(Photo: Nicole Neri/WCSN)
The Arizona State women’s soccer team topped the Cal State Fullerton Titans 2-0 at Sun Devil Stadium Friday night.
In the early minutes, it was Cal State Fullerton that came out as the aggressor. It put offensive pressure on ASU early, getting a shot and a corner kick in the first five minutes.
ASU started to get some offensive pressure after that, but the first ten minutes saw a lot of dump and chase soccer.
Around the middle of the first half, the match started to get physical and defensive.
ASU senior midfielder Lucy Lara made her presence felt as she got in an intense shouting argument with a Cal State Fullerton player after getting the ball from her in the defensive half.
Lara feels like her role is developing on both sides of the ball.
“That comes along with my teammates….they were communicating with me when to go and when not to go. I feel like we all have that mentality of having each other’s backs.”
Lara continued to make plays, as she scored the first goal of the game on a shot just outside the half circle in the 22nd minute. The save was botched by Fullerton senior keeper Jennifer Stuart, but it was nonetheless the offensive highlight of the first half.
“I think we were due for a little luck,” head coach Kevin Boyd said about the first goal. “We’ve been playing well. We’ve been outshooting opponents and just not getting results in a couple other games.”
As the half continued, chances were limited to crosses, long through balls and, at best, weak shots on goal from both sides. The Cal State Fullerton defense was consistently able to tightly defend ASU attackers and deflect dangerous passes, resulting in the Lara goal. The only one in the half.
However, it was noteworthy that the leading scorer in the Pac 12, junior Sun Devils forward Jazmarie Mader, played more of a passing than scoring role in the first half. She made several dangerous passes into the box that were either cleared or too long, which differs from her normal role as a goal scorer.
“She’s playing really well, she just read the game,” Coach Boyd said. “They’re trying to focus on her because she has got six goals. So every team we play is going to be set up to figure out how to stop her. That then benefits Aly (Moon), Nat (Stephens), and some people around her.”
Although it was the Titans who came out on the attack in the first minutes of the game, it was the Sun Devils who came out swinging in the early minutes of the second half.
ASU sophomore forward Natalie Stephens brought the ball up the right wing and found junior forward Jazmarie Mader, who had a perfect pass to sophomore midfielder Adriana Orozco in front of the net. She buried it to put ASU up 2-0.
As the second half progressed, the game become much more offensive than in the first half, particularly for ASU.
Although Cal State Fullerton managed to get a few strong shots early in the second half, the ASU attack came out in full force.
After the goal, it became apparent that Stephens was the biggest offensive facilitator, which held true throughout the whole second half.
Stephens consistently hustled for passes, fought physically for possession and had three shots hit the post in a span of 32 minutes in the second half. Although it may not show up on the stat sheet, this was her strongest performance of the season.
Additionally, Lucy Lara continued to be an impact player on both sides of the ball throughout the game.
She scored her second goal of the season in the first half, then had two solid free kicks in the second half. One was just wide left, and the other was saved just inside the near post.
She also continued to drop back to the top of the box defensively on several occasions, as she helped break up offensive attacks and preserve the shutout.
Arizona State dominated Fullerton from a conditioning standpoint in the second half as well. They controlled possession and scoring chances much more than in the first half, and it became more evident as the half went on.
The final score of the game was only 2-0, as the post bailed out Cal State Fullerton team four times in the second half alone. In the end, it was the performance the Sun Devils were looking for in their final game of non-conference play.
Pac-12 play starts next week against UCLA on Thursday.