UA Wildcat soccer
Arizona falls to ASU in close match in Tempe, breaking 6-year winning streak
Well-coached Sun Devil squad mounts strong second-half comeback
Some things were not meant to last forever. Arizona soccer’s winning streak over ASU, one that lasted since 2016, fell in a heartbreaking loss in Tempe.
Arizona dominated early, with both Megan Chelf and Nicole Dallin opening the match with shots at ASU’s goal. ASU, however, took advantage of a defensive miscue in minute 24 that gave Keri Matthews the first goal of the match.
Still, Arizona had most of the possession so they were hoping that an equalizer would come. Finally, in minute 41, Megan Chelf took a shot and an ASU player’s attempt to block landed the ball in the back of the net. Ironically, the player who got the own goal was Nicole Douglas, ASU’s leading scorer.
Arizona went into the break without a lead, but an even score line and first half where they managed to keep the ball away from ASU for long stretches could be built on in the second half.
It looked like it could happen. Sami Baytosh took a corner kick for the team in the first moments of the half. It could Chelf, who sent the ball to Nyota Katembo. The Portland transfer slipped the ball into the goal for her first of the season.
ASU found their way after that, however. Both teams have been playing smart, possession-style soccer all season and the second half became the Sun Devils’ turn to show how they could play.
In minute 51, goalkeeper Hope Hisey saved a shot from ASU’s Hannah Leitner, Hisey’s sometime teammate with FC Tucson. The former Rincon Ranger’s shot was deflected and Eva van Deursen collected the ball and got it past Hisey to bring the score level.
ASU kept up the pressure, with Arizona only being allowed moments here and there to get up field to try to regain the lead.
Lucy Johnson, an English player who made appearances with Leicester City’s women’s side, made what seemed to be a cross into the box. Instead, it surprised the Arizona defense and went into the goal giving ASU a lead in minute 79.
Arizona was unable to mount a response, leaving ASU fans and team to celebrate at the end of time.
Arizona had a commendable first half, but the final result left coach Becca Moros to praise ASU in post-game comments.
“I think they regrouped at half time really well, so I give a lot of credit to the coaches and players,” she said. “I think we got a little bit rattled and had trouble settling down. They changed their formation and that worked for them.”
“They came out in high presses in the second half, which reduced the time we had to play make,” she continued. “It was a pretty drastic difference from the first half.”
Reading the entrails
The process to pick the 64 teams that get in the NCAA tournament is opaque and confounds even experienced soccer reporters. An ASU loss would likely have kept the Sun Devils out of postseason consideration, but their chances have now gotten much better. Arizona’s loss will probably not keep them out of the tournament given their recent unbeaten run.
Who makes the tournament will be announced on Monday with the first matches slated for Friday.