Don’t let this be New Hampshire.
The mantra for the Sun Devils at halftime on Sunday. Shots off the crossbar, a defensive formation without cracks and blazing temperatures. A combination that created frustrations in the match against Weber State.
Arizona State (4-0-0) found the remedy in overtime. After a scoreless regulation between the two clubs, junior Olive Jones made a tremendous shot in the 92nd minute into the upper right corner for the 1-0 win over Weber State (0-3-0).
“One year and one day ago, we lost a very similar game to New Hampshire on this pitch,” head coach Graham Winkworth. “Myself,..and the players themselves have reminded each other of that for a very long time. We knew we would have to play a game like this at some point. The character showed through.”
Last season, the Sun Devils dropped an early non-conference match to New Hampshire. Left on the outside looking in at the bracket, the blemish may have kept them out of the postseason. The Sun Devils knew it couldn’t happen again.
“A lot of relief,” said senior Christina Edwards on her reaction to Jones’ goal. “Coach said a year ago today we lost to New Hampshire. That came down to why we didn’t make the tournament last year. At halftime, we were saying we don’t want this to be New Hampshire again, this shouldn’t be another New Hampshire game.”
Chances were there on the attack. In the final 30 seconds of the first half, ASU nearly netted a goal multiple times. Weber State goalkeeper Nikki Pittman made three saves on shots from Olivia Nguyen and Dai Williams.
In the second half, the Sun Devils came out with a lot of energy, but came away with the same result. Sophomore Nicole Douglas drilled the woodwork in the 49th minute after she broke through the middle of Weber State’s backline.
That center point appeared to be the weak link in the defense. The Sun Devils targeted that spot over and over in the final 10 minutes of regulation. Midfielder Eva Van Deursen had a long shot go off the crossbar. Through balls made its way to Alexia Delgado, but both attempts went wide.
ASU outshot Weber State 27-2. For most of the match, the centre-backs were the only defenders as the full-backs were asked to apply more pressure on the attack. Even starting centre-backs Callie Darst and Lieske Carleer combined for five shots because of the space the Wildcats allowed them to take.
Carleer finally created the pass for the win. Her ball into the box created the tiny window for the finish on the game-winner.
“We were all frustrated,” senior Kylie Miniefield said. “Especially at the end when we had so many chances. It’s easy to get down on yourself, but instead of being frustrated and slowing down, we’re like ‘okay, this sucks, but we’re going to keep going.’ “
Unfortunately for Jones, she didn’t get to celebrate her goal. She went down with an injury after the play. Part of the training staff carried her off the field and she used crutches after the match.
ASU will travel to Tucson on Friday for a match against UC Irvine at 4:00 p.m. on Friday.