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Soccer faces Wisconsin in first round of NCAAs

November 12, 2009

After a six-year absence the Arizona State women's soccer team makes its return to the NCAA Tournament this week when it travels to Madison, Wisc., for the first and second rounds. The Sun Devils begin NCAA play on Friday (7:30 p.m. CT/6:30 p.m. MT) when they face Wisconsin. The ASU-Wisconsin winner will face either UCF or Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the second round on Sunday at 1 p.m. CT/noon MT.

ASU in the NCAA Tournament
The Sun Devils will be making their fourth NCAA Tournament appearance (3-3 overall record) in the 14-year history of the program. While the Sun Devils have never lost a first round game, they also have yet to win a second round game. Below are ASU's all-time results in the NCAA Tournament.

Quick Recap of 2009 Season
The Sun Devils entered the 2009 season with the expectation of qualifying for NCAAs after barely missing out on a bid each of the last two seasons. Under third-year head coach Kevin Boyd the Sun Devils concluded the first half of the season with a 7-1-2 record and their first appearance in the Top 25 (19th in NSCAA poll) since the 2004 preseason. ASU's seven wins at the midway point tied the second-highest number of wins after 10 games in program history.

Two reasons for ASU's early success were its record in overtime games (2-0-2) and its ability to stay relatively healthy. Both factors contributed to ASU's .500 record in 2008 when it went 0-4-3 in overtime games and lost six players to season-ending injuries.

During the 2009 Pac-10 season the Sun Devils would once again become all too familiar with the same factors that slowed their progress one year earlier. The non-conference season would come to an inauspicious close against Northern Arizona on Sept. 27. Although the Sun Devils won the game by scoring a season-high four goals in the 4-0 win, they still left the field with a big loss as Briana Silvestri, the team's all-time leader in goals against average, sustained a season-ending injury.

Over the next month the Sun Devils would experience an unfortunate series of setbacks as they went winless in their first seven Pac-10 outings (0-6-1). Included in those games were overtime losses at third-ranked UCLA (3-2 2OT) at Arizona (2-1) and at California (3-2).

Despite their inability to break into the win column in conference play, the Sun Devils still found themselves in contention for an NCAA berth heading into the last weekend of the season. ASU's early season success combined with playing one of the toughest schedules in the country had the Sun Devils 37th in the RPI prior to its final homestand against the Oregon schools. Knowing a pair of wins could catapult them into NCAAs, the Sun Devils responded knocking off Oregon State 1-0 in overtime and Oregon 2-1. In the latter win the Sun Devils had to come from behind after falling behind 1-0 in the first half.

A little more than 24 hours after they had Oregon, the Sun Devils gathered around the television to find out if they had done enough to get into the tournament. Anxiety would quickly turn to elation as Arizona State's name was called shortly after the selection show began.

Scouting Wisconsin (9-5-5, 5-1-4 Big 10)
Wisconsin will be making its 15th appearance in the NCAA Tournament after finishing third in the Big Ten. The Badgers closed out the 2009 regular season with a seven-game unbeaten streak (4-0-3). The Badgers are led by sophomore forward Laurie Nosbusch, who earned second-team All-Big 10 honors after leading Wisconsin in goals (5), assists (6) and points (17). Eight other players have found the back of the net for Wisconsin this season, including freshman forward Paige Adams and sophomore midfielder Erin Jacobsen, who have three goals each. Much like ASU, Wisconsin has been involved in several close contests this season as 12 of its 19 games have been decided by a single goal (13 of ASU's 19 games have been decided by a goal). This will be the first ever meeting between ASU and Wisconsin.

Harkin and Elston Earn Pac-10 Recognition
Arizona State women's soccer players Liz Harkin and Alexandra Elston were recognized by the Pac-10 on Wednesday as the conference announced its annual award winners and All-Conference honors.
Harkin, a senior defender, earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors for the second straight year following a season in which her play on the backline helped the Sun Devils earn their first NCAA Tournament bid since 2003.

Elston, a junior midfielder, was named honorable mention All-Pac-10 after leading the Sun Devils in points (20) and goals (7) and tying for the team lead in assists (6). Included among Elston's seven goals were a pair of game winners, most recently last Sunday when her penalty kick goal in the 76th minute helped lead ASU over Oregon 2-1. The win helped propel the Sun Devils into NCAAs.

