ASU’s first contest of the regular season will take place against the Texas Longhorns and Hawaii Rainbow Wahines this weekend in West O’ahu, Hawaii.
ASU finished last season with a record of 9-8-2, closer to that of Hawaii, which finished last season with a record of 8-8-1. The Sun Devils were picked to finish eighth in conference in the latest coaches’ poll, and a split or even a sweep of their nonconference opponents this weekend could go a long way in changing the minds of their skeptics.
Texas, ASU’s first matchup posted a 12-6-2 record last season, going into the tournament. The Longhorns are on the verge of contending in the Big-12, after a third place finish behind West Virginia and Texas Tech in 2013, while Hawaii was fifth in the Big West.
Coach Kevin Boyd wants to emphasize defense against Texas, making sure ASU can keep possession and tire the Longhorn defense.
“When we play Texas … they’re gonna keep the ball,” Boyd said. “If we don’t defend tighter, we are not going to get it as easily.”
Opposing players to watch
Texas junior forward Chantale Campbell was her team’s overall points leader and an offensive catalyst both with and without the ball. This deadly combination poses a major threat to defenders, as she leads the balanced attack of the veteran Longhorn midfield group.
Hawaii senior forward Tiana Fujimoto is the Rainbow Wahine’s offensive powerhouse. Last season, she singlehandedly scored more than half of her team’s goals and will be a test to ASU’s inexperienced back line
If the Sun Devils and Longhorns want to beat Hawaii, they should pinpoint their defensive efforts on Fujimoto.
For ASU, Hawaii will be a good initial test of its composure on the road, even factoring in fatigue after a rather lengthy flight.
Keeper battle likely over
Boyd will probably stick with junior keeper Chandler Morris, who has been the starter the past two seasons. However, freshman Lexi Bounds and redshirt freshman Ashley March gained valuable experience in the scrimmage versus NAU and could see time in one of the Hawaii games in the event of a blowout.
The Sun Devils will begin the season on the road in Hawaii against Texas in the Outrigger Resorts Shootout on Friday, Aug. 22, at 10 a.m. Arizona time. ASU squares off vs. Hawaii on Saturday, Aug. 23 at 8 p.m. Arizona time.
Reach the reporter at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MarcTSteiner