ASU soccer shows its potential, beats No. 10 Pepperdine

Just before his Arizona State women’s soccer team hosted last weekend’s Sun Devil Desert Classic in Tempe, Kevin Boyd gave his players another installment of his lessons in tough love.

“I just keep telling them there’s no Calvary coming their way,” he said, as his young squad was trying to work its way out of a 1-3-1 start to the season.  “We have what we have, and they’ve got to figure it out.”

The Devils did figure it out.  And they did it in time to upset No. 10 Pepperdine in the second, and final, game of the tournament.

That win was what Boyd knew they needed to find their identity this year and realize that, if they learned to play together, good things would begin to happen.

They opened the season with five straight road games, which made it especially difficult for a young team.  Seven freshmen have already started games this season.  Three of the four starting backs on defense are freshmen.

“We’re dealing with the challenges of playing with so many first-year players, especially all grouped together on the back line,” Boyd points out.  “The game’s just faster than they’re ready to think, and we’re trying to speed things up.”

To make the early going even rougher, the team has been playing without junior forward Devin Marshall, who tied for second on the squad in points scored last year and leads this year.  Marshall was hurt in the fourth game of the season, a 4-1 loss against then-No. 13 Missouri, and then forced to watch from the sidelines for the next two.

The Devils managed to hold on in the next contest against Kansas, taking the game to overtime in a 2-2 tie, but dropped the next to Houston, which was the opening game of the Sun Devil Classic.

There was more improvement evident during the Houston game, as ASU allowed the visitors just two shots, and took twice as many themselves.  The Devils dominated in the early going, not even allowing a shot on goal in the first half, and then held a slight edge (7-6) in shots in the second half.  Six different ASU players registered a shot on goal.

But it was a penalty kick in the 86th minute of the game that won it for Houston.

“My disappointment in the second half is we didn’t play the same way we did in the first half,” said Boyd in analyzing the game.  “I know we didn’t score in the first half, but we were all over them, and you knew (that a goal was coming).  The second half didn’t feel like that.”

There was no second-half fade against Pepperdine on Sunday.  And Marshall returned to take care of the scoring.

Marshall took a pass from freshman forward, Cali Farquharson, as she was breaking open down the middle of the field and worked her way through a couple of Houston defenders to record the only score of the game in the 64th minute.

“What a difference she makes when she’s on the field.  It absolutely changes us,” Boyd said of Marshall’s play.

But the sixth-year head coach was quick to point out the contributions from the entire team.  “I think the whole team’s effort was really good,” he offered.  “Our back line did a great job today against a very good opponent and so, across the board, we performed well.

Marshall and Farquharson, who played at Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix,  joined senior midfielder Taylor McCarter as the three Sun Devils named to the All-Tournament Team.  McCarter, a senior from Sahuarita High School in Tucson, was also named the tournament’s MVP.

Boyd hopes the win over Pepperdine, and the fact that his team continues to show improvement each game, will give them some idea of what their potential is this season.

“The fact that Pepperdine is the No. 10 team in the country should give us an indication of what we are capable of, and what we can be.”

(Photo: ASU Athletics/ Robert Kline)