After three weeks and five consecutive games on the road, the ASU soccer team will return to the friendly confines of Tempe this weekend for a pair of games against Washington and Washington State.
“It’s awesome, we love our home field,” senior midfielder Rachael Ritter said. “It’s definitely an advantage, we love our fans. Our blood, sweat and tears are on this field.”
ASU shutout USC in its prior home game on Sept. 29 to begin conference play. In that game, the game-winning goal came with 19 seconds remaining.
Since that time, the Sun Devils accomplished what they needed to on the road, going 2-3 in their five games, and have managed to remain in the thick of the postseason discussion.
While 2-3 may not seem like a large feat, three of those games came against teams that are ranked in the top 12 of the NSCAA Coaches’ Poll.
ASU has a 4-1 record at home and a 4-5 record away from home, which is not a surprise, considering some of the difficulties involved with playing on the road, a fact not lost on senior forward Devin Marshall.
“Three travel weekends in a row is rough with everything,” Marshall said. “School, soccer, fatigue (and) all that. We’re excited to be home. Our (next) four games and even (the regular season finale) against UA, we’re still in Arizona.”
Even though the regular season is nearly three-fourths of the way over, ASU’s starting lineup continues to evolve.
Ritter and freshman defender Larisa Staub, both opening day starters, have regained their starting roles after losing them two games into the season.
Ritter filled in for redshirt sophomore midfielder Mackenzie Semerad against Stanford because Semerad was automatically suspended for receiving a red card.
Ritter has held onto that role since and has now started the last four games.
“The more minutes I get, the more I get used to being in that role,” Ritter said. “I’m trying to take what (coach) Kevin (Boyd) is telling me and putting it into practice, and I think’s it’s coming together pretty well.”
Ritter plays holding midfielder, a position which ASU has two of this season as opposed to one in prior years.
Ritter said she just needs to play her role really well to retain the starting honor.
The keys for that position are winning possession, being aggressive and distributing to teammates.
“She’s improved significantly in the air, and she’s winning more and more air balls for us,” Boyd said.
Staub earned her first start since the second game of the season this past weekend in ASU’s most recent contest against UCLA. In the last three games, she has seen her minutes rise.
She had a minor ankle injury earlier in the season, and Boyd said that it is part of the learning process.
“She’s got a good engine, she can get forward for us, she’s not afraid to be physical (and) she’s got a pretty good service on her,” Boyd said. “So all those traits are good traits that we’re utilizing right now.”
ASU is holding its annual “Pink Out” game for Breast Cancer Awareness Month on Friday against Washington at 7 p.m.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @jjanssen11