VIDEO: Go 'Behind the Scenes' of First Practice
TEMPE, Ariz. – The Sun Devil soccer team commenced preparations for its 2014 season on Wednesday night with a two-hour practice at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium.
The training session was the first of several the Sun Devils will have before officially opening the regular season in two weeks. Eighth-year head coach Kevin Boyd said Wednesday’s session was about easing into concepts for what is a relatively young squad. Of the 27 players on the roster, 10 are newcomers while three others redshirted last year.
“We are trying to define our roles a little bit and get the new players accustomed to the way that we play,” said Boyd, the program’s all-time leader in career wins. “We want them to learn various elements within our system like how to keep a ball, how to defend – the stuff that makes us who we are.”
The team spent Wednesday’s practice going through various defending drills. Following the practice, Boyd asked the team what its assessment of the training session was. More specifically, he asked them if they could quantify it with a letter grade.
“They thought as a whole they battled fairly well,” said Boyd. “They thought they needed a little more enthusiasm out there. That was one of their main points and so they rated themselves a ‘B’ because of that.”
Boyd added that he was impressed with the play of the new players, several of whom could have a significant impact this season.
“I thought (freshman midfielder) Aly Moon played well. She’s very good on the ball. I thought (freshman forward) Jessica Raybe was good. She has a good understanding of the game as a whole. (Freshman midfielder) Madison Kmetko did a pretty nice job as well. (Freshman) Madison Stark in the outside back also did a solid job. As a whole, I thought they did a pretty good job. It was nice seeing (freshman) Lexi Bounds in goal. She has good feet and that makes a difference for us.”
Although new to the program and to college as a whole, Boyd said he does not expect the freshman class to have any issues getting acclimated to their new environment. In addition to the time they will have spent on campus before the fall semester starts later this month, Boyd also credits the program’s culture with the smooth transition new players have at ASU.
“Most of them have been taking (summer school) classes and have been here over a month and so that settles down some of the nerves,” explained Boyd. “I also think our returning players do a wonderful job of embracing them, bringing them into the fold and teaching them what being a Sun Devil is all about. They get them to smile, have some fun and realize it’s not all that intimidating.”
The Sun Devils return six regular starters from last year's team that went 9-8-2 and came just short of earning the program's fourth NCAA Tournament appearance in a five-year span. Included among the returning starters are junior forward and leading scorer Cali Farquharson (2013 All-Pac-12 Second Team, 2013 NSCAA All-Pacific Region Second Team) and junior defender McKenzie Berryhill (2013 All-Pac-12 Second Team, 2013 NSCAA All-Pacific Region Third Team).
Earlier this summer Farquharson and Berryhill were both participants in the U.S. Under-23 Women’s National Team’s training camp. Also getting national team experience last month was redshirt sophomore midfielder Lucy Lara, who participated in Mexico’s women’s national team’s training camp.
“Our program was thrilled for all three of them to get that kind of experience,” said Boyd. “I want them to carry themselves like they’re national team players and I think they will. In addition to what it says about them, I think it also reflects on the way we develop players in our program. It’s nice to say your program is doing a good job in that area.”
The Sun Devils open the 2014 regular season on Fri., Aug. 22 when they take on Texas as part of the Outrigger Resorts Shootout being hosted by the University of Hawaii. ASU will then face Hawaii on Sun., Aug. 24. In addition to its practices, the team will also have a scrimmage against Northern Arizona next Friday (Aug. 15, 7 p.m.) at ASU’s West campus in Glendale.