Tempe, AZ -- Coming off of a loss against UCLA where a valiant effort against the country's No. 11 team fell short in a 2-0 defeat, ASU soccer returned home on Thursday to welcome a conference opponent to Tempe for the first time this season.
A crushing Ute goal in the last gasp of the first half sent ASU reeling into the second period of play, but the Sun Devils got behind the Utah defense when it needed to most to equalize and send the game into overtime, where it would finish tied at 1-1. With the draw, ASU's record shifts to 5-3-2 heading into Sunday's home tilt against Colorado.
"I think we were a little smarter about the way we were playing (in the second half)," ASU head coach Kevin Boyd said. We were trying to get behind a little bit more, in the first half I didn't feel like we were aggressive enough to get behind.
“We've been talking about how when we put together a number of passes in the attacking half, we tend to generate chances, and I think we took that too literally, which we have a tendency to do. So every time we got the ball we just went backwards and sideways."
A weakness that's plagued the Sun Devils through the early course of the season came back to rear its head on Thursday. Utah earned a free kick from roughly 40 yards out with a minute to spare in the opening half, and a superb ball in from Paola Van der Veen was met at the far post by Katie Rogers, whose header skied over Emma Malsy into the side netting for the opening goal.
The goal was not without its eventual answer, as the Sun Devils pieced together a wonderful play in the 81st minute, as Christina Edwards found Jazmarie Mader in between two Utah players in the box. With her back to the goalie, Mader touched to control, spun and fired a cracker into the back of the net for the equalizer.
Tied at the end of regulation, the conference opponents played two 10-minute overtime periods that saw a pair of dangerous attacks from the Utes that the Sun Devils barely were able to defend successfully. But the best chance of the overtime came in the latter period, as Larisa Staub sent a rocket from beyond 30 yards that flicked off the inside of the post and off the crossbar for one of the closest misses a player could experience. The chance wound up being the last of note as the game ended 1-1.
"I wanted to place it top right, it just happened to hit both the posts. So that was unfortunate but it is what it is," Staub said. "I hit it knuckleball so it was wobbling and I was like 'Oh my gosh, it's going in,' and then at the last second it went up just a bit."
The Sun Devils' timidness that Boyd mentioned was evident from the get-go, despite dominating early play.
ASU strung 25 passes together before making their first pass behind the defense, being overly careful to maintain possession while potential chances at through balls were passed up. The Sun Devils' first chance of the opening half came in the 11th minute, when Keeley Gormley was played into the 20-yard box on a flanking run with a teammate parallel to her in the middle of the box. Gormley's cross-shot tested Utah's keeper July Mathias, but the redshirt sophomore touched it just wide of the side netting.
Having conceded at the death of the opening period, ASU came out aggressive in the second half but struggled to create tangible chances on the opponent's side of the field.
Lucy Lara's low-driven corner in the 55th minute was mishit to waste a rare chance, and in the 72nd minute Natalie Stephens' pass to a player in an offsides position ended what would've been a 2-on-1 for the Sun Devils on the Utah side of the field. The Sun Devils had another chance in the 78th that Utah cleared, and the Sun Devils were able to cash in a few minutes later with the Mader goal.
ASU has a couple of days off before coming back out on Sunday to take on Colorado, who have been nearly unstoppable in Boulder but 2-2 on the road. Still looking for its first conference in, the Sun Devils hope their rally—while uncompleted—can carry into Sunday's test against the Buffaloes.
"I think that as soon as we really focus in something, I don't really think that we'e stoppable at that point, The way we played against UCLA in the second half was amazing, and as soon as we started stepping it up we showed signs of greatness in this game as well. As a whole we just need to stay focused as a team."