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Soccer opens Pac-12 play at No. 17 Cal

September 22, 2011

The Arizona State women’s soccer team opens Pac-12 play on Sept. 23 (4 p.m. PT) when it travels to Berkeley, Calif., to take on No. 17 California.

The Sun Devils went .500 (4-4) during the non-conference portion of their schedule. ASU opened the season with a pair of home wins against Northern Arizona (7-0 on Aug. 19) and South Carolina (1-0 on Aug. 28).

The Sun Devils would then drop their first two road games of the season, losing to No. 4 Virginia (3-0 on Sept. 2) and Old Dominion (3-1 on Sept. 4).

ASU has come away with splits each of the last two weeks. In its home tournament ASU hosted a pair of Big 12 teams, defeating Oklahoma (3-0 on Sept. 9) before losing to Missouri (1-0 on Sept. 11). ASU then closed out the non-conference portion of its schedule last week in Tucson where it fell to Texas Tech (5-0) before rebounding to beat Pacific (1-0).

ASU traveled to Tucson for the Loews Ventana Canyon Resort Cats Classic hosted by the University of Arizona and came away with a split, losing to Texas Tech 5-0 on Friday and defeating Pacific 1-0 on Sunday.

In the opening contest of the weekend the Sun Devils played Texas Tech to a scoreless tie in the first half before the Red Raiders came back for five goals in the second half to take the match.

Already down two starters on the front line – sophomore Devin Marshall and redshirt sophomore Nicki Stone – and missing goalkeeper Vittoria Arnold, who split time with Alyssa Gillmore in the season’s first three games, the injury-plagued Sun Devils were down another starter entering Sunday’s game against Pacific as sophomore defender Kaitlyn Pavlovich was sidelined after being injured against Texas Tech.

With all that going against them the Sun Devils still found a way to win against a Pacific squad which came into Sunday’s contest on a four-match winning streak. In addition, the Tigers had not allowed a goal during that stretch.

It appeared ASU would be headed for its first overtime match of the season until freshman Alexandra Doller scored her team-leading fifth goal in the 86th minute to give the Sun Devils the eventual 1-0 win.

It was the fourth shutout of the season for the Sun Devils and the second for goalkeeper Alyssa Gillmore, who was credited with one save and was extremely active throughout the contest in preventing the Tigers from scoring.

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). Unfortunately ASU was dealt a serious blow when Marshall sustained an ankle injury 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 five 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. Tinnin has yet to play this season as she has been continuing rehab on the knee injury. It’s probable that she’ll be seeing her first action of the season on Friday against Cal.

Doller has been ASU’s top offensive performer thus far as she currently leads the team with five goals.

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 because of injury, missing ASU’s last six 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 48 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 four contests as Arnold remains sidelined. Gillmore earned her second shutout of the season in last Sunday’s win over Pacific.

The injury bug made its way into the Sun Devils’ back line last week 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.

• Cal has 7-4-3 record against ASU although two of the last four meetings ended in a tie and three of the four games went to double overtime. The Sun Devils last win over the Bears came in 2006 in Berkley.

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 leads the Sun Devils in goals after notching her fifth of the season in last Sunday’s win vs. Pacific.

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.