Tomorrow, the second-ranked Arizona State Sun Devils travel to California to take on the no. 15 Cal Bears at the Pac-12 Shootaround in Los Angeles. It will be the season-opener for the Devils, who are coming off a third consecutive MCLA Final Four appearance.
The Bears, on the other hand, are 1-1 after a 17-4 win at Pepperdine and a 9-8 loss in overtime at UC Santa Barbara. ASU head coach Chris Malone is focused on not overlooking the match-up.
“They’re going to be hungry, and they’re going to be wanting to take advantage of this opportunity. They had an opportunity to beat a top 10 team (UC Santa Barbara) and they let it slip away, and here’s another opportunity. I think those guys are going to want to take advantage of this game tomorrow.”
The teams’ two styles will clash when they take the field. The Bears want to play a slow-paced game, set up a slow, deliberate offense and kill the clock.
ASU will attempt to do the opposite, by getting pressure on the Bears, forcing turnovers and getting out in transition.
The Sun Devils can score six-on-six, but will look to create as many one- and two-man advantages as they can to spread the defense out and open inside lanes for score-first players such as attacker Justin Straker and midfielder Logan Quinn.
However, the biggest story surrounding this game will be in net for ASU. Goalie Brandon Propp is taking over after Dylan Westfall’s graduation last year, and Saturday will be his first career start. He has quite the legacy to live up to, with Westfall’s career 6.48 GAA.
“Dylan Westfall’s a great player, and everyone will always remember him here. But I’m hoping to show myself, show the team that just because Dylan Westfall left, it doesn’t mean that there’s a gap in the team,” Propp said.
It will also be a first for the 18 newcomers on this ASU team, including freshmen Nick McEneany, Finn Wells, and Mitchell Drake.
“I’m not trying to stand out or anything. I’m just trying to play good defense, I’m trying to communicate, trying to listen to everybody on my team. I’m not there to do anything spectacular, I’m there to help manage the defense,” Drake said about tomorrow’s debut.
ASU finished 13-6 last season en route to their Final Four appearance. The team hasn’t lost a season-opening game since 2007.