With redshirt freshman forward Lucy Lara and senior forward Jessica Domenichelli out with knee injuries, the ASU women’s soccer team’s depth at the forward position is being cut thin.
Before Domenichelli tore her ACL in the second week of the season, she was the team’s fourth forward. When Domenichelli went down, Lara stepped into the role of the first forward off the bench.
However, in the first half against Washington on Friday, Lara suffered a knee injury of her own. It was on the same knee that forced her to take a medical redshirt last season, ASU coach Kevin Boyd said.
Boyd hasn’t ruled her out for the season, but the Nov. 7 regular season finale isn’t far away.
“(Her knee is) not torn which is great, but it’s stretched a bit,” Boyd said of Lara’s injury. “I don’t think she’s going to be able to go for this week’s game.”
With the injuries, ASU has experimented with different forward groupings when the starters are taken out of the game.
On Friday, senior attacking midfielder Holland Crook played forward for an extended period. Boyd said she spent some time at forward last season.
“It wasn’t an unnatural spot for her,” Boyd said. “I wanted to give (sophomore forward) Sara Tosti a rest and just try someone else up there and see if it generated a different dynamic with our other two forwards.”
In Sunday’s match against Washington State, redshirt sophomore midfielder Mackenzie Semerad saw some action at forward in place of Tosti. Semerad is listed on the roster as both a forward and a midfielder, but that was the first time she saw action at forward.
“We’re just trying to find players who can step in and help us out,” Boyd said.
Another option ASU has is freshman forward Katie Mohr, but she hasn’t seen the field much, because “she needs to get a little fitter,” Boyd said.
ASU on the outside of NCAA tournament bubble
If the NCAA tournament began today, the Sun Devils would most likely be on the outside looking in.
ASU fell 13 spots to No. 58 in the latest RPI released Monday following its tie against Washington and loss to Washington State last weekend.
There are 32 automatic qualifiers to the tournament (the conference champions), and 32 “at-large” entrants. ASU has been eliminated from the Pac-12 title race, so it needs to qualify as an at-large team.
ASU’s RPI figure ranks 44th among teams not leading their respective conference. Boyd believes wins this week against No. 23 Colorado and No. 37 Utah would be enough to propel the Sun Devils back into the race for an at-large bid.
Boyd also believes that the Pac-12 not holding a conference tournament hurts his team. For instance, the SEC has a four-round conference tournament next week, while ASU will only play a single game next week.
Most teams from power conferences play a tougher schedule in conference play than outside of it. So a conference tournament provides a boost for a team’s strength of schedule, on a per-game basis.
“(A conference tournament) just gives you more chance to increase your RPI,” Boyd said. “More chance to increase strength of schedule points, potentially to add another win. Absolutely (not having one) hurts us.”
Boyd said ASU’s overall RPI was around 38 when it won its final four games of the regular season and snuck into the tournament with a 10-8-2 record last season.
The selection committee doesn’t have to necessarily pick teams straight from the RPI listing, but it’s a fairly strong indicator of who will make the tournament.
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Correction: Because of a reporting error, ASU coach Kevin Boyd was misquoted when talking about freshman forward Katie Mohr. The story has been updated with the correct quotes.