Birta Gudlaugs’ face buried into the pitch symbolized it all. No. 3 UCLA (10-0-1, 2-0-1 Pac-12) celebrated after Olivia Athens put in the game-winning goal, the same ball that Gudlaugs had misplayed moments before the Bruins secured the 4-3 overtime win. As the smiles were felt from the Bruins, the heartbreak stemmed from all the Sun Devils.
Arizona State (8-3-1, 0-2-1) gave the Bruins everything they had. The Sun Devils scored three first-half goals — UCLA had only allowed two goals leading into Sunday’s contest — and had a two-goal lead early on.
After UCLA All-American Mia Fishel made her presence known by scoring a goal in the sixth minute, the Sun Devils responded in a fantastic way. Eva van Deursen delivered a cross on a set piece that Jazmine Wilkinson met with a header to earn the equalizer.
Nicole Douglas found hers moments later. One of the nation’s top goal scorers weaved in-and-out of the UCLA backline before scoring her 13th goal of the season. Van Deursen got her own goal in the 24th minute and pairing up with Douglas, who earned an assist.
Then came UCLA set pieces. The clear weakness of Arizona State struck again. The two-goal lead evaporated within 10 minutes. Marley Canales sent one of UCLA’s 15 corners and it simply went off Gudlaugs for the score.
Dasia Torbert evened the game at three in the 30th minute after a ball bounced off the post following a cross from the Bruins. Gudlaugs and Arizona State’s defenders clearly lacked communication as the ball was rolling in the box.
There have been times this season Gudlaugs has looked like the true freshman she is. And that’s okay. However, Arizona State is missing Giulia Cascapera, who is still out due to a leg injury. The Sun Devils have had a lead in every game this season, including all three conference contests thus far, yet they are winless.
“We have to find ways to preserve leads,” Arizona State coach Graham Winkworth said. “We’ve been ahead in other important games, we were ahead in this one...We got to stop making so many mistakes on set pieces.”
The Sun Devils still had chances in the end. Cori Sullivan challenged UCLA keeper Lauren Brzykcy by shooting a quality ball, but Brzykcy made a great diving grab. Callie Darst lifted a great ball to Keri Matthews — a freshman that has earned more playing time lately — and she nearly netted her first career goal but it was too wide.
Arizona State is still searching for its first conference win as it heads to Oregon State — a team playing the best is has in years — and Oregon next week.