TEMPE, Ariz – Friday night’s soccer game between Arizona State and Illinois had all the elements one might find accustomed to finding in a big-time summer blockbuster flick.
There was action – lots of it – as the two teams combined for seven goals.
There was drama. After building leads of 2-0 and 3-2, the Sun Devils (3-1) found themselves tied at 3-3 and headed to overtime after the Illini (3-2) knotted the score in the 80th minute.
There was suspense. After battling through 90 minutes of regulation and the better part of two 10-minute overtime periods, would either team be able to find the game winner?
Special effects? Mother Nature took care of that. In the first game of Friday’s Sun Devil Classic doubleheader, Arizona (3-0-2) and Kansas (3-1-1) battled to a 1-1 draw, but not before the two teams were forced off the pitch for 75 minutes in the first half because of lightning.
As for the dramatic Hollywood-like ending? That would come courtesy of the Devils’ dynamic offensive duo of senior Devin Marshall and sophomore Cali Farquharson, who teamed up to bring a sudden end to the match in the 107th minute of play. Marshall threaded the needle with a perfect pass to Farquharson, who slipped between a pair of Illini defenders to receive Marshall’s delivery in stride before winding up from the top of the box and placing her shot just outside the reach of Illini goalkeeper Claire Wheatley and just inside the far post to give the Devils the 4-3 win.
The Pac-12’s top returning pair from last season in combined goals per game average, Marshall (two goals) and Farquharson (two goals) accounted for all four goals on Friday night. Both players were the benefactors of a total team effort that refused to wilt under the pressure being exerted by the Illini.
“We got into the overtime, and what I said to the team is it’s 3-3, there’s nothing we can do about where we’re at right now other than to prepare for overtime” said ASU head coach Kevin Boyd following the game. “Overtimes are about character and heart, going out and wanting it and willing it. If we will it, we can make it happen.”
Holland Crook nearly made it happen in the first overtime when the senior midfielder sent a crossing shot that appeared would tuck itself just underneath the crossbar for the game winner. And but for the fingertips of Wheatley it would have. The freshman goalkeeper reached back and got just enough of a touch on the ball to change its trajectory and hit the crossbar, falling just inches short of bouncing into the goal.
“I thought she was going to get her goal,” said Boyd of Crook’s shot. “She struck it well and I was really hoping. She played better tonight, which I’m happy about. I really wanted her to get that goal.”
Entering the second overtime it was time for a few minor adjustments.
“We got into the second overtime and we changed it a little bit,” said Boyd. “I wanted the backs and holding mids to stay put and to serve in our forwards and our attacking mids instead of trying to get forward so that we prevented them from getting out. Ultimately Cali got loose.”
And when the local product out of Shadow Mountain High School got loose, Farquharson delivered her fourth game-winning goal in her last seven games going back to last season. Two of those came in double overtime (last October vs. Colorado with 22 seconds remaining and Friday night’s goal vs. Illinois) and another in the last two minutes of regulation (last November vs. Arizona with 1:53 remaining).
“We just ran the diagonal, and Devin played it through, and I was able to get it into the far post,” said Farquharson, who has six goals in ASU’s first four games of 2013. “I didn’t expect to score that last one. We were hitting the post and kept getting close so I’m glad I was able to put that one away.”
Farquharson’s goal fashioned the kind of ending that did not seem likely earlier in the game. ASU struck first in the 33rd minute when Crook sent a pass across the field, which Marshall redirected with a header into the back post to give ASU the lead.
The Sun Devils would extend their advantage to 2-0 less than a minute into the second half when Farquharson laced a shot into the far left post. Farquharson took advantage of brief lapse in concentration by the Illini and came up with a steal in the Illini backfield. Her initial attempt to attack was thwarted by a collision with an Illini defender. In actuality the physicality of the play ended up working to Farquharson’s benefit as it created enough separation for her to get off a clean shot.
Down by two, the Illini got the break it needed to help it get back into the game when the Sun Devils were called for a foul in the box. Vanessa DiBernardo was successful on the ensuing penalty kick, cutting ASU’s lead to 2-1.
Jannelle Flaws tied the game at 2-2 less than four minutes later when she took advantage of a point-blank opportunity in front of the Sun Devil goal.
After fending off Illinois’ attempts to go ahead, the Devils would respond in the 71st minute when freshman Mckenzie Grossman found Marshall behind the defense. Marshall gathered in the pass and floated a shot over Wheatley, which allowed ASU to regain the lead, 3-2.
Flaws’ second goal of the game in the 80th minute once again evened the score at 3-3. Neither team could break through in the final 10 minutes of regulation sending the game into overtime.
Marshall’s two goals on Friday moved her into ninth place on ASU’s all-time list with 19 career goals. With her next goal, Marshall will tie Karen Inoue (1997-2000) for eighth place.
Farquharson now has 16 career goals and needs two more to move into a tie for 10th place. Her final goal on Friday culminated an evening that saw two games combine for nearly 217 minutes of soccer played over a span of 6.5 hours.
The Sun Devil Classic concludes on Sunday with another doubleheader. Arizona and Illinois will get things started at 11 a.m. and will be followed by the Sun Devils taking on Kansas at 1:30 p.m.