Soccer draws Baylor at home in first tournament game

Senior midfielder Taylor McCarter (28) battles with Utah freshman midfielder Kaycee Buckley for the ball during the Sun Devils’ 4-1 win over the Utes on Oct. 25. (Photo by Kyle Newman)

When the ASU soccer team met for its NCAA Tournament viewing party on Monday, the initial impression was that the Sun Devils would open on the road.

The Sun Devils (10-8-2) were somehow granted an opening-round home matchup against Big 12 opponent Baylor.

Coach Kevin Boyd was surprised, but ecstatic the Sun Devils will get to play another home game this season.

“I think it’s outstanding that we get to host,” Boyd said. “At home, we are going to be just a little bit better and have an extra edge.”

Senior midfielder Courtney Tinnin, who scored in the regular-season home finale against UA, also thought the Sun Devils would start away from Tempe.

“It’s an unbelievable feeling knowing that we are going to be hosting,” Tinnin said. “I got the chills when they announced it.”

Baylor (17-1-4) earned a No. 3 national tournament rank, but mysteriously wasn’t granted a home match.

The Bears had an impressive regular season that included winning the Big 12 Tournament with a 4-1 victory over TCU, and are currently riding an 18-game unbeaten streak.

Boyd thinks they are beatable though.

“They have an impressive record, but they haven’t weathered the schedule (like) we have,” Boyd said.

The Sun Devils and Bears have played similar opponents in Cal State Northridge and Kansas this year.

The Sun Devils lost 1-0 to Northridge and tied Kansas 2-2, while Baylor beat Northridge 2-1 and Kansas 1-0.

The Bears have a host of statistical monsters that include three six-plus goal scorers. Baylor redshirt sophomore goalkeeper Michelle Kloss has posted an outstanding 0.49 goals against average.

Boyd admits he doesn’t know much about Baylor.

“I know what their style is, but I haven’t seen much of them,” Boyd said.

Regardless of Baylor’s prowess, Boyd likes his Sun Devil squad and where they are at heading into the most crucial match of the season.

“We are playing our best soccer of our year right now,” Boyd said. “Knock on wood, but we are in the best spot we’ve ever been in.”

For Tinnin and the other seniors, this is their third tournament appearance.

They are still looking for their first tournament win, though, following losses to Wisconsin and UC Irvine in 2009 and 2010, respectively.

Tinnin looks for their experience to be a major factor Friday. Senior midfielder Taylor McCarter, who was just named to the All-Pac 12 Second Team, is hoping their experience will rub off on the younger key players.

“We just have to tell them that it’s the same thing that we’ve been doing since the beginning of the season, and that we just have to focus on winning this game,” McCarter said.


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