Working Overtime
One of the keys to ASU's earlier 7-1-2 start was its relative success in overtime compared to last season when it was unable to break into the win column as it went 0-4-3 in seven overtime contests. In its first four overtime games this season the Sun Devils were 2-0-2. However in its next four overtime games the Sun Devils went 0-3-1 with a loss at third-ranked UCLA (3-2 in double overtime), a 1-1 tie against Washington, a loss at Arizona (2-1 in double overtime) and a loss at Cal (3-2 in overtime). The Sun Devils were able to break the winless overtime streak last week when they defeated Oregon State 1-0.

Harkin Anchors ASU's Defense
One of the biggest factors in ASU's success during Kevin Boyd's two-plus seasons as head coach has been the Sun Devils' ability to hold the opposition's attack in check. While goalkeepers Briana Silvestri and Alyssa Gillmore have risen to the challenge when opponents have gotten within scoring range, senior defender Liz Harkin has made a habit of preventing opposing players from getting clear shots on Silvestri and Gillmore.

"When you have a player like Liz Harkin on the back line your defense automatically becomes one of the strengths of your team," said ASU head coach Kevin Boyd. "She's one of the best if not the best defender in the country. She doesn't get beat and she has added more knowledge and more technique to what she does and she is much more vocal this year."

Last season Harkin earned first-team All-Pac-10 honors and following the season joined the U.S. U-20 Team which captured the gold at the U-20 World Cup in Chile. In 2009, Harkin continued to distinguished herself as one of the nation's best. Earlier this season Harkin was named to both the Lady Vol Classic and Sun Devil Desert Classic All-Tournament Teams. She was named the Defensive MVP of the Sun Devil Dessert Classic after helping the Sun Devil shutout Old Dominion 1-0 (Sept. 4) and tie eighth-ranked Virginia 1-1 (Sept. 6). Most recently, Harkin was named first-team All-Pac-10 for the second consecutive season.

Elston Sparks the Sun Devils Attack
One of the biggest factors in ASU making back to the NCAA Tournament has been the play of junior midfielder Alexandra Elston. Named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman team two years ago, Elston was named All-Pac-10 honorable mention in 2009 following a regular season in which she led the Sun Devils in goals (7) and points (20) and tied for first on the team in assists (6). Earlier this season Elston helped carry the Sun Devils to victory as she notched both goals in ASU's 2-1 overtime win over San Diego State. In addition to tying her single-game career high for goals, Elston also tallied the fifth game-winning goal of her career, which moved her into a tie for eighth place on ASU's all-time list. For her effort against the Aztecs, Elston was named to the National Team of the Week for Women's Soccer. Last week Elston was named one of's Primetime Performers of the Week after she scored both of ASU's goals in the Sun Devils' 2-1 come-from-behind win over Oregon. With her second goal against the Ducks, Elston moved into a tie for sixth place on ASU's all-time list for most career game-winning goals (6).

Tinnin Brings More Firepower to Sun Devil Attack
One of ASU's most consistent players throughout the 2009 season has been redshirt freshman Courtney Tinnin. Although she is in her second year in the program, Tinnin, who was the Gatorade Player of the Year for the state of New Mexico in 2008, still has four years of eligibility after being forced to miss last season because of a knee injury she suffered in the season's second game. While she didn't score her first goal until late September, she has been among the team leaders in assists throughout the season. In recent games she has become even more dangerous as she earlier had a streak of three consecutive games in which she scored a goal. Tinnin concluded the regular season tied for second on the team in both points (14) and assists (6) and third in goals (4). She is one of four players who scored a goal against the Stanford Cardinal this season.

Home Sweet Home
The Sun Devils made the most of their opportunities to play in front of their home crowd this season at they went 7-1-2 at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium. The seven wins tied the second-highest number of home wins in program history. The Sun Devils are 18-9-4 at home in Kevin Boyd's

