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ASU soccer looks for first Pac-12 win against No. 14 Stanford

The Sun Devils face the Cardinal Thursday and hope to come home with good results

210822 ASU vs. Southeastern Louisiana Soccer-2.jpg

ASU soccer players emerge from smoke ahead of the team's game against Southeastern Louisiana at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Aug. 22, 2021. ASU won 2-1.

ASU soccer will aim to get its first positive Pac-12 conference result against No. 14 Stanford University on Thursday.

The Sun Devils are hungry for a win after tying Washington State University 2-2 in overtime on Friday night. Before the team's thrilling comeback to tie against the Cougars, the team lost its previous three games and has yet to win a Pac-12 conference game this season.

Despite the bleak results so far, the Sun Devils have had just as many shots or even more on goal than their opponents. ASU senior forward Nicole Douglas leads the national rankings for total goals and continues to help create those opportunities for the team.

"It's just been unfortunate we've had one or two games where the errors have ultimately cost us better results," head coach Graham Winkworth said.

In the spring 2020 season, ASU defeated Stanford 2-0 at home. That season's win against the Cardinal was Winkworth's first win against Stanford since becoming ASU's head coach in November 2016.

Stanford poses strong attacking threats for ASU with junior midfielder Maya Doms and freshman forward Andrea Kitahata. Stanford is overall strong through the midfield, creating more scoring opportunities. 

"I think in the spring we challenged them really well," senior midfielder Eva van Deursen said. "They were dangerous through their midfield and playing small balls to their attackers."

Along with having to defend against Doms and Kitahata, the Cardinal is dangerous on set pieces, something the Sun Devils have struggled with all season, Winkworth said.

"Again, we have to focus our best on defending those set pieces and try to create some problems of our own," he said.

ASU has given up more corner kicks than its opponents in every Pac-12 game, besides the matchups against the University of Washington on Sept. 24 and against the University of Oregon on Oct. 10. The team shifted its focus in training in order to work on defending set pieces when they are given up.

"We are ultimately conceding too many goals from set pieces and we've worked on that more and more throughout training," Douglas said. 

Despite tying Washington State, ASU has proved its abilities to match up with a physical team and showed its "fighting spirit," according to van Deursen.

With graduate student forward Olivia Kearse-Thomas' goal at 40:16 and Douglas' goal in the second half at 63:39, ASU pushed Washington State into overtime and tied instead of losing the team's third straight game. 

"The second half against Washington State was probably the best we've played all season, and we're using that momentum to only go up from here," Douglas said.

Although the team continues to fight for its first conference win, the energy and work ethic of the team has not changed. Sun Devil soccer players understand they have been playing better than the results reflect, Winkworth said.

"We all have just been sticking together. Some teams would just break apart at this point knowing they haven't won a conference game yet but our team is completely different," Douglas said.

The Sun Devils have continued to prove their ability to compete in a talented Pac-12 conference.

"Win, lose or tie, we go through it together and that's the beauty of a team, that you have each other to build up," van Deursen said.

ASU will take on Stanford on Thursday, Oct. 21 at 5 p.m. MST in Stanford, CA.

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