Sun Devil Soccer edged by Arizona in OT
TUCSON, Ariz. – Nicole Douglas, the nation's top goal scorer, found the back of net in the 82nd minute for the 19th time this season to force overtime in the Sun Devil soccer team's contest at Arizona on Friday. Unfortunately for the Sun Devils, a penalty kick awarded to Arizona – the product of an unintentional handball in the box called on ASU – brought the game to an abrupt end as the Sun Devils came up on the wrong end of a 2-1 decision.
"I feel for our girls because they worked so hard all season," ASU head coach Graham Winkworth said. "We didn't play particularly well tonight and so credit to Arizona for the result. That said, I thought we created some great chances throughout the match."
The Sun Devils took the first two shots of the game but both Eva van Deursen (fifth minute) and Cori Sullivan (10thminute) were denied by Arizona goalkeeper Hope Sisey.
The Wildcats netted the game's first goal in the 13th minute when Jill Aguilera took advantage of a foul called on ASU and – from outside the penalty area and to the left of the goal – scored by sneaking her shot just under the crossbar to give Arizona the early advantage.
Douglas, who last week scored three goals to become ASU's new leader for most goals in a single season, was not credited with a shot in the first half. According to Winkworth, it was the shot she was not given the opportunity to take that made how the game eventually ended that much for difficult to accept.
"It looked like (Nicole Douglas) was fouled in the penalty area in the first half," Winkworth said. "For the players who work so hard out there, a non-call like that makes you feel that much sicker when it's a penalty kick that ultimately decided the game."
At the same time the Sun Devils were searching for the game-tying goal, true freshman goalkeeper Julia Ortega, who was credited with four saves, did all she could to keep Arizona from making it a two-score game. Ortega did a tremendous job breaking up a cross in front of the net at the start of the 69th minute and again at the start of the 71st minute, did just enough to prevent a goal on a pair of Arizona scoring opportunities.
In the 74th minute, Olivia Kearse-Thomas crossed a ball in front of the Arizona goal, but the Sun Devils were not able to score despite having a pair of players in the neighborhood.
They continued to press on with the determination that has defined much of their season and finally broke through in the 82nd minute when freshman Lauren Kirberg found Douglas with a perfectly placed service in front to the Wildcat goal which Douglas headed in to tie the game at 1-1.
Minutes later, Douglas nearly scored the go-ahead goal in the 87th minute after Cori Sullivan sent a ball into the box that Douglas got a foot on but her shot was high.
"I was really happy with the delivery and finish we had to equalize," Winkworth said. "At that point I thought we were going to go on and win the game but unfortunately we conceded a late penalty at the other end. Credit to the players because they worked extremely hard and were classy in defeat."
Due to once-in-a-generation circumstances, the Sun Devils joined many teams across the country in playing two seasons worth of games over the course of the last nine months.
Following the game, Winkworth expressed his appreciation for his entire team, and heaped praise for the 11 seniors – Lara Barbieri, Isabel Dehakiz, Jessica Hale, Jayda Hylton-Pelaia, Vildan Kardesler, Julia Koharko, Olivia Kearse-Thomas, Hikaru Minami, Nicole Soto, Cori Sullivan and Anna White – who played such a major role in building the culture that enabled the team to qualify for the NCAA Tournament last spring for the first time since 2014.
"I really want to say a special thank you to the seniors who helped us have an incredible 2021," Winkworth said. "This year has been phenomenal in how hard they worked and the culture they helped create in this program."
That same group was just as important in maintaining the culture this season following an unprecedented number of injuries in Winkworth's coaching career threatened to derail a season with high hopes. Instead, the team had its best non-conference start in school history and among its losses in league play, only one was by more than one goal.
"In my opinion we played some better soccer in the fall than we did in the spring when we made the NCAA Tournament," Winkworth said. "As much as I can't wait to get back on the pitch with our returning squad, I also know we are going to miss a special group of ladies that have represented this program with such class and integrity and as coaches we want to personally thank them for all the effort they have put in this program and we can't wait to see them back in the spring when we have our next alumni event."