Volpe Always a Scoring Threat three seasons as head coach.
Another Sun Devils who is no stranger to success on the offensive end is junior forward Karin Volpe, who led the Sun Devils in goals, points and shots each of the last two seasons. In 2009, Volpe finished second on the team in goals (5) and finished tied for second on the team in points (14). In early September Volpe was named the Pac-10's Player of the Week after being the driving force behind the Sun Devils' 3-2 come-from-behind, double-overtime win over the Tennessee Lady Vols in Knoxville. After scoring the tying goal with 13 seconds left in regulation, Volpe would give the Sun Devils the win after scoring again in the 107th minute. Against Northern Arizona (Sept. 27), she turned in one of the best single-game efforts in program history as she scored two goals and assisted on two others in ASU's 4-0 win. The six points in a single game are a career best for Volpe and represent the second-highest single-game point total in program annals. Last week Volpe moved into a tied for third place on ASU's all-time list for game-winning goals (9) after heading in the game winner in ASU's 1-0 win over Oregon State. Volpe is also currently in eighth place in both career goals (19) and career points (46)
Fab Frosh
One storyline head coach Kevin Boyd was excited about heading into 2009 was the potential of this year's freshman class. Five members of that class - forwards Bianca Doller, and Kiara Williams, defender Sierra Joseph, midfielder Taylor McCarter and goalkeeper Alyssa Gillmore - have started at least one game for ASU this year.

A little more than 12 minutes into ASU's season opening win over UC Irvine (Aug. 21), Boyd's excitement was quickly validated as McCarter (assist) and Doller (goal) teamed up for ASU's first goal of the season. Doller came up big during her first Pac-10 home games as she scored both of ASU's two goals against Washington State (Oct. 16) and Washington (Oct. 18) and moved herself in to a tie for third on the team in goals (3). In August, during her first road game ever as a Sun Devil, Dolller, who finished the regular season fourth on the team in points (9), came up big in the second half of ASU's win over Tennessee as she assisted on both Karin Volpe's game-tying goal with 13 seconds left and her game winner in double overtime.

Later, it was another freshman who would provide the Sun Devils with offensive heroics as Kiara Williams came off the bench to score both of ASU's goals (and the first two of her career) in ASU's 1-0 win over Old Dominion and 1-1 tie against Virginia. Williams, who made the first start of her career against San Diego State on Sept. 11, was named to the Sun Devil Classic All-Tournament Team and was recognized by in being named one of its "Primetime Performers of the Week."

Against San Diego State (Sept. 11), freshman defender Sierra Joseph made her presence felt on the offensive end as her free kick set up the game-winning goal by Alexandra Elston in ASU's 2-1 overtime win. At Nebraska (Sept. 20), McCarter helped send the contest into overtime with the first goal of her career.

Another freshmen who established that she will be a factor for years to come is goalkeeper Alyssa Gillmore, who tied ASU's single-game school record with 14 saves earlier this season at third-ranked UCLA. Against Stanford, Gillmore showed her brilliance as she kept the Sun Devils within striking distance by making 12 saves in the game. Last week she collected the first two wins of her career, including the first shutout of her career in ASU's 1-0 overtime win vs. Oregon State. Gillmore concluded the regular season first in the Pac-10 in saves per game (6.4) and fourth in save percentage (.800).

Head Coach Kevin Boyd
Was named the third coach in the history of the ASU women's soccer program on March 30, 2007... Prior to coming to Arizona State spent 10 seasons as the head coach at California where he complied 124-63-20 record and led the Golden Bears to the NCAA Tournament eight times... Last season the Sun Devils nearly qualified for the NCAA Tournament despite losing six players to season ending injuries. ASU's 8-8-4 record included a win against seventh-ranked and defending national champion USC, ASU's first win over a Top-10 squad since 2001. In 2008 the Sun Devils also defeated No. 20 UC Santa Barbara and recorded ties at seventh-ranked Texas and at No. 22 California... In 2007, Boyd's first season at ASU, the Sun Devils produced a double-digit win total (10-9-1) for the first time since 2003... On the academic side, the Sun Devils have earned 21 Pac-10 All-Academic citations in Boyd's two seasons, including six first-team members and one second-team member. ASU has also had three student-athletes earn Academic All-America honors.

In 2007-08 the Sun Devils' 3.55 cumulative GPA was among the top 15 in the country according to the National Soccer Coaches Association of America... Under Boyd the, California produced 28 first or second-team All-Pac-10 Conference selections while also garnering 21 selections to the Academic All-Pac-10 first or second teams. Additionally, Boyd's teams carried a stellar overall GPA, leading all Cal teams during the 2003-04 season (3.34)... In his final season at California he led the Golden Bears to the third round, their deepest run in the tournament in nearly 20 years... Attended Tri-State University in Angola, Ind., where he was a four-year letter winner. An honorable mention All-American in 1989, Boyd was a three-time team captain for the Trojans while earning three all-district selections, three all-area selections and three all-MICL selections as a sweeper. For his efforts, he was inducted into the Tri-State Hall of Fame.