(Photo: Scotty Bara/WCSN)
For the fourth time in six years, the Arizona State Sun Devils have earned a spot among the 64-team field in the NCAA tournament.
The Sun Devils’ appearance also marks the fourth time they will participate in the tournament under head coach Kevin Boyd.
Eight other Pac-12 teams will join the Sun Devils (11-5-4, 4-4-3 Pac-12), including last year’s champion UCLA.
“The truth is the Pac-12 was by far the best conference in the country. We’ve been proving that all year long,” Boyd said. “We all legitimately belong.”
In the history of the program, ASU has only participated in the NCAA tournament seven times. The first time the Sun Devils qualified for the post season was in 2000, when they fell to then No. 10 Portland in the second round.
ASU found itself back in the tournament 2002, and again in 2003. Both years, the Sun Devils’ championship hopes were crushed by Santa Clara in the second round.
After that, ASU failed to make the tournament for over five years, and since has not made it past the first round.
In 2009, during Boyd’s third season with the team as head coach, the Sun Devils qualified once again. The happiness was short lived, as Wisconsin bested the Devils in a penalty shootout during the first round.
Even more painful was ASU’s post-season loss to UC Irvine the following year.
The Sun Devils were ahead the entire game and it looked like they would move to the second round. Then, with less than 20 minutes left in the match, UC Irvine managed to score two goals in the span of 2:14 putting them ahead 2-1 and giving them the win.
Their last attempt at the national title was two years ago, when the Sun Devils fell to third-seeded Baylor 3-1. Nine currently active players were on that roster.
This time around, ASU will be looking to break past the first round ceiling they seem to have hit as they take on the Northern Arizona Lumberjacks (12-5-4, 7-2-3 Big Sky)
The last time the two teams met was during a preseason scrimmage, where ASU defeated the Lumberjacks 4-1.
Kick off is at 7 p.m. on Saturday at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium.
You can e-mail Anthony Marroquin at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @tonymarro11