Sun Devil Soccer gives valiant effort in 2-2 draw vs. Washington State
TEMPE, Ariz. – In a season in which it has been dealt more than its share of adversity, the Sun Devil soccer team has proven time and again no matter the opponent, no matter the score, no matter who it has on the field, it is going to give everything it has. In some ways, Friday night's contest against Washington State was a microcosm of all those qualities.
Down 2-0 after 30 minutes of game time the Sun Devils were faced with this task: To get any kind of result they would have to score two goals against the nation's top team in goals-against average and the top goalkeeper in goals-against average. It meant scoring one more goal than the Cougars had given up in their eight previous contests coming into Friday's game.
Given the circumstances of where they were at this point in the season – the Sun Devils (8-5-2, 0-4-2 Pac-12) were looking for their first Pac-12 win in the midst of a season in which 22 different players have started because of injuries – one could argue they responded to the challenge with one of their best performances of the 15 games they have now played as Olivia Kearse-Thomas and Nicole Douglas both found the back of the net in a game that ended in a 2-2 draw in front of a season-high 1,425 fans at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium.
"I have really mixed emotions to be honest," ASU head coach Graham Winkworth said after the game. "I felt like we deserved three points from that game. All credit to Washington State for a well-fought match. They scored two early goals. Once again, we needed to do a better job defending set pieces. But after that I felt like we controlled the game and created some lovely opportunities.
"Really disappointed (with the tie). We loved the performance and I'm sad for the players because they deserved more tonight. At the same time, I felt like that second half was probably the best we have played this season from a passion standpoint. I love this team; the players are incredible. We just need to bring that every game."
Having outscored the opposition 15-1 in their last eight games, the Cougars (10-2-2, 4-1-1) added two more to that total over the first third of Friday's contest with goals in the ninth minute and again in the 30th minute to take a 2-0 lead over an ASU squad coming off its first game of the season in which it didn't score despite an 8-1 advantage in shots on goal in a 1-0 loss at Oregon last Sunday.
The Sun Devils started their against-the-odds comeback in the 41st minute when senior Eva van Deursen whistled a shot from just outside the 18. Although the shot was blocked in the box, Kearse-Thomas's quick and alert rebound found the sweet spot, cutting WSU's lead to 2-1.
With her seventh assist of the season, van Deursen moved into a nine-way tie for fifth place on ASU's list for most assists in a season. She also climbed one spot into a three-way tie for sixth place for most career assists (17).
The Sun Devils used an exquisite display of teamwork to tie the game in the 61st minute. The scoring sequence started with senior Alexia Delgado using a header to win control of an air ball. Once again, Kearse-Thomas was prepared to make the key play as she sent a perfectly-timed volley that bounced right in front of Douglas who was going toward goal. The pass set up a contest between Douglas (the nation's leader in total goals) and WSU's Nadia Cooper (the nation's leader in goals against average). In a foot race to the ball it was Douglas who reached it first and beat the oncoming Cooper and connected with the ball just inside the 18 for the equalizer.
With her 15th goal of the season, Douglas moved within two goals of tying ASU Hall of Famer Stacey Tullock's 22-year-old school record for most goals in a season (17). Now with 42 career goals, Douglas is also within two goals of tying Cali Farquharson for second place on ASU's all-time list for career goals. Douglas (99 career points/42 goals and 15 assists) is also within three points of tying Farquharson (102 career points) for second place on ASU's list for career points.
"Our soccer family is incredible," Winkworth said of his team's performance. "The unity and passion of all of the players – both on the field and cheering from the bench – made it feel like we were playing with 12 players in the second half and I could not be more proud of them."
Although she gave up twice as many goals as she had in her 675 minutes of play prior to Friday's game, it was Cooper's ability – Winkworth described her play as "incredible tonight" – that prevented the Sun Devils from securing their first Pac-12 win of the season as she made 10 saves, with seven of those saves coming in the second half and the two overtimes.
On the opposite end, all four Sun Devil defenders – Lieske Carleer (110 minutes), Callie Darst (110 minutes) Lauren Kirberg (110 minutes) and Jayda Hylton-Pelaia (106 minutes) – played more than 100 minutes while true freshman Birta Gudlaugs came up with fives saves (three in the second half) to keep the Cougars scoreless over the last 80 minutes of game time.
Delgado, Douglas, Cori Sullivan and van Deursen all logged more than 100 minutes of playing time on Friday. Douglas led ASU in both shots (6) and shots on goal (4). Carleer (2), Sullivan (2) and Kearse-Thomas (2) also recorded multiple shots on goal. As a team, ASU had advantages of 22-17 in overall shots and 12-7 in shots on goal, including an 8-3 advantage in shots on goal in the second half and two overtimes.
Friday's contest vs. WSU was ASU's annual Pink Game to increase Breast Cancer awareness. The team wore pink socks and many fans joined in to support the initiative by wearing pink to the game.
Up next for the Sun Devils is a trip to the Bay Area for games against Stanford on Thursday (5 pm MST on Pac-12 Networks) and California on Sunday (12 pm MST on Pac-12 Networks).