently receiving votes in the United Soccer Coaches Top 25. They are also ranked No. 4 in the Pacific Regional behind fellow Pac-12 schools UCLA, Stanford and Cal.
• Although both of last week's games were technically come-from-behind wins, it was Sunday's game against Southeastern Louisiana that provided the most drama. Senior Olivia Nguyen scored two goals in just under 11 minutes, including the game winner in the 90th minute ASU's 2-1 win. Nguyen, who started ASU's scoring flurry of six-straight goals after the Sun Devils fell behind to Central Arkansas 1-0 on Thursday, was once again responsible for tying the game on Sunday after scoring on a cross from teammate Cori Sullivan in the 79th minute. It appeared the game was headed for overtime as the score remained tied entering the final minute of regulation. The Sun Devils had other ideas as they refused to let extra time determine the outcome after Nguyen scored the go-ahead goal with 46 seconds left in regulation. Nguyen's presence of mind was once again a key in the goal as she gathered a ball that was initially played into scoring position by Jazmine Wilkinson.
• The Sun Devils started the two-game weekend with a 6-1 win over Central Arkansas. 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 the win. Nguyen (one goal), Jayda Hylton-Pelaia (one goal, one assist), Eva van Deursen (one goal, one assist), Sullivan (one goal), Dai Williams (one assist) and Lucy Johnson (one assist) also got into the scoring column for the Sun Devils.
• A pair of true freshman goalkeepers – Julia Ortega and Birta Gudlaugs – each played a half in both of last weekend's as the Sun Devils are currently without returning two-year starter Giulia Cascapera.
• In last week's wins, ASU combined for overwhelming advantages in shots (54-9), shots on goal (27-5) and corner kicks (13-4).
• The Sun Devils had five different players score goals in last week's wins.
This will be ASU first contest against both of this week's opponents.
DOUGLAS NAMED PAC-12 OFFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE WEEK
Douglas' near record-tying, single-game scoring performance vs. Central Arkansas combined with a team-high nine shots in helping the Sun Devils keep constant pressure vs. Southeastern Louisiana added up to the senior striker earning Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. With her two goals in Thursday's win, Douglas moved into fifth place on ASU's all-time list for career goals (29). She needs one goal to tie Brittany Cooper (2002-05) for fourth place and two goals to tie Elizabeth Bogus (2002-05) for third place.
HEAD COACH GRAHAM WINKWORTH SAID...
The following is what ASU head coach Graham Winkworth had to say following Sunday's win.
Reaction to the game: "A big sigh. Obviously, relieved more than anything. I think that we controlled the game from start to finish, but all credit to Coach McBride and Southeastern Louisiana. They are an NCAA team for a reason. They took Rutgers 87 minutes to score against them in the NCAA tournament and they have all of those players back, so they're an incredibly well coached team and I'm sure they're going to do well in the Southland Conference this season. Congratulations to them for a really good game, but really happy to get the positive result against a team that's probably underrated by many."
Importance on starting 2-0: "It's very important we win these types of games. We've been behind twice the last two games, so that's something we've got to fix, but at the same time on the flip side of that, to show the character to respond in both occasions and particularly tonight. There were twelve minutes left and we were still showing patience. On occasion we were forcing it a little bit, but we're still showing the patience just to try and create opportunities and trying to use the full width of the pitch because they were really compact in the middle and finally, we managed to get one on the outside and once we equalized, I think there was probably only going to be one winner."
Adjustments made toward end of game: "We tweaked the system a little bit for the first goal. We went to a 3-4-3 and that enabled our wing backs to get a little further forward, and Cori [Sullivan] was the one who managed to get wide. Afterwards, we went back to the 4-2-3 and I thought [Olivia Nguyen] was excellent tonight. I thought she was probably the player of the game, not just because she scored two goals, but she was lively, and she worked hard on defense, but was also dribbling at people which is something we want in the final third. I think we have to be a little bit more disciplined and be brave to attack like that and that's something that a few of the others will work hard on this week."
On message to team at the half (score tied at 0-0): "'Just continue to do what you do.' I said goals are going to come, and obviously the wrong goal went in, but I think they probably sat back a little bit even more when they went up because they wanted to protect that lead. What I was happy about was we were not taking shots from bad areas. I think, when you're down 1-0, it's very tempting to just start shooting from anywhere, and that's something we don't want to do. We want to get into good areas and take good chances and we did, and continued to do that. I thought [SLU goalkeeper Nadine Maher] was amazing. She made like fifteen saves or something like that. So, congratulations to her. She had a great year last year and looks like she's going to have another one this year."
The importance of the "next mean up" mentality: "It's crucial. The amount of players we have out right now, we could fill the team with, so we're going to have to have that mentality. It doesn't matter, we have a very deep squad, a very talented squad. Hopefully, as the season goes on we start to get more back, but right now, we have to grind it out and do the best we can."
On the performance of the team's reserve players: "They made a greater impact when we made changes in the game on Thursday night. I thought, today, we didn't have as big of an impact come off the bench at [the second half of the game] as we did in the first game. That's just a part of soccer sometimes. Sometimes they're on form, sometimes they're not.
On what has carried over from last season: "The same players, but the same players creating the same culture. They are incredible to hang out with. I enjoy coming to work. They're fantastic people, great footballers, but they're great people as well. And that's the main thing because they work hard for each other. Our culture is very strong. I like that they hold each other to high standards and I think that's one thing that they're going to continue to have. Bringing in these new players and teaching them those high standards takes time, but is certainly something that's happened, so far"
RECAPPING LAST SEASON
• The Sun Devils are coming off their best season under head coach Graham Winkworth, finishing the regular season with an 8-5-2 record and making a postseason run for the first time since 2014 and the eighth time in school history. ASU made it to the second round of the tournament to become the fifth ASU soccer team to advance to that stage in the NCAA Tournament.
Winkworth and company boasted an undefeated non-conference slate, including an overtime comeback thriller at Grand Canyon to protect the win-streak. ASU continued its unbeaten streak through eight games and notched wins against UCLA, Stanford, and USC to become only the fourth team in history to beat all three programs in a single season. With a 4-4-2 record in Pac-12 Conference play, the Sun Devils finished in the middle of the table after being picked to finish last in the preseason poll.
The Sun Devils scored 28 goals in 17 games, second-most in the Pac-12 Conference. ASU boasted one of the strongest defensive lines in the Pac-12, conceding only 16 goals and forcing ASU's keepers to make only 57 saves - fifth-fewest amongst Conference competitors.
EXPERIENCE COUNTS – CURRENT STARTING STREAKS IN GAMES PLAYED IN
• Nicole Douglas – Has started all 53 games
• Lieske Carleer - Has started all 36 games
• Giulia Cascapera – Had started all 34 career games coming into the season
• Callie Darst – Has started 16 straight games and 38 of 39 career games
• Eva van Deursen – Has started last 15 games and 50 of 53 career games
• Alexia Delgado – Has started 15 straight games and 49 of 55 career games
• Jessica Hale – Has started 15 straight games
• Jazmine Wilkinson – Has started last 13 games and 15 of 19 career games
• Olivia Nguyen – Has started 18 of last 19 games
• Cori Sullivan – Has started 19 of 31 career games