Sun Devil Soccer defeats Cal 2-1 to remain unbeaten
TEMPE, Ariz. – For the second time in as many weeks, the Sun Devil soccer team's dynamic duo in the midfield – fifth-year seniors Alexia Delgado and Eva van Deursen – led the Sun Devils to victory as both players found the back of the net in ASU's 2-1 win over Cal on Thursday.
Sun Devil Soccer head coach Graham Winkworth labeled the opening fifteen minutes as "chaos." Both teams bounced from one end to another, due to the openness of the field, as both sides came out in a high press. Keri Matthews supplied the Sun Devils (6-0-2, 2-0 Pac-12) with their first two shots, while three different Golden Bears (5-3-3, 0-2) took shots in the first eleven minutes. Cal took a 1-0 lead in the 11th minute after burying a penalty kick, awarded to it due to a handball call.
The Sun Devils' efforts to get back into the game did not subside. While not holding much of the ball in succession, ASU was inching closer to tying the score. The defense became compact and cut the shots allowed from Cal down to two, with only one of those calling for Pauline Nelles to come out and save.
For the second straight week, it was Delgado who accounted for ASU's first goal. Nicole Douglas won the ball, weaving throughout the midfield. Upon reaching the last standing defender, she was taken down for a spot right outside the box. The spot was favorable for Delgado, so she floated it into the left of the net, above and wide of the Cal goalkeeper for a goal in the 22nd minute. The captain has now scored four in her last five games, with her last two coming off free kicks. The midfielder's game-tying goal marked her single-season career high with four in just eight games.
ALL TO PLAY FOR
The remaining 23 minutes in the first half and on, the game transformed into a midfield battle. The style of play put Delgado and van Deursen front-and-center, shining light on their technical ability. Van Deursen navigated in tight spaces on the flank and showcased crafty play, trying to pierce through the Golden Bears' defense.
Delgado's technical ability won over Winkworth, declaring "Alexia has the best touch in the Pac-12. I wouldn't trade her technical ability for anybody in the league."
WAIT IT OUT
In the second half, when the Bears managed to impose themselves in the box, an ASU defender was ready to send it out for a corner. The Sun Devils continued to impress on defending set pieces, as they saw 10 opposing corners and yet allowed none to enter the net. Defensive mainstay Lieske Carleer knocked two corner kicks away in dangerous areas to keep the game tied at 1-1. The effort on corners carried over, blocking crosses and clearing Cal kicks, holding off danger in anticipation the midfield could make a play to crack the Golden Bears' defense.
VAN DEURSEN WITH ANOTHER ONE
In the 73rd minute, the time had finally struck for ASU to take the lead. None other than Delgado created the chance, with a towering ball near the goal, just in time for van Deursen's trademark late run into the box to notch the game-winning goal. Van Deursen's goal follows her game-winning goal in the final seconds of last week's win at Colorado. Her five goals in five games coincides with her midfield partner, Delgado's scoring surge of her own.
DEVILS DIG DEEP
Leading, the Sun Devils faced challenges keeping possession to manage the clock. ASU saw five shots and six corner kicks from the opposition. Nelles and company's effort is what took the Sun Devils to the finish line. With all eleven players doing their part, from forward Gabbi Rennie hanging back to send out a dangerous ball, to Jazmine Wilkinson knocking away a corner, ASU heard the whistle to mark the victory.
The work ethic could not be discounted against Cal, with Winkworth looking ahead, "We have to do better as coaches to elevate our team's performance, but I don't think we can elevate the team effort [more] than what I saw tonight. I thought they were incredible."
- ASU's 2-0 start in conference play is the first time it has opened with two wins since 2007. ASU, top-ranked UCLA and No. 20 USC are currently the only 2-0 teams in Pac-12 play. Washington State is also unbeaten with a 1-0-1 record.
- From an overall record standpoint, ASU's current 6-0-2 mark is its best record after eight games since it started the 2020 campaign (played in the spring of 2021) with the same record.
- An extra assist goes out to the 1,915 fans in attendance on Thursday night. The Sun Devils had a school record crowd of 2,067 for its NCAA first round game vs Northern Arizona in 2014. More recently, the Sun Devils played in front of 1,911 fans for their rivalry game vs. Arizona in 2018.
The Sun Devils will be back at home on Sunday (1 p.m. MST) when they host Stanford. Click here to purchase tickets for the game.