BERKELEY, Calif. – On Friday the Arizona State women’s soccer team showed it could go on the road and not only compete with, but outplay the No. 11 team in the country. In the end however, the Sun Devils were overtaken by a resilient and veteran Cal team, which remained unbeaten with a 2-1 win over ASU.
Senior midfielder Kaitlyn Fitzpatrick scored both of Cal’s goals, including the game winner on a penalty kick with four minutes left, to help the Bears (8-0-3, 1-0-1 Pac-12) win their first Pac-12 game.
For the Sun Devils (6-4, 1-1), the final outcome of the game belied an effort that saw them produce several dangerous scoring opportunities while yielding only one shot on goal to Cal’s top two goal scorers.
“I thought we did enough to win the game today,” said ASU head coach Kevin Boyd. “I thought we created far more chances than our opponent, but our opponent found a way to score two and we were only able to score one. They are a veteran team and they showed it.”
The Sun Devils put 75 percent of their 12 shots on frame, however they were turned back time and again by Cal senior goalkeeper Emily Kruger, who made eight saves on the afternoon.
“Their goalkeeper was tremendous today,” said Boyd. “We had a number of breakaways and she did not allow us to score on any of them. She was really good and on days when the other team is coming at you like we were coming at them today you need your goalkeeper to step up and she did a great job.”
Fitzpatrick got Cal on the board in the 12th minute when she weaved her way to the left of ASU’s goal, before striking a low, hard shot into the opposite side of the net.
Despite being denied on several occasions, the Sun Devils did not get discouraged as they continued to keep the Bears’ defense on its heels. Leading the attack was senior forward Devin Marshall, who put three of her team-high five shots on frame.
With the pressure they were exerting around the Cal goal it seemed only a matter of time before the Sun Devils broke through. That moment finally came in the 69th minute when senior defender Kaitlyn Pavlovich rose above the crowd to get her head on a free kick by redshirt freshman midfielder Lucy Lara. Pavlovich’s shot arced into the net to tie the game at 1-1. Ironically enough, Pavlovich almost didn’t get the opportunity to score the goal as she was originally going to take the free kick.
“KP was going to take the kick, but because of her height I wanted her in the box,” explained Boyd. “I wanted Lucy to take the kick because she can hit a ball that starts away and bends into the goal area away from the goalkeeper. It did not quite turn out that way, but it worked in that she hit a really long, driven ball that went deep. KP got up and got a hold of it and she just basically headed it across the goal, over the goalkeeper and into the far post.”
With less than five minutes remaining the Bears put together their most dangerous offensive flurry of the game as they sent shots and crosses toward the net from all around the penalty area. The Sun Devils would continually come up with plays to thwart the Bears, however they were not able to clear the ball out of the area. Sun Devil goalkeeper Chandler Morris dove to knock down an attempt by Fitzpatrick, leaving the net open for Cal midfielder Samantha Witteman. The Sun Devil closest to Witteman was redshirt sophomore midfielder Mackenzie Semerad who did the only thing she could to prevent the goal and fouled Witteman in front of the net. Fitzpatrick would score on the ensuing penalty kick to put Cal back ahead 2-1 with four minutes left.
“We had a chance to clear the ball out of the box and we chose to dribble instead of clear it and that kept the ball in,” explained Boyd of the sequence that lead to the penalty kick. “They crossed the ball to the other side of the field and in that moment we lost a player in the box at the top of the 18. They got a really good shot and Chandler made a nice save, but had to dive to block it and one of their players basically followed the shot very well and we didn’t. That’s when Mac fouled their player from behind, which resulted in a penalty kick and a red card because she was the last player.”
Despite coming up on the short end of Friday’s game, Boyd felt there were several positives to take away from the game.
“I was happy that we created about eight scoring chances in the run of play,” explained Boyd. “We weren’t able to finish them, but it’s important that we were able to create them.
“We need to eliminate the mental errors, but I like the way we played as a whole and feel good knowing that we played well enough to beat a top 20 team on the road.”
The Sun Devils conclude their Bay Area road trip on Sunday (5:30 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks) with a contest at second-ranked Stanford.