Sun Devil Soccer Kicks off 2022-23 Athletics Season on Thursday Night
Sun Devil Soccer opens its 2022 campaign on Thursday night (7 pm MST) when it hosts 2021 NCAA participant South Dakota State at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium.
Thursday's contest will be the first of two games the Sun Devils will play in front of the home crowd this weekend. ASU will be back on its pitch on Sunday when Hawaii visits Tempe. The Sun Devils will once again be playing under the lights with game time at 7 p.m.
The Sun Devils will be led by sixth-year head coach Graham Winkworth. ASU is coming off a 2021 campaign in which it won 10 games, the second time it has posted a double-digit win total (2018 and 2021) in the last four seasons and that does not include the 9-6-2 record that was good enough to earn the squad a berth in in the 2020 NCAA Tournament. Prior to 2018, ASU posted a double-digit win total twice in the previous 10 seasons.
"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."
All eyes will be focused on the 2021 NCAA scoring leader Nicole Douglas, who earned Third-Team All-America honors last season and was one 13 players named to the All-Pac-12 First Team. The first Sun Devil to earn All-America honors since 2002, in 2021 Douglas set the single-season school records for goals (19) and points (45). She led the nation in goals (19), goals per game (0.95) and points per game (2.25).
Nicole Douglas is ?????? ???????? prolific scorer in @NCAASoccer and on the verge of breaking ASU's all-time scoring record. ??
— Pac-12 Conference (@pac12) August 18, 2022
A fifth-year player, Douglas enters the 2022 season in second place in program history in career goals (46), career points (109) and career game-winning goals (14) and is tied for seventh in career assists (17). Sun Devil Hall of Famer Stacey Tullock (1998-2001) holds the school record in all four categories: goals (50), points (125), game-winning goals (16) and assists (25).
Douglas, who has started all 71 games she has played in over the last four seasons, accounted for a goal or assist in all but five games last season and had a stretch in which she scored at least one goal in seven straight games.
CHASING HISTORY PART II
Also within reach of breaking a program career record is fifth-year midfielder Eva van Deursen (20 career assists), who will enter the 2022 campaign needing six assists to become ASU's all-time leader: Manya Makoski (second place/22 assists/2002-05), ASU Hall of Famer Stacey Tullock (first place/25 assists/1998-2001).
Last season, van Deursen, who also scored three goals, set the school's single-season assists record with 10. At season's end, van Deursen led the Pac-12 and was No. 19 in the nation in assists per game (0.56). She tied her single-game career high in assists (two) twice in ASU's wins at UAB (Aug. 29) and vs. Utah (Oct. 31).
The Sun Devils are 4-1 in opening games under Winkworth. A hard-fought 2-1 overtime decision to Ohio State in 2017 is the only opener in the last five years in which ASU did not come away the victor. ASU extended its current winning streak in openers to four with a 6-1 win over Central Arkansas last year.
ABOUT THE SCHEDULE
Included on ASU's 2022 schedule are six contests against teams that qualified for last season's NCAA Tournament: South Dakota State, Pepperdine, Stanford, UCLA, USC, and Washington State.
Thursday's opponent, South Dakota State, SDSU won a program record 17 games last season, won the Summit League tournament and made it to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. ASU won the only prior meeting 2-0 in 2018 at SDSU.
HOW'S THIS FOR EXPERIENCE?
ASU will return a quartet of fifth-year players in the form of forwards Nicole Douglas (71 starts/71 games) and Olivia Nguyen (36 starts/61 games, including 35 starts in 37 games the last two seasons) and midfielders Alexia Delgado (57 starts/64 games) and Eva van Deursen (66 starts/69 games). The four players have combined for 230 games in starting experience out of 265 games.
The Sun Devils also return two other players with more than 50 games of starting experience: defender Lieske Carleer (51 starts/52 career games) and defender/midfielder Callie Darst (56 starts in 57 career games). Darst has averaged 89.4 minutes in those 57 games.
ALL RISE FOR THE CAPTAIN
The heart and soul of the team, Alexia Delgado will once again assume captain duties this 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," said head coach Graham Winkworth. "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."
LIESKE LEADS THE DEFENSE
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 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 Bulldogs and allow only one goal against UAB, and only conceded 13 shots.
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.
MORE NEW FACES
The Sun Devils will also be welcoming nine freshmen to Tempe: goalkeepers Pauline Nelles and Kayla Letcher; defenders Andrea Kraetzer, Ava Wright, Meighan Farrell and Mya Wheeler; midfielder Brianna Nunley and a pair of newcomers who can play at multiple positions: Enasia Colon (midfield/forward) and Mia Lanni (midfield/forward).
LOOKING BACK AT 2021
• 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.
• Due to injuries, ASU had 22 different players in the starting lineup. Douglas and defender Callie Darst were the only two players who started all 20 games. After winning all five of its one-goal games in non-conference play, ASU was not as fortunate in Pac-12 games as it went 1-6 in such games and also had a pair of ties.
• After losing two-year starter Giulia Cascapera in fall camp, the goalkeeper duties were split between freshmen Birta Gudlaugsdottir and Julia Ortega.
• Douglas (19 goals) and fellow striker Olivia Nguyen (seven goals) combined for 26 of ASU's 42 goals. Although Douglas and Nguyen accounted for the majority of the goals, ASU had 10 different players find the back of the net in 2021.
• Nguyen (17 points) finished second on the team in scoring. van Deursen scame within a point (16) of tying Nguyen for second in scoring.
SPOTLIGHT ON THE SUN DEVILS
Sun Devil Soccer will appear on Pac-12 Networks seven times in 2022: vs. South Dakota State (opening night on Aug. 18), vs. Hawaii (Aug. 21), vs. Pepperdine (Sept. 8), at USC (Oct. 9), vs. Utah (Oct. 14), at Washington State (Oct. 20), vs. Arizona (Nov. 4).
SMART SUN DEVILS
Sun Devil Soccer was well represented on the 2021 Pac-12 Fall Academic Honor Roll as 19 Sun Devils earned recognition from the conference. In addition, Lieske Carleer and Eva van Deursen were both named to the 2021 Academic All-District® Women's Soccer Team.