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Coastal collapse: ASU women's lacrosse struggles in tough stretch of away games

The ASU women's lacrosse team started the season with a win against St. Bonaventure University but quickly lost five straight road games due to offensive struggles

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ASU junior attacker Mina Scott (21) looks for an open shot against University of Oregon at Sun Devil Lacrosse Stadium Friday, March 24, 2023.

ASU women's lacrosse head coach Taryn VanThof's tenure has gotten off to a rocky start nearly halfway through the season. The Sun Devils (2-6, 1-2) lost five straight away games due to their lackluster offense and inexperienced roster.

After kicking off the season with a win at home against St. Bonaventure University, ASU hit the road for five away games in the span of four weeks. Leaving Tempe with high hopes, the Sun Devils' offense struggled on the road as they were outscored 69-41 by their opponents.

ASU's East Coast tour began with an 8-4 loss against No. 25 Penn State on Feb. 24. Trailing by just one at halftime, the Sun Devils offense went quiet as they conceded three unanswered goals in the second half.

In a similar fashion, ASU dropped its next three games against Towson University, No. 24 Jacksonville University and No. 7 University of Florida. During that stretch, the Sun Devils were outshot 103-68 while conceding 14 more turnovers.

Coming back west, ASU ended its road trip with a crushing 17-6 loss against No. 18 University of Southern California on March 17. The Sun Devils' offense was outclassed as the Trojans outshot them 36-21 while recording 14 more shots on goal. In the loss, junior attacker Mina Scott led ASU with two goals on two shots.

While ASU's offense shot efficiently on the road, the team struggled to capitalize on scoring opportunities and keep pace with its opponents. This season, the Sun Devils have posted a .429 shot percentage while their opponents have recorded a .444 percentage. However, ASU's opponents average 30.4 shots per game while the Sun Devils average a meager 23.9 shots per game.

The Sun Devils' offense is led by three players who have scored 10 or more goals this season. Currently, graduate midfielder Kaylon Buckner leads ASU with 23 goals while Scott and freshman attacker Teagan Ng have scored 13 and 12 goals, respectively. With such a top-heavy offense, assistant coach Haley Warden said her top scorers are drawing challenging matchups against their opponents' best defenders. 

Recognizing flaws in the team's offense, Warden said she and VanThof are still learning their attackers' strengths and weaknesses. She said her players are getting used to playing in ASU's scheme and with one another, explaining why the offense hasn't been firing on all cylinders.

"They're playing a new system, they're playing totally different lacrosse than they're used to," Warden said. "I think it's just a little bit of a learning curve. I think we're on the up right now."

On the other side of the field, sophomore goalkeeper Katie Vahle has led ASU defensively while receiving little offensive support. This season, Vahle has posted a .453 save percentage and 13.09 goals against average. Still, Vahle has seen 225 shots and has been forced to make 78 saves this season.

Just like their offense, the Sun Devils' 11 freshmen on the roster had to adapt quickly to collegiate games against ranked opponents. Ng said she was still getting used to being a collegiate athlete when the team hit the road.

"It was a really cool experience," Ng said. "It's also like, I am learning how to balance things, which is a whole learning experience. My older teammates have helped me a lot trying to balance everything."

After facing tough competition, ASU's players have slowly gained confidence in their play and camaraderie in the locker room. VanThof said she believes her players have built a sense of unity on the field as they start to believe in their own abilities. 

After its road trip, ASU returned to Tempe to host the University of Oregon on March 24 and the University of Colorado on March 26. The Sun Devils beat the Ducks 12-9 for their first Pac-12 win of the season before falling 17-13 to the Buffaloes. VanThof's offense appeared to improve over the weekend as her team outshot its opponents 59-56 while committing 11 turnovers each game, down from its average of 16.4 turnovers per game on the road.

Moving forward, VanThof believes that her team's tough road stretch will lead to success in conference play. She said each opponent taught the team valuable lessons, and that they're expecting similar competition in Pac-12 play.

"Obviously I would have loved to win a couple of them," VanThof said. "But the fact that we've turned pages in that and gotten better game-by-game through that is really going to propel us through the Pac-12."

The Sun Devils will head out on another road trip this weekend against Stanford on March 31 and Cal on April 2.

Edited by Kathryn Field, Reagan Priest and Caera Learmonth.

Reach the reporter at and follow @jackcbarron on Twitter. 

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