EUGENE, Ore. – For the second time in as many games Sara Tosti was the hero. The sophomore forward scored on a header in the 71st minute to help lift the Arizona State women’s soccer team to a 1-0 win over Oregon on Friday night.
Coming off arguably its biggest win in school history, a 1-0 triumph over previously unbeaten and second-ranked Stanford, ASU (8-4, 3-1 Pac-12) continued to show how far it has come in its quest to be among the top teams in the Pac-12. With Friday’s win the Sun Devils captured wins in consecutive conference games played on the road for the first time since 2005. And it didn’t come easy against a Ducks squad (2-7-3, 0-3-1), which has had every one of its losses come by a single goal.
“I thought it was a very even game and I thought Oregon played very well,” said ASU head coach Kevin Boyd, whose team is now 7-1-1 in its last nine Pac-12 games going back to last season. “I thought they did things to make it very difficult for us. They are not having their best season, but you can see they are fully committed with the effort they put in.
“We didn’t have our best day, but we found a way to win on the road and there is something to be said for that.”
As has been the case in its recent contests, the Sun Devils had no problem creating scoring opportunities for themselves in the first half as they took all seven shots in the first 45 minutes. Unfortunately only two of those shots were on frame and as a result they went into the half tied at 0-0.
“I think we were a little bit frantic because of the pressure they put us under,” explained Boyd. “In order to really create great scoring chances you’ve got to put together long strings of passes at times so that the other team has to worry about getting the ball from you as well as defending their goal. They only had to worry about defending their goal. They didn’t have to worry about getting the ball from us because we were giving it to them a lot.”
Despite coming up empty handed in the first stanza, the Sun Devils did not get discouraged and continued to remain aggressive on the offensive end in the second half, taking four of the first six shots. Their first three shots – all in the run of play – missed their mark, but the fourth one, which came off a corner kick, found the back of the net.
The goal was the product of a team effort. Senior midfielder Rachael Ritter started the sequence with the corner kick, which was initially headed by senior forward Devin Marshall. Tosti then went up and knocked the ball in with a header of her own to give ASU the lead.
“The ball came into the back, Devin headed it right back across to the near side and Tosti headed it in – and she did it with some power,” said Boyd, who was pleased that his team was able to score on a corner kick, something that has been a point of emphasis in recent games. “We’ve been putting a lot of effort into our corners and have had a lot of discussion about scoring off set pieces especially at this time of the year when it is so important. You add tonight’s goal to the one we got against Cal last week, which came off a long set piece, and you see that we are starting to become dangerous in that area which is great.”
For Tosti, it was the second straight game she came through with what would ultimately be the game-winning goal after scoring the only goal in the 24th minute of ASU’s 1-0 win over Stanford on Sunday. In that contest she put three of her five shots on frame. After recording only one shot in the first half against Oregon, Boyd offered some advice to Tosti.
“My conversation with her at halftime was, ‘You’ve got to find chances off the ball with your movement and getting into better spaces,’” said Boyd. “She was trying to do everything on the ball and you have to have more dimensions than that. I thought she started putting herself in better position in the second half and she got rewarded with a goal.”
After Tosti’s goal, the challenge for the Sun Devils was to finish on top as Oregon still had more than 19 minutes left to try and tie the game. Like in its win against Stanford, ASU would step up with a resilient effort on the defensive end and fend off numerous opportunities created by the Ducks.
“Oregon put us under tremendous pressure in the last 10 minutes of the game,” said Boyd. “They started getting some corners on us and some long sets coming in and I thought this is where it showed how committed we were defensively. I thought we did a very good job of staying with marks, getting tight and battling for everything. They got some shots, but all of their shots were under pressure. We just made it hard for them.”
Although she was credited with only one save, Chandler Morris stepped up on numerous occasions to stymie the Ducks’ attack inside the box. She would remain in the game after being momentarily shaken up in the second half to record her fifth shutout of the season (10th of her career).
Since giving up seven goals in their first four games, the Sun Devils have given up only five in their last eight contests. Friday’s shutout was their fifth in that eight-game stretch and their sixth overall this season.The Sun Devils close out their road trip to the state of Oregon on Sunday (1 p.m. PT) when they face Oregon State.