The start of a new season is a fresh beginning. Every team starts undefeated, goals are set, and in Tempe optimism permeates the hot summer air.
For the ASU women’s soccer program, the goal is to advance to the NCAA tournament a third straight year for the first time in team history.
Junior midfielder Taylor McCarter said in order to qualify for the NCAA tournament a third straight year, the team needs to know they belong there, play with “attitude”, and they should be at that level every game.
The Sun Devils will get their first chance to live up to their goal when they kick off ASU’s sports year against NAU on Friday.
NAU garnered an impressive 12-4-3 record last season, but plays in the Big Sky Conference and typically faces easier opposition.
The Lumberjacks only allowed 16 goals in 2010, and four of them came in their 4-3 loss to ASU in Flagstaff.
In that game, ASU forward Karin Volpe broke a 3-3 tie in the 89th minute with a tip-in goal to give ASU the victory.
Last season NAU came within one win of qualifying for the NCAA tournament after making the tournament the previous two seasons.
However, the Lumberjacks were upset in the Big Sky Championship game 1-0, erasing a 12-match undefeated run.
“They’re a very well-run program,” said fifth-year ASU coach Kevin Boyd. “They believe. We just need to show up and play our game.”
Both ASU and NAU might have some difficulties finding the net in the opener. Both teams lost their leading scorer from 2010 due to graduation.
Volpe led the Sun Devils in 2010 with nine goals, while defender Kristi Andreassen led the Lumberjacks with six goals.
ASU also lost their second leading goal-scorer from the 2010 season when midfielder Alexandra Elston finished her fourth season with the team, starting all 80 games in her career.
Senior defender Kari Shane said ASU would be able to replace their top players.
“We worked on it in this spring for us to have younger players coming into their positions,” Shane said. “I think they’re going to do just fine taking over those positions.”
With ASU’s premier scorers gone, Boyd said the team needs to work better as a group.
“We don’t play like a team enough,” Boyd said. “We’re still not moving together, we’re still not thinking together, talking enough, in order to be truly organized.”
NAU will be hurt by the loss of goalie Tori Rocke. Rocke posted 9 shutouts in 13 starts and allowed 0.60 goals/game.
In the previous meeting between NAU and ASU, Lauren Weaver, the current starter, was in net.
Boyd said the two schools are very familiar with each other because 2011 is the fourth straight year they’ve met.
“They typically tend to play a 4-4-2 hitched in. It counteracts our system a little bit. We know that well enough; we play them every year and every spring.
“It’s going to be a matter of who shows up, who plays harder and who plays well.”
ASU has knocked off the Lumberjacks the past three seasons. ASU has not lost a season opener since 2005.
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