Sun Devils Thwart Cougar Comeback
Nov. 15, 2002
SANTA CLARA, Calif. --- Washington State bounced back from a disappointing 2001 season to win 11 matches and finish a program-best third in the Pac-10 in 2002. Another comeback was not in store Friday evening, as Arizona State ended the Cougars' season with a 2-1 victory in the first round of the NCAA Division I Women's Soccer Championship.
"That's not how we wanted it to end," Head Coach Dan Tobias said after the match. "We played outstanding in the second half, but my hats off to Arizona State, they definitely had the run of play. It's too bad the deflection turns out to be the difference."
The deflection was the last of 10 shots the quick, athletic Arizona State team fired in the first half, which began coming at goalkeeper Sara Leibowitz almost the moment the clock started ticking.
The Pac-10 rivals traded a pair of good scoring opportunities early, with both schools barely missing the chance to put the match's first goal on the board.
The Cougars got a scare just two minutes in when the Sun Devils' leading scorer, freshman Elizabeth Bogus, got a clean look at the goal from 15 yards out, but sailed the shot over the head of goalkeeper Sara Leibowitz and above the crossbar.
Bogus, who was unable to uncork a single shot in the teams' first meeting, would make up for her early miscue at the 23:12 mark. Bogus took a pass from fellow freshman teammate Brittany Cooper, made a move on a Cougar defender and slid the ball just past the outstretched arms of Leibowitz in the left corner of the net.
The Cougars responded with pressure of their own, forcing ASU goalkeeper Kelly Fitzgerald to make athletic saves on shots by Brownfield and freshman Alix Rustrum in the final 15 minutes of the first stanza. Both attempts were inside 10 feet.
With just six minutes remaining in the first half, the Sun Devils took advantage of WSU's missed opportunities to give them a two-goal cushion. Cooper blasted a shot that deflected off the leg of Cougar defender Mariette Boyce, and past Leibowitz to make it 2-0.
The Sun Devils took that lead to the locker room, having outshot WSU 10-5. ASU attempted just eight shots total in the first meeting.
"I told them two things at halftime. I just told them that we were going to a different formation. The 3-4-3 was an effective formation, and I told them that we needed to do a better job of taking care of the ball. I couldn't be more proud of the teams' character with the way they fought back, right up until the final whistle."
Junior midfielder Kim Morgan gave Washington State its first scoring look of the second half 55 minutes in, as she brought in a pass from Rodrick and launched it from the top of the box, misfiring wide right.
The Cougars continued to apply the pressure, and it paid off at the 57:24 mark. Brownfield took the ball just past midfield and passed to Rodrick, who launched from 30 feet out, getting it to bounce in front of a diving Fitzgerald, then knuckle over the top of the Sun Devil netminder, who was trying to smother it.
"It just kind of hit off her," Rodrick said. "I thought we would come out and get another one right after that, but we didn't."
Rodrick's premonition nearly came to reality three minutes later when WSU's Nicole Wilcox juked a Sun Devil defender inside the box, got Fitzgerald off-balance, but missed the shot attempt wide.
The Cougars played the role of the aggressor for the remainder of the second half, putting the speedy Sun Devils in a defensive mode. ASU was successful in bogging down Washington State's attack around midfield until the Cougars had a chance at two Rodrick to Morgan shots in the last 2:44. The last gasp attempts were not fruitful for WSU, and Arizona State escaped with a ticket to the second round.
WSU ended the season 11-7-2, including 5-2-2 and third place in the Pac-10. The Cougars ran off a school-record four conference wins in a row to clinch their berth into the postseason. Arizona State will meet the winner of Santa Clara and Creighton, who played in the second half of Friday night's doubleheader.
After the match, Tobias reflected on the season, his seniors, and the future.
"Losing the two seniors, Niki (Ironside) and Katrina (Stroh) is tough," Tobias said, noting that they were part of his first recruiting effort at Washington State. "But we do have a lot of younger players returning and I think that says we have a great nucleus coming back. I think that says we are a program that's moving into the upper echelon in the Pac-10."
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