(Photo: Christian Coates/WCSN)
2067 fans crammed into the Sun Devil Soccer stadium on Saturday night to watch ASU advance to the second round of the NCAA tournament.
This will be the team’s first appearance in the second round since 2003.
Early momentum was the key to success in Arizona State’s 4-2 victory over Northern Arizona in this in state first round battle. The Sun Devils started off both halves with quick goals within the first two minutes. The first two goals of the game both came within five minutes of the initial whistle from forward Aly Moon.
Moon now holds the record for the quickest two goals scored by a freshman in her first NCAA tournament game.
The dynamic aspect of this Sun Devil offense proved itself once again as junior forward Cali Farquharson came out of the game early in the first half with an injury. This, which appeared to be a setback, only fueled ASU’s fire as other key players stepped up to get the ball in the back of the net.
The Sun Devil’s success resulted from the combination play between the midfielder’s and the strikers. The ASU forwards were able to use their strength to hold the ball up top, and lay it off to the incoming midfielders. The fourth goal was a pure class finish after a quick combination play. Moon dumped it back to midfielder Whitney Kanavel, and Kanavel curled it in to the near post for the goal.
This type of fast paced play enabled the Arizona State offense to tactically break down the NAU defensive third.
The Sun Devils also looked sharp and fit. They were able to withstand any attack that the Lumberjacks made and play out of the back. The quick passing out of the back lead to many attacks by ASU, which consequently led to many fast breaks.
The NAU defense looked to be in shambles, as the Sun Devils attackers caused havoc often throughout the night.
Comparing to the regular season, the Sun Devils showed their true potential against NAU. They were able to hold the ball well in the midfield and precisely execute passes to the attacking minded players. In addition, Arizona State’s outside backs collected the ball with ease in attacks and pursued their runs forward, contributing to the high success of the offensive plays. This is something that was lacking in the regular season.
Regardless, the Arizona State defense showed resilience in this match. First-team All-Pac-12 defender McKenzie Berryhill proved why she’s the leader of the squad with the composure that she adds within the back four. Her vocal and example filled leadership contributed to the quality of play coming out of the back in a high profile game. She was able to solely control a game of mass importance, showing her mental strength.
Next up, Arizona State will play in round two of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament against Kentucky in Charlottesville, Va. next Friday.
You can reach Michelle Minahen on Twitter @Meechmina or via email at email@example.com