Home loss derails ASU soccer as Pac-12 opener arrives

The Arizona State women’s soccer team had a full head of steam going into the final non-conference game against Boise State, sporting a 5-2 record and riding a six-game win streak at home that went back to last season.  But a stalled offense and missed opportunities led to a 2-0 home loss to the Broncos at a time when they most needed to build momentum.

Now they need to re-group before Sunday’s Pac-12 opener against USC in Tempe.

“We definitely had chances, but I didn’t think our effort was good enough,” admitted ASU head coach Kevin Boyd following the Boise State game last Friday night.  “Our energy level was just down.”

The Sun Devils (5-3-0) had the advantage in shots, 18-12, but were stymied repeatedly by mental errors, a shot that hit the cross bar of the goal, and a Boise State defense that stopped several shots right at the goal line.

One near-miss that hurt the most came with just minutes left in the game and Boise State up 1-0.  The Devils had a chance to tie the score on a free kick, but Holland Crook‘s shot attempt was blocked on the goal line.  Then, as the clock wound down the final couple of seconds, the Broncos added one more goal to make the final 2-0.

“It’s upsetting,” said Crook, a senior midfielder from Washington.  “No one wants to lose, especially at home.  But from here we have to re-group, we have to come back and change that.  Now we have to focus on not giving another one up at home.”

The reference is to USC, which will arrive Sunday sporting a near-identical record at 5-3-1.  The Trojans were ranked nationally at No. 25 before losing last week to Cal State Fullerton in double overtime.

However, it should be noted that USC out-shot the Titans 24-7 and out-shot Florida Atlantic 14-5 in the first half of a two-game home series last weekend.  The Trojans will be a handful for the ASU defense.  They have scored four or more goals in four games this season and played into overtime in three games, all of which could very easily have fallen into the win column.

The Sun Devils will look to senior Devin Marshall and sophomore forward Cali Farquharson to put points on the board as they navigate conference play.  The two combined as the top scoring duo in the Pac-12 last year, and this year they are at the top of the list again, averaging 2.0 goals per game.

Farquharson is a local product from Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix who led the team in both goals (10) and points (24) as a freshman last year.  She was named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman squad for her play and already owns the school record for most consecutive games scoring a goal (8).

Marshall, a 5’9″ forward from California, was second-best in the Pac-12 in goals-per-game last season with 0.56 and has continued that kind of play this year.  In the annual Sun Devil Classic earlier this month she scored a pair of goals against Illinois and also against Kansas to earn honors as the Pac-12 Women’s Soccer Offensive Player of the Week and the CS360 National Primetime Player of the Week.  The win against Illinois came in double overtime.

ASU has been on an upswing since Boyd took over the head coach position seven years ago, after leading California to eight NCAA Tournament appearances in 10 years with the Golden Bears.  He has taken the Sun Devils to the NCAA Tournament three of the last four years and would set a school milestone if his squad makes the trip again this year for the fourth time in five seasons.

A tie for fourth place in the Pac-12 last season was the best finish in conference in eight years.

And Farquharson is the logical one to get the 2013 team off to a good start in conference play since she had a huge game against USC last year, scoring three goals, which tied both the school record and the highest single-game total by a Pac-12 player in 2012.  Her eight points (three goals, two assists) in that game also set a new single-game school record and were the most by any Pac-12 player last season.

As her teammates like to say, in a take-off on the “Fear the Fork” sports slogan… USC needs to “Fear the Farq”.

(Photo: ASU Athletics)