Final two games are must-win for ASU women’s soccer

The Arizona State women’s soccer team rolled into its weekend games with the Pac-10 Oregon schools, with just four games left in the regular season and an NCAA Tournament berth a very real possibility.

But losses to both schools, 1-0 to No. 15 Oregon State and 2-0 to Oregon, have put those post-season prospects squarely on the outcome of the final two games this weekend.

Cue the drum roll, please.

The Sun Devils are 8-6-3 overall and were hoping to get to 10 wins to give them a good chance to secure a spot in the tournament this year.  Last year they got an invitation based on just nine wins, but they wanted a little extra insurance that would come with a 10-win mark this year.

Last week, the Devils needed to win just half of their final four games.  Now they are facing must-win situations in a pair of home games against USC and UCLA.

But the only way that’s going to happen is if ASU suddenly finds its offense again.  The Devils have scored just five goals in the last 11 games, all five on either free kicks or corner kicks.

In Friday’s Oregon State game, the Devils came out on the offensive, taking four of the first five shots of the game, but fizzled down the stretch and were out-shot 10-3 in the final 45 minutes by a Beaver team that has recorded 12 shutouts and allowed just seven goals all season.  Junior defender Kari Shane led the charge with five shots and sophomore goalkeeper Alyssa Gillmore had three saves on the night.

Ironically, Gillmore earned the first save of her college career last year in a reversal of fortunes against OSU, when ASU won that match, 1-0.  The sophomore from California tied the ASU single-game record of 14 saves last year in a double-overtime loss against UCLA – and then came within one goal of that mark again this year in a game against Stanford.

But she needs some help from the offense.

In the Saturday game against Oregon, the Sun Devils got off six shots, but only one was a shot on goal.   Alexandra Elston, a senior midfielder from Mountain Pointe High School in Phoenix, led the Sun Devils with just two shots.

Prior to the Oregon games, ASU lost a 3-0 shutout to Stanford and tied California, 1-1.

Now their post-season fate rests with another pair of California teams.

Both teams are coming off shutout wins, with USC taking down Washington, 2-0, and the Bruins beating Washington State by an identical score.

The Trojans have 11 wins overall and are 4-2-1 in conference play, while the Bruins have 10 wins and are still trying to get to the .500 mark in conference, coming into their final two games of the regular season at 3-4.

The losing record in conference for UCLA is indicative of how the program has been struggling of late.  Last year the Bruins, traditionally a national power, failed to win the Pac-10 crown, the first time that has happened since 2002.  But this year the Bruins had 20 players returning and were expecting better things.

That potential for a big game by UCLA has to give ASU something to think about as they prepare for that game.

ASU plays USC on Friday night and wraps up with UCLA Saturday afternoon.  If they pull off the sweep, the Devils will have some new momentum to take into post-season play.

And they will have a large audience to witness that final win of the season that should earn the Devils a tournament invite.  The UCLA game will be televised by Fox Sports Arizona.

(Photo: ASU Athletics/Steve Rodriguez)