Soccer Primed for 2022-2023 Season
Tempe, Ariz - The Sun Devil soccer team is ready to make a jump in head coach Graham Winkworth's sixth season. After making the playoffs in 2020 – played during the spring of 2021 – for the first time since 2014, the Sun Devils followed with 10 wins in 2021. It was the second time in four seasons that ASU earned a double-digit win total and which does not include the 2020 season when the squad earned an NCAA postseason ticket (9-6-2).
"Every year there is always a feeling of excitement around the place. This year is no different," Winkworth said. "I have been counting down the days to get back to work on the grass.
"I feel we have a really special group. I am blessed to work with incredible people. Our staff this year will look a little different, but I am excited to see the skills and personalities that everyone brings to the table."
The Sun Devils enter this season with players ready to contribute on the pitch. With over thirteen players returning, including All Pac-12 First Team selection Nicole Douglas, the Sun Devils are ready to compete.
DOUGIE DOES IT AGAIN
Coming off a historic season where she set the single-season record for goals, Nicole Douglas returns to build off her accomplishments. Douglas was on fire last season, leading the nation in goals (19), goals per game (0.95), and points per game (2.25). She also became the first Sun Devil since 2002 to earn All-American Honors, being named to the third team. Of her 19 goals, five of them were game-winners.
"Dougie gets a lot of attention for the number of goals she scores and rightly so. However, it's the selfless work she puts in off the ball that I respect even more. She has grown into a leader on the team over the last year and I am excited to have her back for another season." - Coach Winkworth
All rise for the Captain
Also returning for her final season is midfielder Alexia Delgado. Delgado is the heart and soul of the team and looks to lead the squad for another season. Delgado was a workhorse on the pitch logging 60 minutes in all but one of the matches she appeared in, and 104 minutes in a game against Washington St.
"Alexia is the greatest leader I have ever met. Her professionalism is unbelievable. She is an extremely intelligent player to the point that she reads the game just that little bit quicker than just about any opponent I have seen. She is a coach on the pitch and our incredible captain."
LIV'in la Vida Loca
Graduate senior Olivia Nguyen returns to the program for her final season in the maroon and gold. A hometown hero, Nguyen issuing her extra "COVID" year of eligibility granted by the NCAA. Nguyen played in 20 games last year, starting in 19 and put in seven goals.
"Liv is a talented player who offers us a lot of creativity and goals playing from either a wide or central position. What I love most about Liv on the pitch is her ability to soak in information and then use it during training and in games. She is so coachable and her defensive efforts separate her from most other forwards," Winkworth said.
Returning for her fifth season, Eva Van Deursen will join Delgado as a 1-2 punch in the midfield. In 2021, Van Deursen started all 18 games and broke the single-season assists record with 10. She currently has 20 over her career, placing her third behind Manya Makoski who has 22, and ASU Hall of Famer Stacey Tullock who has 25. Van Deursen has a chance to surpass Tullock with only needing six more assists to beat the record.
"She is another incredible talent in our midfield that will be a leader on our team. I think the leadership she brings will not only help our team this year but also with the development of our younger midfielders."
Lieske On the Defend
Entering her senior year, Lieske Carleer will be the backbone of the Sun Devils' defense. In 2021 she started 17 games and played every minute in eight of those games. She earned Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week twice for her performances against Mississippi St. where she played all but seven minutes of the game, and against UAB. During those two games, her work on the defensive side helped the Sun Devils blank the Bull Dogs and allow only one goal against UAB, and only conceded 13 shots. She was named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District® Women's Soccer Team.
"Lieske is our leader back there. In 2020 she demonstrated that she is one of the best ball-playing center-backs in the country. She will be a big part of the success of our team defensively."
The Sun Devils welcome two transfers to the program, Gabi Rennie and Hannah Leitner. Rennie joins the Sun Devils after starting her career at Indiana University. She also spent time with the New Zealand national team and scored a goal for them in the Tokyo Olympics.
Leitner comes from New Mexico State, a program the Sun Devils played in the 2020 season, and brings experience at the forward position.
"I love her direct nature as a winger and ability to run at defenders. She is quick on the turn and unafraid to go 1v1 against opposing defenders."
"She has electric pace and will cause opposing defenders nightmares with her movements off the ball either from wide of central positions. She has already become a leader within the group."
With a mix of experience, Winkworth says this team will be exciting to watch come August 18th, when they open the season against South Dakota State.
"This is a great set of players but an even more incredible group of people. I am so excited to see how this group shapes out through the season with their hard work and high standards. I think we have the perfect mix of experience, leadership, and youthful energy."
Let's break down what each position brings to the table...
