Soccer goes back on the road for contests at Utah and Colorado

For the third time in as many weeks the Arizona State women's soccer team will find itself on the road when it travels to Salt Lake City and Boulder, Colo., for games at Utah (Fri. at 7 p.m. MT) and at Colorado (Sun. at 1 p.m. MT). This week's contests are against the newest members of the Pac-12 Conference.

The Arizona State women's soccer team fell to No. 17 Cal 1-0 on Friday in the opening match of Pac-12 play for both teams.

Missing numerous key players because of injury - players who have combined for more than half of ASU's goals this season - the Sun Devils were held scoreless for the third time in their last four games, nullifying a strong defensive effort against a Cal team which came into the game ranked No. 4 in the country in goals per game (3.75).

Time and again throughout the contest the Sun Devils would stymie the Cal attack each time it would get within striking distance. Offensively, the Sun Devils were able to advance the ball into Cal's side of the field several times, however were not able to create any scoring dangerous opportunities near the Cal goal.
Cal would break the tie in the 74th minute when redshirt freshman forward Grace Leer scored on rebound to give the Bears the eventual 1-0 win.

Sierra Cook led the Sun Devils with three shots while Kari Shane had two. Among the other four Sun Devils who registered a shot was redshirt junior Courtney Tinnin, who started against Cal. It was Tinnin's first action in a regular season game since 2009, missing last season because of a knee injury.

Coming off back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances, the Sun Devils are looking to make it three NCAA bids in a row for the first time in school history. In order to do that ASU will have to overcome the challenge of losing its top two scorers from last season (and two of the top 10 scorers in school history) - Karin Volpe (No. 6 all time - 65 points, 28 goals) and Alexandra Elston (No. 9 all time - 48 points, 18 goals) - to graduation.

One player who figured to help the Sun Devils fill the aforementioned offensive void is sophomore forward Devin Marshall, who was named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team last season after finishing third on the team in scoring (10 points) and tied for first in assists (4). Marshall scored in ASU's season opening win over Northern Arizona (Aug. 19), but sustained an ankle injury two weeks later while assisting on teammate Alexandra Doller's goal in the first half of ASU's 3-1 loss at Old Dominion (Sept. 4). Marshall has missed ASU's last six contests and her availability is currently being evaluated on a week-to-week basis.  

Other returners who have shown the ability to find the back of the net on multiple occasions include redshirt junior forward Sierra Cook (8 career goals - 3 in 2011) and redshirt junior Courtney Tinnin (4 career goals).

Tinnin, who led ASU in assists in 2009 with six, did not play in 2010 due to a knee injury sustained in the spring of 2010. After missing the first eight games of this season rehabbing the injury, Tinnin made her 2011 debut in last week's Pac-12 opener at Cal.

Doller was ASU's top offensive performer (her five goals lead the team) through the first eight games before suffering an injury during the week of preparations leading up to ASU's game at Cal.

Another player who was expected to have an impact on the offensive end is redshirt sophomore Nicki Stone, who has spent the better part of the last two seasons recovering from knee injuries. Stone began the 2011 season as a starter on ASU's front line and scored the game-winning goal in ASU's win over South Carolina on Aug. 28. However Stone has not played since then because of injury, missing ASU's last seven games. She is currently being evaluated on a week-to-week basis.

The ASU midfield figures to be a strength of the team as it returns 2010 All-Pac-10 Second-Team performer Taylor McCarter (has started all 49 career games) and sophomore Holland Crook, who started 14 of 20 contests last season and had a strong offseason according to Sun Devil head coach Kevin Boyd.

The Sun Devils return the majority of their starting back line from last season in addition to junior goalkeeper Alyssa Gillmore, who came into the season with 30 consecutive starts. Last season Gillmore posted five shutouts, including one of eventual College Cup participant Ohio State.

Gillmore split time with sophomore keeper Vittoria Arnold in the season's first three contests before Arnold was injured in the first half of ASU's loss at Virginia (Sept. 2). Gillmore has played every minute of ASU's last six contests as Arnold remains sidelined. Gillmore earned her second shutout of the season in ASU's win over Pacific (Sept. 18).

The injury bug made its way into ASU's back line two weeks ago as sophomore defender Kaitlyn Pavlovich (had started all 27 games in her career) sustained a back injury against Texas Tech and is sidelined indefinitely.

The seven goals ASU scored in its 7-0 win over Northern Arizona on August 19 tied the single-game school record for most goals.  The original record was set and then equaled in consecutive weeks by the 2000 squad, which defeated Pittsburgh 7-0 on Sept. 10, 2000 and then followed that up with a 7-0 win over Eastern Michigan on Sept. 17.

Both Sierra Cook and Alexandra Doller scored a pair of goals against NAU. Also finding the back of the net for the Sun Devils were Jasmine Roth, Devin Marshall and Sarah Van Horn. Holland Crook assisted on a pair of ASU's goals.

• Utah and Arizona State have split their previous four contests with the home team prevailing each time. Utah won the most recent meeting, 1-0 in 2001.
• Arizona State has won the only two games it has played against Colorado winning the last game by a score of 3-1.  

One of the biggest factors in ASU's success the last two-plus seasons has been its ability to get off to good starts to open the season. Including the first eight games of 2011, the Sun Devils are 17-7-4 in August and September games since 2009.

Last season the Sun Devils began with a 6-0-1 record, which represented the second-longest unbeaten streak to start the season in school history. The only ASU team to have a longer streak was the 2000 squad, which began the season 9-0-0.

As has been the case in recent years, the Sun Devils will play one of the toughest schedules in the country. The Sun Devils will face seven teams in 2011 who were ranked in the NSCAA Preseason Top 25 (five of those seven squads reside in the Pac-12 Conference).

Aug. 28 - vs. South Carolina (#21 preseason)
Sept. 2 - at Virginia (#10 preseason)
Oct. 7 - vs. Oregon State (#19 preseason)
Oct. 14 - vs. Stanford (#2 preseason)
Oct. 21 - at USC (#25 preseason)
Oct. 23 - at UCLA (#16 preseason)
Oct. 30 - vs. Washington (#20 preseason)

The Sun Devils have made the most of their opportunities to play in front of their home crowd the last two-plus seasons as they are a combined 15-4-3 at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium since 2009. In addition, the Sun Devils are 15-1-2 in their last 18 non-conference games at home, a stretch which goes back to the 2008 season.

ASU's seven home wins in 2009 tied the second-highest number of home wins in program history. Last season the Sun Devils established a new single-game attendance record when 1,513 fans poured into Sun Devil Soccer Stadium for ASU's 2-1 State Farm Territorial Cup Series win over Arizona on October 15. The old record was 1,505 which came against Notre Dame in 2004.

Alexandra Doller's two goals vs. Northern Arizona tied the school record for the most goals by a freshman in a season opener. Also accomplishing the feat was former Sun Devil Brittney Doty, who scored a pair of goals in ASU's season opening win at UC Irvine in 2006.

Doller (currently injured) leads the Sun Devils in goals, after her fifth of the season in ASU's win vs. Pacific (Sept. 18).

On August 9, former Sun Devil Soccer player Stacey Tullock became the first ever soccer player to be named to the ASU Sports Hall of Fame. Tullock is Arizona State's all-time leader in goals (44), game-winning goals (15), assists (19) and total points (107). In 1998, she became the school's first All-American selection, awarded by Soccer Buzz.

Tullock will be officially inducted into the ASU Sports Hall of Fame during halftime of the ASU-Oregon State football game on Oct. 1.