For a half, ASU soccer played like it owned No. 22 Washington State. In the second, it stumbled out of the gate and fell short in a furious rally in the waning seconds a 2-1 loss to open conference play Sunday.
The Sun Devils (4-4, 0-1 Pac-12) outshot the Cougars (8-1, 1-0 Pac-12) 15 to 1 in the first half, and had several chances to get on the scoreboard first. Shots rocketed off the post from the box, and attempts from point blank range were stuffed by redshirt freshman goalkeeper Ella Dederick.
Larisa Staub, one of four usual starters in coach Kevin Boyd's lineup, came off the bench and scored ASU's only goal a few ticks before the 66-minute marker.
The shakeup was a partially a motivational tactic. Whether or not it will be the first in a series of future changes remains to be seen, but on Sunday, Boyd wanted to tap into his bench to find a spark.
"Let's see who's eager, and who's going to fight for it," Boyd said. "It looks like we're going to have to make a couple more changes."
The junior forward led the team with seven shots, and of the team's 24 total, 10 were on goal.
"Our attack was really long, we defended well," Staub said. "I think we didn't start out as fast as we would have liked to in the second half."
Meanwhile, Washington State had just six shots split evenly between two players: senior midfielder Cara Wegner and senior forward Kourtney Guetlein, who scored both Cougar goals.
It was emphasized over and over by Boyd and his players:they couldn't finish.
The Cali Farquharson-sized gap in the offensive flow was easy to see. They couldn't bury rebounds and one-on-one chances against Dederick, and they didn't look as comfortable operating on the offensive zone.
Boyd said he was worried about what he perceived to be a frantic, rushed pace on offense, and a nonchalant, slow tempo on the defensive end that allowed the Cougars to score two "gifts." But the inability to put home balls on quality looks was more concerning.
"We're getting chances and missing the entire goal, or shooting it straight at the goalkeeper," Boyd said. "We're shooting from 35 yards out and bouncing them in. Yes, we're creating things, but our finishing is a problem. We need to be more composed and go to a more dangerous space in in the goal."
Boyd said Farquharson could have played in Sunday's game, but opted to wait until she is fully healed to prevent further injury.
The Sun Devils host No. 1 Stanford at 7 p.m. on Friday at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium.
Reach the sports editor at email@example.com or follow @StefanJModrich on Twitter.