The keeper unit returns Giulia Cascapera, Birta Gudlaugsdottir, and Julia Ortega while adding on Pauline Nelles and Kayla Letcher. Birta was the starter for most of last season, starting 14 games and earned Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week for her shutout performance against Mississippi St. G missed the season with an injury but looks to return to her 2020 level where she had 57 saves and five shutouts.
Pauli comes to the Sun Devils from Germany where she plays for the German U-20 National Team. She brings over a lot of international experience as she was the starting keeper for the U-17 German team that won the Euro championship. Letcher and Ortega round out the unit as they all look to compete for the starting position.
"G" is back for another season. She showed us in 2020 what a quality shot stopper she is. If she returns at the same level she was in the 2020 season, then she will be putting herself in a strong position to challenge for the spot.
"We will be looking for B to take on a leadership role with the keepers each day on the training pitch as she competes for the starting position."
"She has been an excellent teammate and has made a positive impact on the culture of our program."
"She has the potential to come in and compete for the starting position immediately with hard work. I am very excited about adding her to the group and think everyone will get better because of her attitude to training."
"She is an incredible teammate with the type of personality that will make everyone else better. She is willing to help the team in any way needed and we cannot be more excited to have her in the family."
Returning for the defenders are Lucy Johnson, Tahlia Hermann Watt, Olivia Coleman, and Lauren Kirberg, and add four premier freshmen to the position. The newcomers are Mya Wheeler, Meighan Farrell, Ava Wright, and Andrea Kraetzer. Along with Carleer who played in 18 games last season, Johnson, Watt, Coleman and Kirberg all bring back valuable game-time experience to the position.
"Johno is another player who had a big 2020 season. She struggled with injury through the 2021 season and we are excited to have her back to full strength for this year. She has a wicked left foot and is a good 1v1 defender."
"She has a lot of quality experience and has been a major part of some huge games for us over the last couple of seasons. She is a machine with how fit she is and has an engine that goes for days."
"I am so excited for OC! One of the most athletic players I have ever been around. She never pulls out from a challenge, is strong in the air, and is one of the fastest players on the team."
"Kirby is a player who showed a lot of quality character last season. She kept a strong attitude while waiting for her opportunity, and then when it came, she grabbed it with both arms (or feet)."
"Mya Wheeler is a fantastic talent. Athletic and very comfortable on the ball. She loves to get forward and offer moments of quality on both sides of the ball."
"Mei comes to us as an attacking fullback. She is deceptively quick and has excellent acceleration. She is very comfortable on the ball and will be a player that competes for time on either side of our back line immediately."
"Ava is a very athletic fullback. She can run for days and is very difficult to defend as she makes runs from the back."
"She is a leader on the pitch and does not like to get beaten. She defends 1v1 very well and has a side to her game that will make opposing forwards uncomfortable. As good as she is at defending, she is also very comfortable in building play out the back which is very important to our philosophy here at ASU."
Returning for the midfielders are Callie Darst, and Jazmine Wilkinson, while they bring in Enasia Colon, and local-talent Brianna Nunley.
"Her work rate and coachability make her a player that both her coaches and teammates can trust to do a great job no matter what she is asked to do. She has the versatility to play pretty much anywhere for us which is crucial for our success. These types of players are rare but vital to any successful team."
"Jaz has shown she can play multiple roles in the midfield. She has scored goals at one end, but also provided valuable tackles and interceptions at the other. I am excited for Jaz this season and excited to see her in action."
"Ena is an exciting talent. She is more of an attacking midfielder but can play anywhere from defensive mid to center forward. Ena loves a defense-splitting pass and I believe has the technical ability to cause defenders nightmares on the dribble. She has a very high ceiling and a very bright future."
"Every year we look for the best talent in the state and I believe that in Bri, we have added one of the best players for 2022 in Arizona. She is another player with excellent vision that can open up opposing defenses. She is very hard working on the pitch and I am excited to see her compete for playing time in our midfield."
Caetlyn Johannes, Kennedy Mayo, and Keri Matthews return to the position. The latest addition is Mia Lanni who Winkworth describes as gifted and composed on the dribble and has the versatility to play multiple positions.
"CJ is a powerful striker that is very strong holding the ball up. She has a great burst of pace and a deadly shot."
"Kenny is very difficult to defend. She had a great spring and played significant minutes as a fullback showing off her versatility."
"Kez is a player that I cannot wait to see play this fall. During the spring she was maybe our most consistent player and was fantastic. She has pace and works hard defensively."
"Mia is an example of somebody who made the effort to attend one of our ID Camps and it worked out well for everyone. She is a very fit wide player who I think has the potential to play either as a winger or a full back. She is gifted and composed on the dribble. I am excited to learn more about the way Mia can impact the team and see her in action."
The Sun Devils will play 12 contests at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium, with matchups against Hawai'i, Toledo, Stanford, and Arizona. The Sun Devils open the season on August 18th versus South Dakota State University at 7 P.M. MST.