Sun Devil Soccer closes out weekend road trip at Oregon on Sunday
The Sun Devil soccer team (8-4-1, 0-3-1 Pac-12) will look to gain a split on its trip to the state of Oregon on Sunday (12 p.m. MST) when it faces the Oregon Ducks (7-1-4, 2-1-1).
The fact ASU is still seeking its first Pac-12 win is somewhat of a contradiction given the high level of soccer that enabled them to jump out to leads of 2-0 (at Washington), 1-0 (vs. USC) and 3-1 (vs. UCLA). On the other hand, there is some math – on paper at least – that might suggest ASU has performed beyond any reasonable expectations thus far. ASU has had 22 different players who have started this season as injuries have taken their toll on a team that returned all of its key contributors from last season's squad that just missed out on qualifying for the NCAA Sweet 16 for the first time in program history. A talented freshman class and the addition of defender Jayda Hylton-Pelaia (graduate transfer from East Carolina) gave ASU ample reason to believe it would be even more dangerous this season.
Quality depth, resilience and a team-first mentality of playing for each other are among the reasons the Sun Devils did not fold when the injuries started to pile up week by week. They did just the opposite as they put together their best nine-game record in program history (8-1) heading into Pac-12 play. Included in ASU's non-conference wins was a 3-2 win over then-No. 21 and previously unbeaten Texas Tech on Sept. 12 in Tucson.
Although its hard work has yet to produce a win in league play, it has not deterred the team's spirit given what it almost accomplished the second week of Pac-12 play when the Sun Devils had leads over current No. 11 USC and current No. 3 UCLA, only to lose both games by a single goal – 2-1 vs. USC, 4-3-OT vs. UCLA After winning all five of its one-goal games in non-conference play, ASU has been unlucky in the same situation in Pac-12 play with all three of its league losses coming by one goal. ASU's most recent outing, a 2-1 setback at Oregon State on Thursday, was the first time in a Pac-12 contest this season in which ASU did not lead at some point in the game. The Sun Devils led 2-0 at Washington, 1-0 vs. USC and 3-1 vs. UCLA.
As the team continues to add players back into the fold who missed extended time because injury – and given the high quality of depth it has developed – ASU has every reason to believe it can be in the mix as one of the teams competing not only within the Pac-12 but nationally as well.
Senior forward Nicole Douglas has been nothing short of sensational this season. The nation's leader in goals (14) and points (33) – No. 2 in the nation in goals per game (1.08) and third in points per game (2.54) – Douglas has either scored or assisted on a goal in all but two games this season. She has scored a goal in each of ASU's last seven games. Also among the nation's leaders is senior Eva van Deursen (35th in assists per game /0.6).
Douglas (14 goals/5 assists/33 points), van Deursen (3 goals/6 assists/12 points) & fellow seniors Olivia Nguyen (5 goals/2 assists/12 points), Cori Sullivan (1 goal/5 assists/7 points), Olivia Kearse-Thomas (2 goals/1 assist/5 points) and sophomore Jazmine Wilkinson (2 goals/1 assist/5 points) – with their extraordinary talent for scoring/setting up teammates – have combined to help ASU rank 28th in the nation in scoring offense (2.46 goals per game), 28th in assists per game (2.31) and 29th in points per game (7.23).
IN THE RANKINGS
After its 8-1 record in non-conference play, ASU earned a No. 15 ranking in the United Soccer Coaches Top 25, its highest in program history. ASU was then dropped from the Top 25 after its 2-2 tie at Washington (Sept. 24). ASU was the highest team receiving votes prior to last week's games vs. USC and UCLA and is still among teams receiving votes in this week's poll. ASU initially entered the Top 25 on Aug. 31 after a 3-0 start, including road wins at Mississippi State (1-0) & at UAB (5-1). ASU was downgraded to receiving votes after a 5-2 loss to then-No. 17 LSU, then moved back into the Top 25 after defeating Nebraska & then-unbeaten/then-No. 21 Texas Tech.
SERIES NOTES VS OREGON – ASU LEADS 12-8-4
Neither team has claimed superiority over the other in recent years as the last three meetings have included one win for each team – ASU 2-1 in 2OT in Eugene on 2018, Oregon 1-0 in 2019 in Tempe – and a tie last season: 1-1 in Eugene.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
• This was the second straight season ASU started 5-0. On Sept. 5, ASU was looking for its first 6-0 start since 2000 before being defeated by then-No. 17 LSU, 5-2. Last season ASU started 6-0-2 before its first loss in the season's ninth game. ASU's best winning streak to start a season came in 2000 when it started 9-0. ASU's 8-1 represented the second-most wins after nine games in program history.
