Soccer, Volleyball and Cross-Country gearing up

This is the last edition of The State Press for the summer, and over the last few weeks we’ve taken a look at the upcoming football season.

However, there are several other sports that start in the fall. Women’s soccer, volleyball and cross-country are all getting started in the next few weeks.

Here’s a breakdown of what to expect from these three fall sports.

Women’s Soccer

It’s an interesting time for the ASU women’s soccer team. Two of the best players in program history, Alexandra Elston and Karin Volpe, graduated, which leaves the team with two big holes to fill.

Junior Taylor McCarter brings more than enough energy to fill the midfield gap left by Elston. The real question will be who steps up to play alongside her.

Senior Kari Shane and sophomore Kaitlyn Pavlovich are the foundation for ASU’s defense. Shane’s runs up the right side were an ever-present threat for opposing teams last season, and her experience on set pieces is invaluable.

The biggest problem last year (and the largest question mark this season) for the Sun Devils was goals. Sophomore Devin Marshall and junior Alyssa Freeman both showed flashes of brilliance last season. If they can break out this season, ASU may not have to struggle to find the back of the net.

Finally, the team’s strength will be its youth. Only four players graduated last year, and this season the team roster only lists three seniors. As long as team leadership is established, the Sun Devils should have the energy to compete in a perennially stacked conference.

The season opener is on Aug. 19, at home against NAU.

Volleyball

This is another squad hoping to make big strides this year.

Last season the Sun Devils got off to a very slow start during non-conference play, but picked up their play during Pac-12 play, despite the conference being one of the toughest in the country.

By the end of the season, the Sun Devils had upset UCLA, USC, and even No. 2 Cal. However, the squad failed to reach the NCAA tournament, due to the poor non-conference record.

ASU lost just two seniors over the summer, which is a huge plus for a team hoping to build on last season’s successes.

Sophomore outside hitter Danica Mendivil is back after garnering All-Pac-10 honors last season, along with juniors Erica Wilson and Malia Marquardt, and as long as the team can avoid the injuries that plagued them early last season, they have a shot and making the NCAAs for the first time since 2006.

The expected return of senior Sofie Schlagintweit from a shoulder injury should also be a boost for the Sun Devils.

The season opener is on Aug. 26, at home against Denver.

Cross Country

The men’s and women’s cross country teams are looking at two very different seasons.

On the men’s side, the team’s best runner, Ben Engelhardt, has graduated, leaving the Sun Devils with a big hole to fill. Engelhardt was the only ASU runner to compete at the NCAAs; neither the men’s nor the women’s teams qualified for the team competition.

The question this year will be who steps up to fill the gap. Redshirt junior Darius Terry looks most capable of having a solid year after finishing 26th overall at the NCAA regionals last year, helping the Sun Devils to a fifth-place finish.

The women, on the other hand, have Lindsay Prescott, who is returning for her senior season.

However, last year ASU missed out on the NCAAs for the first time in 13 seasons, and is hungry to make it back to nationals.

The hopes of both teams will rest on improvement over the summer and the impact of younger runners.

The season-opening meet is on Sept. 3, at the George Kyte Invitational in Flagstaff.

Reach the reporter at egrasser@asu.edu