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ASU soccer awaits freshman Keri Matthews' debut

Matthews, an English U19 national team player, will join the Sun Devils after being kept on the sidelines due to an ankle injury

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Freshman forward Keri Matthews makes her way across the field at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium in Tempe prior to ASU's game against Southeastern Louisiana on Sunday, August 22, 2021.

The ASU's women's soccer team hopes to see a debut this season from freshman forward Keri Matthews, who arrived at ASU with an ankle injury and is close to being fully recovered, according to head coach Graham Winkworth.

Matthews is one of three English national players on the team. The Sun Devil soccer team has 13 international players on their roster, including Matthews. Out of the 13, nine players have represented their national team at the youth level. 

"Having internationals on the team helped a lot because it was a lot easier to me to settle in," Matthews said.

For Matthews and senior forward Nicole Douglas, having other English players on the team has made the transition to ASU easier on and off the field. 

"The connection that all of us English girls have coming from the same country, most of the teams in England play the same way, so for us to come to ASU was big," Douglas said. "We play a similar way to the way we played back home, so the transition for us was a lot easier than maybe some of the other internationals."

Along with familiar faces, Matthews chose ASU because of the culture the coaching staff has created and the high level of competition in the Pac-12 conference. She committed to ASU after her first official visit in early 2020 and said it instantly felt like a "family environment." 

Prior to committing, Matthews' first contact with Winkworth was in 2019 when Winkworth visited Matthews in England and watched a couple of her games with the Under-19 national team. 

Before signing Matthews, Winkworth and his staff had signed sophomore defender Lucy Johnson, who played with Matthews on the English national team. 

"(Matthews) was heavily recruited by some of the top schools in the nation for a reason, and we expect her to have an immediate impact. Even though she hasn't done anything for weeks, almost months now, I still anticipate her being one of the more fitter players on the squad," Winkworth said. "She's a pure athlete." 

Despite her injury, the team expects Matthews' international success to carry over, even if she only makes limited appearances.

"She's quick, athletic, great with her feet, has the ability to score goals, she can be a great addition to this team and score lots of goals," Douglas said. "We're very happy for her to be apart of the team and we can't wait to get her back so she can start playing with us."

Matthews hopes to continue to represent her national team and aspires to play professionally after her time at ASU.

"I know here I will have the opportunities to get four years of development and experience to lead me to hopefully playing professionally," Matthews said. "I want to make the most of my time here and learn as much as I can from the upperclassmen, because there (are) a lot of players with a lot of talent and experience that I can learn from."

Matthews wouldn't be the first Sun Devil soccer player from England to sign professionally. Jemma Purfield, who now plays for Leicester City Women Football Club, played under Winkworth in 2017-18.

Purfield's success has drawn players like Douglas and Matthews to ASU with hopes they, too, can be as successful. 

For now, Matthews is focused on recovering and supporting her team in any way she can.

"Once I'm back and ready, hopefully I can prove myself and help the team on the pitch as much as possible," Matthews said. 

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