The Sun Devils take on the Cal Poly Mustangs, in a rematch from the 2012 MCLA Final Four. The Devils took the fall in the semifinal game, 10-4.
Now, ASU (2-0) brings its no. 2 ranking into the cold climate of Minnesota, the host site for round-robin play between struggling no. 15 Cal Poly (2-2) and the surging 18th-ranked University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (4-0).
It’s a whole new season, though, and the match-up between ASU and Cal Poly couldn’t be any different.
Coming off a loss in a double-overtime thriller last night, the Mustangs will have to find early energy to match the pace and tempo of the Sun Devils, who have scored 33 goals in their first two games.
The most intriguing tactical aspect of the match-up is that Cal Poly is one of the few teams to instill a zone defense on the field, which should throw the Sun Devils in for a bit of an adjustment offensively.
“The guys are fired up, especially the guys we had from last year,” Coach Malone said. “But Cal Poly’s a completely different team this time around. We’ve still gotta go into the match-up feeling like it’s a whole new team.”
Payson Clark echoed his sentiments.
“Everybody’s fired up. It’s exciting to be getting another go at this team. Everyone wants to get the win back,” the team’s captain and leading point-scorer said.
Keys to Victory
- ASU will need to play with consistent tempo throughout in order to wear down the Mustangs effectively. Keeping in mind that it was nearly midnight when Cal Poly wrapped up its game against UMD, there is no reason that the Sun Devils shouldn’t be able to take advantage of their extra depth and conditioning to force tired, mental mistakes.
- Cal Poly will need to find confidence in their zone defense. It’s something the Devils haven’t faced, and because the team has no defensemen familiar with the style, it’s almost impossible for ASU to simulate it in practice. Early turnovers will be key.
- Goaltending for the Sun Devils will be crucial. The starter for today’s game is still up in the air and will likely be a game-time decision, according to Coach Malone, but whichever candidate gets the spot (between Brandon Propp and Preston Andersen) will need to step up in a neutral site against an athletic, capable team.
Player to Watch
ASU’s Ben Martynec, #21 Midfielder
There are two key reasons to be keeping a close eye on Martynec. He’s the hometown kid this weekend, and being in familiar territory should benefit him in some way. More importantly, though, he is running the point in the 1-4-1 offense; in other words, he is going to be coordinating the breakdown of this Cal Poly zone defense. If Martynec is able to break the early pressure and expose his isolation match-ups, expect him to be a consistent contributor on the field.