Sun Devil Soccer’s 2022 campaign comes to an end in NCAA opener at Portland
PORTLAND, Ore. – The Sun Devil soccer team's 2022 season – one that included the program's second NCAA appearance in three seasons – came to an end on Saturday night in a 3-0 loss at No. 8 seed Portland in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
For the Sun Devils (9-6-3), the ending was a disappointing one for a team – which included a quartet of fifth-year seniors that helped them start with an unbeaten record after eight games (6-0-2) for the second time in three seasons – that came into the NCAA Tournament ranked 22nd nationally in goals per game (2.24). With a fifth-place finish in a league always in the conversation about the best women's soccer conferences in the country and a final RPI of 32, the Sun Devils figured to have a body of work that would be good enough to land them a first round home game in the NCAA Tournament.
"Ultimately, we are very disappointed," ASU head coach Graham Winkworth said. "It's sad that we didn't have our best performance for the National Tournament, so I'm really devastated for that. I would have loved to have played this team at home. I felt we had a right for that, but unfortunately the committee didn't… I want to thank our fans for the incredible support. I'm sorry we didn't have one more game there, but I want to thank our fans for the incredible support they had given us all season, and those that supported us here in the stands tonight.
"We came here, we gave our best, but unfortunately it wasn't good enough today. We didn't play to our capabilities. Firstly, congratulations to Portland. They did a great job coaching and did a great job playing tonight, so well done to them, and I wish them all the best in Alabama."
Playing in temps in the 40s, the Sun Devils found it difficult to sustain a consistent attack. Despite a minus-6 deficit in shots (7-1) in the first half, ASU was able to keep the Pilots (12-4-4) off the board and both teams went to the locker room locked in a 0-0 tie at the half. Jazmine Wilkinson took ASU's only shot of the half and that was saved by Portland goalkeeper Bre Norris. ASU goalkeeper Pauline Nelles, who earlier this week earned Pac-12 All-Freshman and third-team All-Pac-12 honors, made three saves in the first half to keep Portland from scoring.
The game remained a stalemate until the 57th minute when the Pilots broke the tie with the game's first goal.
Lucy Johnson, who scored the game-winning goal in ASU's 3-2 win over Arizona in the regular season finale, had ASU's only shot on goal in the ensuing 18 minutes before the Pilots doubled their lead in the 75th minute.
Portland put the game out of reach with another goal to go up 3-0 in the 78th minute.
Nicole Douglas, the 2022 Pac-12 forward of the year and arguably the best offensive player in the history of the program, took ASU's final shot of the game but was not able to get her attempt past Norris who came up with the save.
Nelles ended the game with five saves. All five corner kicks the teams combined for were in the second half: Portland – 3, ASU – 2.
"I want to thank the incredible team and staff for a wonderful season," Winkworth said. "We're disappointed right now, but we'll wake up tomorrow and we'll know that we had an amazing year."
Saturday's game closed out the careers of fifth-year seniors Alexia Delgado, Nicole Douglas, Olivia Nguyen and Eva van Deursen and true seniors Giulia Cascapera, Callie Darst and Tahlia Herman-Watt. The program's NCAA appearances in 2020 and 2022 and four winning seasons – including a pair of 10-win campaigns – are among the most notable accomplishments of this year's class. The 2020 NCAA berth was Sun Devil Soccer's first since 2014 and set the program on its current upward trajectory as it looks to be major player on the national scene for years to come.
"Ultimately, this senior class is leaving an unbelievable legacy" Winkworth said. "I cannot wait to follow their progress in the professional ranks. I'm going to miss them terribly, but I just want to say thank you. Thank you to the players and thank you for all the support we have had this season."