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ASU Soccer: Sun Devils lack composure against Denver

Denver University Pioneers freshman defender Chyenne Shorts fends off a challenge from Arizona State University Sun Devils freshman forward Hailey Zerbel during the Pioneers' 3-1 victory over the Sun Devils during the Sun Devil Desert Classic on Sunday, September 4, 2016 at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe, Ariz. (James Powel/ WCSN)

The Arizona State Women’s Soccer team (3-1-1) found themselves on the losing side of a result for the first time this season Sunday night, dropping the contest 3-1 to Denver University

Coming off an impressive 3-0 victory over Columbia University, heavily favored ASU looked to keep their undefeated record unscathed. Their Summit League foes for the night entered with a 1-4 record, only having scored two goals on the year.

“We were talking about how much we should beat (Denver) by at the pregame meal,” junior forward Jazmarie Mader said. “We didn’t have the same mentality that we had on Friday, and I think it showed on the field.”

Comparably to their last match Friday night, ASU created a multitude of chances in the first 25 minutes, yet failed to score. The Pioneers, however, had only two shots in the same amount of time, with one of them finding the upper left corner of the net. Sophomore Denver forward Mary DeWalt connected on a shot from well outside the box in the sixth minute. The shot flew over ASU redshirt Junior goalkeeper Megan Delaney and into the net.

“Denver saw us play Friday night and they were really really focused,” ASU Head Coach Kevin Boyd said. “I was quite concerned our team would take this game lightly stepping on the field, and that’s how we started the game. If your head’s not right coming in, it’s hard to change it on the fly.”

Following the early opportunities, the Devils looked sluggish across the field, failing to produce any notable scoring opportunities.

Denver University (2-0-4) held their own all night, playing stiff defense and avoiding mistakes. The backline for the Pioneers was especially notable, putting pressure on ASU’s forwards and squandering opposing scoring chances.

The first half ended in nightmarish fashion for ASU, with the Pioneers doubling up the score within seconds of the half’s conclusion off a shot from Karina Fredette following a free kick.

“You’re 1-0 going into halftime and they kick it from 50 some yards straight in the goal right through our goalkeeper’s hands, that’s pretty bad,” Boyd said. “Now we’re going into the locker room down 2-0, instead of down 1-0, there’s a huge difference.”

The opening 45 minutes served as the epitome of frustration for the Sun Devils. Mader had a goal called offsides in the late minutes of the half, and another turned away by the cross bar just moments later.

ASU went into the locker room at halftime confused and looking for answers. The Pioneers, who had two goals in the entirety of their season coming into tonight, matched that total in a single half of play. The Sun Devil’s starting keeper, redshirt junior Megan Delaney, was pulled as result.

Mader made up for the missed chances early on, scoring in the 54th minute, bringing the Devils within one and hungry for an equalizer.

Those hopes were crushed 20 minutes later. Denver scored off a sequence following a free kick, the Pioneers taking advantage of a badly exposed Sun Devil defense.

Fatigue as well a general sense of wariness appeared to plague the Devils in the second half. Denver was quicker to the ball and played for more physicality for much of the latter 45 minutes. The Sun Devils ended the game with 20 shots to the Pioneers 6, yet still struggled to find any rhythm.

“Our possession wasn’t strong,” Boyd said. “We never put together eight passes in the middle of the field. Everything we did was long passing and trying to get behind which really isn’t our game. We didn’t do 10 yard passes and the 2 touch rhythm connect, we didn’t do any of that and that’s who we are.”

The Devils simply lacked composure for most of the 90 minutes and were outclassed by their opponents all night.

“It’s a tough one, a tough 90-minute lesson,” Mader said. “We’ll all go home and really reevaluate what happened. “We all take it personally we’ll show up on Tuesday ready to go at practice and act like it never happened.”

The Sun Devils will look to rebound Friday night against The University of San Francisco in Tucson.

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