ASU soccer wins weather-shortened season opener
In one of the more unusual games it has been a part of in recent memory, the Arizona State women's soccer team came away with a 2-0 win over UC Irvine in the season opener for both teams. The game was called in the 78th minute because of lightning after being delayed for an hour and 40 minutes earlier in the evening. The Sun Devils were awarded the victory because at least 70 minutes of the game had been completed.
"That was probably the strangest game I have ever coached in," Sun Devil head coach Kevin Boyd said following the contest, which lasted three hours and 10 minutes.
The elements could be felt in the game's opening minutes as gusty winds provided a challenge for the offensive attack on both sides. It would not take long for the Sun Devils to adjust. Two of the team's newest members teamed up for the first goal of the season in the 13th minute when freshman Taylor McCarter played a ball to freshman Bianca Doller, who then drilled a shot into the near post for a 1-0 lead.
"It was a terrific goal by Bianca and she was played in very well by Taylor," Boyd said.
The Sun Devils would add to their lead in the 25th minute when junior Alexandra Elston scored on a free kick from 20 yards out.
"[Alexandra] scored on an outstanding set piece," Boyd said. "We did not start well, but once we got going we got a couple nice goals. I thought we really started coming together and dominating the game."
The momentum the Sun Devils built came to an abrupt halt when lightning made its way into the area. Officials stopped the contest in the 35th minute and sent the teams to their respective locker rooms. The stoppage would last an hour and 40 minutes as storms passed through the area.
When play resumed more than two hours after the game originally started the two teams played the final 10 minutes of the first half before play was stopped again for an abbreviated five-minute halftime intermission.
The weather would worsen as play progressed in the second half. While the lightning had backed off, rain and extreme wind gusts created some adventurous situations on the field. While both teams were affected, it was the Sun Devils who often found themselves on their heels because of circumstances relating to wind direction and the goal they were defending.
"We got pinned on our end because we couldn't clear a ball in the air and get it to go anywhere and they were knocking balls at our goal that were going twice as long as they would normally because of the wind," Boyd explained. "Plus it's raining and so it made it very difficult out there."
As the weather continued to deteriorate the play on the field became even more intense. Over the last 25 minutes of the game six yellow cards (five on UCI and one on ASU) and one red card (UCI) were handed out.
"I thought our team handled things quite well," Boyd said. "We stayed out of the ugly part of it, but still managed to battle which is a credit to them. We definitely learned a few things from this game."
The Sun Devils, who are now 3-0 in season openers under Boyd, return to action next week when they travel to Knoxville, Tenn., for the Lady Vol Classic. The Sun Devils will face Tennessee on Friday (8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT) and Kansas on Sunday (12:30 p.m. ET/9:30 a.m. PT).