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ASU Soccer: Sun Devils drop heartbreaker to No. 5 USC

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Quite the final minute

Brady Vernon/House of Sparky

Nicole Douglas placed the ball on the spot. The anxiety filled within each individual inside of Sun Devil Soccer Stadium, waiting the result of the kick. Douglas gifted with a chance to respond to the gut-punch just received with a haymaker of her own. Instead, No. 5 USC (8-1-1, 1-1-0 Pac-12) delivered the knockout blow.

Douglas struck the penalty attempt with her right foot, a strike that forced USC goalkeeper Anna Smith to make a save. She made the correct decision and pushed Douglas’ shot to her right. As the ball rolled away, so did the Sun Devils’ chances at a miracle.

The final seconds ticked off, the Women of Troy walked off the pitch knowing they just survived an upset scare from Arizona State (6-3-2, 0-1-1). USC arms raised high was countered with the lowered head of Douglas.

“I want to give credit to (Douglas),” head coach Graham Winkworth said. “Stepping up with 30 seconds to go against the No. 5 team in the nation to take a penalty kick is immense pressure. It’s a great learning opportunity for her because now she has to bounce back and play a very good opponent on Sunday.”

Douglas sat on the ground to stretch with her teammates postgame, tears rolled down her cheeks. It felt as if it the picture belonged next to the definition of heartbreak in the dictionary. However, the saved penalty was only part of the crazy final minute in Tempe.

Tied at one, it appeared the Sun Devils were headed toward a third straight overtime contest. The clocked rolled closer and closer to the end of regulation. USC’s Natalie Jacobs sprinted to the flag after the Women of Troy were awarded a corner. Jacobs’ ball flew into the box, her teammate Kaylin Martin put her head on the end of it to put USC up one with under 40 seconds to go.

“We defended so well for 90 minutes,” Winkworth said. “We were fantastic from top to bottom, and that last minute that was crazy. We lost our marks for the last corner kick, we lost them at the beginning of the game as well. We lost on two corner kicks, and that’s a little disappointing.”

Off the first whistle, the USC attack put on the afterburners searching for an early goal. It achieved its goal, literally. Another corner as Winkworth talked about led to the first score of the match. In the seventh minute, Jaelyn Eisenhart fired a ball that at first looked like Ashleigh Plumptre knocked in. But after further review a Sun Devil created the goal and was marked as an own goal.

The Sun Devils responded well, especially the backline which instead of the typical Sun Devil formation that uses four defenders, Arizona State put in five to face the power USC attack. Outside of the first 10 minutes, the Sun Devils limited the chances of USC outside of a 34th minute goal later waved off because of an offside call.

The defense allowed an opportunity for the Arizona State forwards to create a chance, and Marleen Schimmer surely did that. Known for her screamers, Schimmer came through yet again.

Trapped by three USC defenders, Schimmer created her own space, enough to send off an absolute stunner that hit the bottom of the crossbar and in to tie the match.

“The game plan was that I’m going deep all the time,” Schimmer said. “When I have the ball at my feet, I know I can shoot. I’m just trying my best to get shots off, get the opportunity to shoot.”

The other key component that kept the Sun Devils within striking distance came from the play of freshman goalkeeper Giulia Cascapera, who most definitely passed her first rigid test of her Pac-12 career.

“How good was she today?,” said Winkworth on Cascapera’s performance. “Some great, great saves...She kept us in it. Really proud for (Guilia), she’s been excellent this week in training and usually when you train well it correlates into the games. Today was a good example, really happy for her.”

The Sun Devils will now attempt to bounce back against No. 16 UCLA, who is coming off of a 3-0 loss to Arizona on Thursday night.