ASU Women's soccer goes on the road to face Cal and Stanford
After playing its last seven games at home, the Arizona State women's soccer team plays its first road game in more than a month on Friday (3:30 p.m. PT) when it faces the No. 23 Cal Golden Bears.
The Sun Devils enter Friday's game coming off a 1-0 upset of defending national champion USC on Sunday. The win snapped USC's 11-match unbeaten streak. Sophomore forward Karin Volpe scored her team leading seventh goal of the season while junior goalkeeper Briana Silvestri made nine saves to help the Sun Devils defeat a top-10 team for the first time since 2001.
Currently 7-4-3 (1-2-0 Pac-10), the Sun Devils are still very much in the hunt for an NCAA Tournament berth with six games remaining in the regular season. While the win over USC was an important step toward qualifying for the playoffs, the Sun Devils know there is still a lot of work to be done. Those challenges include remaining competitive in the toughest conference in the country - Pac-10 has eight teams ranked in the top 40 of the NCAA's last RPI released earlier this week - with a team that has lost six players to injury this season.
After playing the third- (UCLA) and seventh-ranked (USC) teams in the country last week, the Sun Devils will see no letup in this weekend's contests against No. 23 Cal (9-5-0, 2-2-0 Pac-10) and No. 2 Stanford 14-0-1 (4-0-0 Pac-10).
"We don't see this weekend's games being any different from last week's," said ASU head coach Kevin Boyd, who on Friday will be going up against the same program he previously coached for 10 seasons (1997-2006) and led to eight NCAA Tournament appearances. "Both opponents are deeper than us and we will be at their place. We recognize that we'll be a significant underdog against both teams, but we're going to go out there and face the challenge head on."
Cal is coming off a weekend in which it dropped a pair of close games at Washington State (2-1) and at Washington (3-2). Although they have lost their last two contests, the Golden Bears will be at home for Friday's contest against the Sun Devils where they are 6-1-0 (2-0-0 Pac-10) this season.
After their match with the Golden Bears, the Sun Devils will close out the weekend on Sunday (1 p.m. PST) with a contest against the second-ranked Stanford Cardinal. The Cardinal has not lost this season. The only time it didn't win a game this season was when it played current No. 4 North Carolina to a 1-1 draw on Sept. 12.
Last season ASU and Stanford played to a 0-0 tie in Tempe. The Sun Devils held a 13-10 advantage in shots in that game, including a 5-1 advantage in the two overtimes, however were unable to get the ball in the net.
FRESHMEN PLAY A KEY ROLE
The contributions the Sun Devils have received from this year's freshman class are among the factors that have helped them remain alive for a postseason berth despite the toll injuries have taken on their roster. Freshman Katie Shepard has started on the backline all season long while fellow freshman Kate Sangster joined her after starter Jessie Richardson was lost for the season. Kari Shane has played significant minutes in the midfield this season and Sierra Cook has also spent time as a starter at forward.
"We told them when the season first began that everyone needs to be ready to contribute because you never know when you will be called upon," said Boyd.
Within the last month the Sun Devils have added three players - Lexi Mann, Rachael Sheridan and Heather Woolschlager - to their roster from the school's club team. Mann actually spent the last two seasons with the Sun Devils while Sheridan (Middlesex, N.J./Immaculata HS) and Woolschlager (Baltimore, Md./Seton Keough HS) are in their first year playing at the NCAA Division I level. Mann has played in three games this season while Sheridan made her Sun Devil debut in ASU's contest against UCLA last Friday. Two days later Sheridan played a significant amount of time in ASU's 1-0 win over No. 7 USC.
Karin Volpe (12 career goals) moved into a tie for ninth place with former Sun Devil Jaclyn Clark (1997-00) on ASU's all-time list following her goal last week against USC. It was also the sixth game-winning goal of Volpe's career moving her into a tie for fifth place on ASU's all-time list.
After holding USC scoreless last Sunday junior goalkeeper Briana Silvestri now has six shutouts this season which puts her No. 3 on ASU's all-time list for most shutouts in a season. Now with 12 career shutouts, Silvestri is one shutout behind Kelley Fitzgerald for No. 3 on ASU's all-time list for most career shutouts.