(Photo: James Powel /WCSN)
The Arizona State women’s soccer team (5-2-1) heads to Los Angeles Thursday, to take on No. 11 ranked UCLA (6-2-0). This will be both teams’ opening game of Pac-12 play.
Thursday’s match will be the biggest test thus far for the Sun Devils, as they have yet to play a ranked opponent this season. ASU is looking to stay in the win column, as it is coming off of back-to-back shutout victories against Northern Illinois and Cal State Fullerton, respectively.
Likewise, UCLA has won three straight and has outscored opponents 8-2 in its last three games. Additionally, they had key wins against No. 14 Texas A&M and No. 16 Penn State earlier in the season.
The matchup to watch in this game will be the UCLA offense against the Sun Devil defense. ASU has won in shutout fashion in their last four victories, and are starting to come into their own defensively behind new starting goalkeeper Emma Malsy.
The Sun Devil backline, anchored by senior defender Mckenzie Grossman, has had an improved look in the past two games. With the help of senior midfielder Lucy Lara, who dropped back on several occasions Friday to make key defensive breakups, the defense has consistently kept opponents from getting lots of good shots on net.
However, Thursday’s game will be the first true test for this newly fortified defense. UCLA senior forward Darian Jenkins and freshman midfielder Jessie Fleming have combined for 11 goals this season, the most between two teammates in the Pac-12.
On the flip side, the Sun Devil offense will look to keep producing against a less than stellar Bruins defense.
Led by Jazmarie Mader’s six goals, tied for first in the Pac-12, ASU is one of the more high-scoring offenses in the conference. They are currently tied for third, averaging 2.12 goals per game.
UCLA, however, has allowed the second most goals per game in the Pac-12 with 0.98.
The focus for ASU will be to continue passing to set up strong scoring chances in the box, as they did Friday against Cal State Fullerton.
Opposing defenses will inevitably start to pay more attention to Mader, which was obvious in Friday’s matchup. As a result, it will be up to players such as Lucy Lara and Adriana Orozco (Friday’s goal scorers), as well as Natalie Stephens (three shots off the post Friday) to step up offensively.
Thursday’s game will kick off at 7:00 p.m. and can be streamed live online via Pac-12 Networks.