ASU soccer still unbeaten, but Wildcats finish Classic 1-1

Arizona State’s women’s soccer team is off to one of its fastest starts ever, six games into the season and still undefeated.

The ASU squad beat Tennessee and Nebraska over the weekend during the Sun Devil Desert Classic to run their record to 5-0-1.  The six-game unbeaten streak to start a season is the second-longest in program history, behind the 2000 team that got off to a 9-0-0 start.

To top it off, the Sun Devils entered the Classic as a nationally-ranked team.  They moved into the top 25 this past week for the first time this season, as Soccer America has them ranked No. 24 and the NCAA’s national rankings have them at No. 25.

Sunday’s 5-0 win against Nebraska also gave Karin Volpe a chance to tie a school record by scoring three goals in a single game.  Volpe, a senior forward, has tallied a pair of goals in a single game on four other occasions, but this marks a career high.

Against Tennessee on Friday, Volpe put the final nail in a 4-2 win over Tennessee, but the other goals were spread among her teammates – and came with a flurry.  Within a four-minute span late in the game, Alexandra Elston, Jasmine Roth, and Sierra Cook all scored.  Holland Crook set up two of the goals.

When you factor in the five goals against Nebraska, the Devils have now scored nine times in their last three halves.

Last year, ASU played to a 1-1 tie against the Cornhuskers in Lincoln.  It was a freshman, Taylor McCarter, who stepped up to score the tying goal late in the game.  This year, Volpe took over.

Volpe, who was named MVP of the Classic, scored the opening goal in the ninth minute and then wrapped up the win with goals in the 65th and 69th minutes.  In between, the Devils got scores from Elston, a senior midfielder from Mountain Pointe High HS in Phoenix, and Miah Mollay.

The University of Arizona was the fourth team invited to the Classic.  They had trouble in the opener with Nebraska, but closed out with a 3-1 win over Tennessee to run their record to 2-3-1.

The Cats were overwhelmed by the Cornhuskers in Friday’s game, as Nebraska out-shot them, 20-10, and 10-2 in shots on goal enroute to a 3-0 shutout.  Nebraska kept junior goalkeeper, Ashley Jett, busy with 10 shots on goal, while the Cats got only two, both in the second half.

In Sunday’s finale,The Lady Vols gave UofA all they could handle, out-shooting them, 16-15, including 10-6 in shots on goal.  And Jett had to make nine saves to keep the score in check.

The Cats’ leading scorer, Renae Cuellar, put things on the right track right away, scoring unassisted at the 1:03 mark from just outside, past the Vols’ backline.  Then before halftime arrived, she fired into the upper right corner of the net for her sixth goal of the seaso, and later provided an assist to freshman Jensen Skinner, who found the net from 15 yards out in the second half.

ASU will have to get past this weekend’s opponents in a four-team tournament hosted by University of Arizona in order to keep its win streak alive and keep chasing that record-setting nine-win streak.  The Devils play Ohio State out of the Big Ten on Friday and Central Florida from Conference USA on Sunday.

Neither game is going to be easy.

The Buckeyes are 5-1-1 and very stingy on defense, putting up four shutouts and allowing just 4 goals in seven games.  The Knights, 4-2-0, were on a four-game winning streak until No. 8 Florida State put an end to it in a 3-1 loss.

(Photo: ASU Athletics/Steve Rodriguez)