Sun Devil Soccer kicks off the 2022-23 Athletics season on Thursday night

THE GAME: Sun Devil Soccer (0-0) vs. South Dakota State (0-0)

WHEN: Thursday at 7:00 p.m. MST

WHERE: Sun Devil Football Stadium

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Sun Devil Soccer opens its 2022 campaign Thursday night (7 p.m. MST) when it hosts 2021 NCAA entrant South Dakota State at Sun Devil Soccer Stadium.

Thursday’s game will be the first of two games the Sun Devils will play in front of their fans this weekend. ASU will be back on their home turf on Sunday when Hawaii visits Tempe. The Sun Devils will play in the spotlight again with game time at 7 p.m.

Sun Devils will be led by sixth-year head coach Graham Winkworth. ASU just completed a 2021 campaign in which they won 10 games, the second time they posted double-digit win totals (2018 and 2021) in the past four seasons and that’s not including not the 9-6-2 record that was good enough to earn the team a spot in the 2020 NCAA Tournament. Prior to 2018, ASU posted double-digit win totals twice in the previous 10 seasons.

“Every year there’s always a sense of excitement around the place. This year is no different,” Winkworth said. “I counted the days to get back to work on the grass.

“I feel like we have a really special group. I get to work with some amazing people. This year our staff will be a little different, but I’m excited to see the skills and personalities everyone brings to the table. .”

All eyes will be on the 2021 NCAA scoring leader Nicole Douglas, who earned third-team All-America honors last season and was one of 13 players named to the All-Pac-12 first team. The first Sun Devil to earn All-America honors since 2002, Douglas in 2021 set single-season school records for goals (19) and points (45). She led the nation in goals (19), goals per game (0.95) and points per game (2.25).

A fifth-year player, Douglas enters the 2022 season ranked second in program history in career goals (46), career points (109) and career game-winning goals (14) and is tied for seventh in career assists (17). Sun Devil Hall of Famer Stacey Tullock (1998-2001) holds the school record in all four categories: goals (50), points (125), game-winning goals (16) and assists (25) .

Douglas, who has started all 71 games she has appeared in over the past four seasons, scored a goal or an assist in all but five games last season and had a streak in which she scored at least one goal in seven consecutive games.


The fifth-year midfielder is also within reach of breaking a career high on the program. Eva van Deursen (20 career assists), who will enter the 2022 campaign with six assists to become ASU’s all-time leader: Manya Makoski (second place/22 assists/2002-05), the Temple member of ASU fame Stacey Tullock (1st place/25 assists/1998-2001).

Last season, van Deursen, who also scored three goals, set the school’s single-season assist record with 10. At the end of the season, van Deursen led the Pac-12 and was No. 19 nationwide in assists per game (0.56). She matched her career high in a single game in assists (two) twice in ASU’s wins at UAB (August 29) and over Utah (October 31).


The Sun Devils are 4-1 in early games under Winkworth. A hard-fought 2-1 overtime decision against Ohio State in 2017 is the only opener in the past five years in which ASU has not emerged victorious. ASU extended its current winning streak in the first four games with a 6-1 win over Central Arkansas last year.


ASU’s 2022 schedule includes six competitions against teams that qualified for last season’s NCAA Tournament: South Dakota State, Pepperdine, Stanford, UCLA, USC and Washington State.

Thursday’s opponent, South Dakota State, SDSU won a program-record 17 games last season, won the Summit League Tournament and advanced to the first round of the NCAA Tournament. ASU won the only previous meeting 2-0 in 2018 at SDSU.


ASU will return a quartet of fifth-year players as forwards Nicole Douglas (71 starts/71 games) and Olivia Nguyen (36 starts/61 games, including 35 starts in 37 games the last two seasons) and midfielders Alexia Delgado (57 starts/64 games) and Eva van Deursen (66 starts/69 games). The four players have combined for 230 games in starting experience out of 265 games.

The Sun Devils are also returning two other players with over 50 games of starting experience: defender Lieske Carleer (51 starts/52 career games) and defender/midfielder Callie Darst (56 starts in 57 career games). Darst averaged 89.4 minutes in those 57 games.


The heart and soul of the team, Alexia Delgado will again assume the captaincy duties this season. Delgado was a workhorse on the court, logging 60 minutes in all but one game, and 104 minutes in a game against Washington St.

“Alexia is the greatest leader I have ever met,” the head coach said Graham Winkworth. “Her professionalism is incredible. She’s an extremely intelligent player to the point that she reads the game a little faster than any opponent I’ve seen. She’s a coach on the pitch and our amazing captain. “


Entering its final year, Lieske Carleer will be the backbone of the Sun Devils defense. In 2021, she has started 17 games and played every minute in eight of those games. She won Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for her performances against Mississippi St., where she played all but seven minutes of the game, and against UAB. In those two games, his work on the defensive end helped the Sun Devils shut out the Bulldogs and allow just one goal against UAB, and conceded just 13 shots.


The Sun Devils welcome two transfers to the program, Gaby Rennie and Hannah Leitner. Rennie joins the Sun Devils after beginning his career at Indiana University. She also spent time with the New Zealand national team and scored a goal for them at the Tokyo Olympics. Leitner comes from New Mexico State, a program the Sun Devils played in the 2020 season, and brings experience to the forward position.


The Sun Devils will also welcome nine freshmen to Tempe: Guardians Pauline Nelles and Kayla Letcher; defenders Andrea Kraetzer, Ava Wright, Meighan Farrel and Mya Wheeler; Midfielder Brianna Nunley and a pair of newcomers who can play in multiple positions: Enasia Colon (midfielder/forward) and Mia Lanni (midfielder/forward).


• After their 8-1 record in non-conference games, ASU ranked 15th in United Soccer’s Top 25 Coaches, the highest in program history.
• Due to injuries, ASU had 22 different players in the starting lineup. Douglas and defender Callie Darst were the only two players to start all 20 games. After winning its five one-goal games outside of the conference, ASU was not so lucky in Pac-12 games as it went 1-6 in such games and also had a pair of equalities.
• After losing the two-year starter Giulia Cascapera at fall camp, goalie duties were divided among freshmen Birta Gudlaugsdottir and Julia Ortega.
• Douglas (19 goals) and co-attacker Olivia Nguyen (seven goals) combined for 26 of ASU’s 42 goals. Although Douglas and Nguyen accounted for the majority of goals, ASU had 10 different players to find the back of the net in 2021.
• Nguyen (17 points) finished second on the team in points. van Deursen cracked a point (16) shy of Nguyen for the second score.


Sun Devil Soccer will appear seven times on Pac-12 Networks in 2022: vs. South Dakota State (opening night Aug. 18), vs. Hawaii (August 21), vs. Pepperdine (September 8), vs. USC (October 9), vs. Utah (October 14), Washington State (October 20), vs. Arizona (November 4).


Sun Devil Soccer was well represented on the 2021 Pac-12 Fall Academic Honor Roll as 19 Sun Devils were recognized by the conference. In addition, Lieske Carleer and Eva van Deursen were both named to the 2021 All-District® Women’s Academic Soccer Team.

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