(Photo: Steve Rodriguez/ASU Athletics)
The Arizona State women’s soccer team’s quest to make history suffered a fatal blow Thursday afternoon in Tuscon, as they lost to Arizona 2-0.
The Sun Devils were seeking to earn a tournament bid for the fourth time in five seasons under head coach Kevin Boyd. Boyd stated before the game that a win would guarantee his squad a playoff berth.
The match, however, was all too reminiscent of the Sun Devils’ recent play: An anemic offense that lacks creativity, spacing, and movement away from the ball. For the fifth time in their last seven games, Arizona State was held scoreless—this time, it likely cost them their season.
The Sun Devil morale was weakened right from the start. Just three minutes into the match, Arizona midfielder Jaden Degracie found herself unpressured at the top of the box and unleashed a left-footed volley that found the upper right corner of the back of the net. The goal was her first on the season and gave Arizona a 1-0 lead.
For the remainder of the first half, Arizona State would control possession and completely shred the Arizona defense. The Sun Devils were clearly the more talented team; yet for every single opportunity they had to get on the scoreboard, Arizona goalkeeper Gabby Kaufman was there to preserve the lead.
The Sun Devil’s sense of urgency was there, but perhaps there was too much adrenaline. The stakes were high, and the team was pressing as a result. They seemed to just be missing that final pass and shot that may have led to a goal.
“That’s just the game of soccer,” Coach Kevin Boyd said at halftime, “You can completely outplay a team and have nothing to show for. We just have to slow our pulse down and remain composed. We are losing all calmness when we sense a chance to score.”
In theory, Boyd’s second-half adjustments may have been what the Sun Devils would need to find the back of the net. Yet in the second half, the tables were turned. The possession advantage and opportunities that Arizona State had in the first half were nonexistent in the second half.
Arizona would expand their lead in the 60th minute. The goal came from another unlikely source in midfielder Julia Glanz. She would net her second goal of the season on a header from the always lethal “flip” throw-in by Degracie. The assist was DeGracie’s eighth on the year.
The Sun Devils would fail to muster any genuine chance to score, and Arizona would run out the clock on the match, and possibly Arizona State’s season.
The victory gives the Territorial Cup back to Arizona, who beat the Sun Devils for only the third time in their last 17 matches. The win for the Wildcats also marks the resurrection of a soccer program that has historically struggled in conference play. Projected to finish last in the PAC-12 standings at the start of the year, Arizona now jumps to eighth place in the PAC-12. Arizona leads the PAC-12 with 38 goals, and Coach Tony Amato is a strong candidate for coach of the year.
For the Sun Devils, the loss potentially ends the careers of seven seniors: forward Devin Marshall, defender Jasmine Roth, forward Holland Crook, midfielder Blair Alderson, midfielder Rachael Ritter, defender Kaitlynn Pavlovich, and forward Jessica Dominchelli.
The loss puts the Sun Devils at 4-5-2 in the conference and 9-8-2 overall. The Sun Devils must hope that the selection committee recognizes the extreme depth of the Pac-12 conference. Aside from UCLA, there is little disparity in the talent of the remaining eleven teams. Some unfortunate breaks are all that separates Arizona State and a post season berth. All they can do now is wait.
You can reach Jacob Garcia on Twitter @jake3garcia or via email at Jacob.M.Garcia@asu.edu