• Douglas followed up the eighth multi-goal game of her career (two in ASU's 2-2 tie at Washington on Sept. 24) by accounting for a pair of goals and one assist in ASU's near upsets of then-No. 21 USC and No. 3 UCLA. Douglas, who has scored at least one goal in seven straight games, is currently in third place on ASU's all-time list in both career goals (41) and career points (97), is tied for second place in career GW goals (13) and tied for 10th in career assists (15). With 14 goals this season, Douglas is currently tied with Cali Farquharson (2014) and Patrice Feulner (2000) for the second-highest, single-season goal total in program history. ASU Hall of Famer Stacey Tullock holds the single-season standards in both categories (17 goals/41 points in 1999).
• Douglas (14 goals) & Olivia Nguyen (5 goals) have combined for 19 of ASU's 32 goals. Although Douglas and Nguyen have accounted for the majority of the goals, ASU has had 10 different players find the back of the net this season. van Deursen (3), Wilkinson (2) and Kearse-Thomas (2) have also scored multiple goals this season
• van Deursen missed ASU's games vs. then-No. 21 Texas Tech and at Colorado College due to national team call up. On Sept. 19, van Deursen helped the Dutch U23 National Team claim a 3-0 win over Sweden She made an immediate impact in her return to the team at Washington (Sept. 24) as she and Kiki Stewart assisted on Douglas' first goal of the game. Currently tied for No. 8 in program history with 16 career assists (six of them coming this season), the next time she helps one of her teammates find the back of the net, van Deursen will move into a three-way tie for sixth place in career assists and a nine-way tie for most assists in a single season.
• ASU started the season with a pair of true freshman goalkeepers – Julia Ortega & Birta Gudlaugs each played a half in ASU's first two games – as the team was forced to go without two-year starter Giulia Cascaperan due to injury. Gudlaugs has played every minute of in nine of ASU's last 11 games, including three shutouts: at Mississippi State (Aug. 26 vs. Nebraska in Tucson (Sept. 9) and at Colorado College (Sept. 17). Ortega started ASU's most recent contest at OSU.
• ASU has overcome 1-0 deficits in three of its wins: vs. Central Arkansas, vs. Southeastern Louisiana and vs. CSUN. The Sun Devils would go on to wins those games by a combined score of 12-4.
• ASU has scored at least one goal in every game and has scored multiple goals eight times this season. Against No. 3 UCLA (Oct. 3), the Sun Devils scored more goals in the first half (three) than the Bruins had given up in all 10 of their games combined (two) coming into the game. The three goals were the most scored against the Bruins since the 2019 NCAA Tournament – a span of 27 games.
• Because of injuries, the Sun Devils have had 22 different players in the starting lineup this season. Nicole Douglas, Olivia Nguyen and Callie Darst are the only players who have started every game this season.
• Douglas (Offensive POW/Week One), Lieske Carleer (Defensive POW/Week Two) and Birta Gudlaugs (goalkeeper of the week/Week Two) have combined for three Pac-12 Player of the Week honors this season.
• Nicole Douglas – Has started all 64 of her career games.
• Lieske Carleer – Has started 44 of the 45 games she has played in/DNP vs. Nebraska (9/9) and Texas Tech (9/12) did not start at Washington (9/24) after starting and playing only five minutes vs. Colorado College (9/17).
• Giulia Cascapera – Started all 34 career games coming into the season. Is not likely to return from preseason injury.
• Callie Darst – Has started 27 straight games and 49 of 50 career games.
• Eva van Deursen – Started last 24 games she's played in & 59 of 62 career games. DNP vs. Texas Tech (9/12)/at Colorado College (9/17) due to international call-up.
• Alexia Delgado – Had started 18 of last 19 games she has played in and has started 52 of 59 career games. Returned from injury in ASU's contest at Washington (Sept. 24) after not playing since Aug. 22.
• Jessica Hale – Had started 21 of last 22 games. Has missed ASU's last five games due to injury.
• Jazmine Wilkinson – Has started 25 of 30 career games.
• Olivia Nguyen – Has started 29 of last 31 games.
• Cori Sullivan – Has started 29 of 42 career games.
• Olivia Kearse-Thomas – Has played in 77 games with 42 career starts.
• Isabel Dehakiz – Started the first six games last season before a season-ending injury. Has started 28 career games and made the 44th appearance of her ASU career, playing 21 minutes vs. UCLA (Oct. 3), the first time she played since last season. Returned to starting lineup at Oregon State (Oct. 7).
• Jayda Hylton-Pelaia – Has 65 starting assignments in 69 career games. Has started 10 of her 13 games as a Sun Devil after transferring from East Carolina.
• Lucy Johnson – Has started 17 of 21 career games. Has started six of 10 this season, missing three due to injury.
• Vildan Kardesler – Originally joined ASU as a transfer from Pitt. Has started 30 of 40 career games, including five of the six contests she played in last spring before her season was cut short due to injury.
• Dai Williams – Has started 14 of 36 games with one start in 10 games in 2021.
• Tahlia Herman-Watt – Started nine of 16 games as a freshman last spring and has played in nine games this season with her first start coming at Oregon State (Oct. 7)..
RECAPPING LAST SEASON
ASU is coming off its best season under head coach Graham Winkworth, finishing the regular season with an 9-6-2 record and making the postseason 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 that far.
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.