Feb. 28, 2013
The Arizona State women's soccer team opens its spring season this Saturday when it competes in a round-robin tournament at Reach 11 Field #4 in Phoenix (2425 E. Deer Valley Rd., Phoenix, AZ 85050). Other teams competing in the tournament will be BYU and Northern Arizona.
Play on Saturday will begin at 12:30 p.m. when the Sun Devils take on NAU. BYU will then take on NAU at 2:30 p.m., and the day will conclude with the Sun Devils facing BYU at 5 p.m.
Coming off their third NCAA appearance in four seasons, the Sun Devils are very much looking forward to what they can accomplish in 2013. According to ASU head coach Kevin Boyd, the groundwork for success in the fall starts with what happens in the spring.
"I think this is a critical time," Boyd explained. "During the spring we are able to teach in a calmer environment where a mistake doesn't cost you the game. I think it is good for the players themselves because they get a chance to learn at a little slower pace where they can go out and take chances and they can play significant minutes and are not as worried about what the outcome is."
Last season the Sun Devils had seven different players who were first-time starters. The majority of those players did not have the benefit of a spring to help them ease their way into playing such a big role. While there were some growing pains early on, the youth of the team would eventually gel with the veterans, which included nine seniors, and the result was five-game unbeaten streak (4-0-1) to conclude the regular season and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
With the proverbial `baptism under fire' stage now in their rear view mirror, the Sun Devils now have a solid foundation of players who have big goals in mind for next season.
"I think the benefit is we have a better core in place now," Boyd said. "What we had last spring was an older group that learned some tough lessons that carried over into the fall. I think what we have right now is a good core. There are still concerns in certain areas, but I think the base of our team is set to the point where we are not relying on incoming freshmen to have to come in and make a significant impact."
In 2013 the Sun Devils will return nine players who started 14 or more games last season. Included among the returners are three of the team's top four scorers from last season - forwards Cali Farquharson, Devin Marshall and Holland Crook - and defender Jasmine Roth, who has started 57 games over the last three seasons.
With the return of Crook, Farquharson and Marshall, among others, it's easy to see why Boyd is confident about the team's ability to score goals in 2013.
"I think our attack looks great," Boyd said. "I think last fall we were the best we've been in some time and we are going to be better next year. We are dynamic and exciting in the attack and so I'm enjoying that aspect."
Because the Sun Devils are much further along offensively than they have been in years past, Boyd and assistant coaches Scott Champ and Paige Carmichael will be able to devote more time to shoring up other areas.
One area that will be receiving a lot of attention will be the midfield where the Sun Devils graduated three significant contributors last season: Taylor McCarter (started all 80 games the last four seasons), Courtney Tinnin (started all 20 games last season) and Aissa Sanchez (played in 17 games with six starts last season).
"A lot of focus this spring is going to be on the midfield," Boyd explained. "I feel very confident about the talent we have in the attacking mid, but the holding mid is an unknown right now. I am really looking forward to seeing who is going to emerge in the midfield for us. It's a great opportunity for anyone who is looking to be on the field."
Another point of emphasis will be on the back line (Boyd: "We have not performed well enough keeping the ball out of the net.") where the Sun Devils return four players who have starting experience: McKenzie Berryhill, Kaitlyn Pavlovich, Roth and Christina Schedel (not included among the returners with starting experience is Sara Tosti, who will be moved to the front line in 2013).
Between the returning players and with the arrival of the 2013 class (includes two defenders) in the fall, Boyd feels the Sun Devils have the ability to have a formidable back line next season.
"I feel optimistic about where we are going," Boyd said. "We have some experience there and when you combine that with what we have coming in I think we will be fine."
With the start of the 2013 season a little more than five months away, the focus right now is just getting better. Saturday's games will be the first of 10 the Sun Devils will play between March 2 and April 20 when the spring season concludes with the annual alumni game.
"I'm excited to see this team play," Boyd said. "I'm not worried about results. We always want to win, but I'm more concerned about how we look on the field.
"From a technical standpoint I want to see us better at keeping the ball and from a team standpoint I'm looking to see who are the leaders of the team going to be and who are the ones that are going to want to push us forward."