Who says you can’t recruit locally and still succeed in the college game? Not Kevin Boyd.
The head coach for women’s soccer at Arizona State University is not only succeeding by recruiting in his own backyard, but actually setting high goals for the number of locals he wants to add each year.
Boyd says he would like to have a roster that includes half of the players from within the state and figures he’s almost there. Thirteen of the 31 players on this year’s roster are local recruits; six of the eight that joined in the 2015 class are from the Valley.
And that emphasis on local talent appears to be paying off.
The Sun Devils return 12 players who started last year and led the team to the second round of the NCAA Tournament while posting 12 wins on the season – more than any team has recorded over the past 12 years. And, at the top of that list are… yep, a couple of locals from the Phoenix area.
Cali Farquharson, a senior from Shadow Mountain High School in east Phoenix, and senior defender McKenzie Berryhill from Greenway High in west Phoenix are both All-Pac-12 first-team members and were also named NSCAA All-Region last season.
Fittingly, it was Farquharson that netted the first goal of this season when she scored just five minutes into the season opener last week against Portland State. She got the opportunity for the shot thanks to a long well-placed pass from Berryhill.
The Sun Devils got additional goals from junior forward Larisa Staub and sophomore forward/midfielder Aly Moon to wrap up a 3-0 victory to get the 2015 season off to a good start in the first of 10 home games on the schedule. That victory, in which ASU dominated with 22 shots on goal, marked the 200th win for Boyd, who is in his ninth season in charge of the program.
The only other game, a weekend exhibition match against Beijing Normal University that ended in a scoreless tie, gave Boyd a chance to give some of his non-starters a chance at significant playing time, and get plenty of his roster some game-time experience. Twenty-seven players got into the game, with 14 players getting 30 or more minutes on the field.
That could turn out to be a valuable learning experience for those players coming off the bench this season, and something that will pay off down the road. ASU’s road to another NCAA tourney appearance has been made even more difficult with a very challenging schedule.
Thirteen opponents made it to the NCAA Tournament last season, with five teams that were among the final 16. Fifteen of the Devils’ 19 regular-season opponents had winning records last season.
ASU was picked in the conference preseason poll to finish fifth. Ahead of the Devils were the four California schools.
Boyd credits ASU’s success in recent years, when his teams have made four trips to the NCAA tournament in the last six years, to being able to land top local talent. He says that the turnaround began four years ago when Farquharson and Berryhill committed to the program, showing other top prospects that Tempe was becoming a good landing spot for recruits that wanted to play for a team on the move up.
An increase in the number of club teams, and the improved quality of coaching in those programs, has also added to the elevation in the level of talent that is now available in Boyd’s own back yard.
While Boyd doesn’t see a time when he would be competing with a full roster of local players, his commitment to in-state recruiting should be an example for other college programs.
(Photo: ASU Athletics)