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Nicki Stone's penalty kick in the 50th minute proved to be the game winner for the Arizona State women's soccer team, Oct. 2, as the Sun Devils came through with a hard-fought 1-0 win at Colorado.
The Sun Devils (5-6, 1-2 Pac-12) snapped a two-game losing streak after opening the Pac-12 portion of their schedule with a pair of tough, one-goal losses on the road at Cal (1-0 on Sept. 23) and at Utah (2-1 on Friday).
The Sun Devils were able to hold on for the victory despite playing the last 20-plus minutes of the game shorthanded after sophomore defender Jasmine Roth was given a red card in the 70th minute.
"We haven't always been showing our character and today I thought the team did an excellent job of showing that they had character," ASU head coach Kevin Boyd said following the win. "We played with a lot of guts. We played hard. It is a great win for us. To go down a player and to hold on when you are up 1-0 [on the road] against a team that is pretty even with you is a credit to the battle that our players had and their spirit today."
The Sun Devils found themselves on the wrong end of two important statistical categories as Colorado (3-6-2, 0-2-1 Pac-12) had nearly twice as many shots as the Sun Devils (15-8) and had a 12-0 advantage in corner kicks.
However none of that would matter in the end as the Sun Devils would gain the most important advantage - on the scoreboard - in the 50th minute when Stone was fouled in the penalty box by Colorado junior midfielder Lauren Shaner. Moments later the Sun Devils would take a lead they wouldn't relinquish when Stone knocked the penalty kick home.
It was the second goal of the season (and the second game-winning goal) for Stone who returned to game action two days earlier after missing the previous seven games because of injury.
"For Nicki to be out as long as she has and to come out and play like she did this weekend... She changed our team [for the better] every time she played," Boyd said. "And then for her to get in behind [Colorado's defense], get clipped and draw a penalty kick and stick it away on her own, that is absolutely outstanding for her."
For ASU, the challenge of holding on to its slim lead became exponentially more difficult when Roth was flagged for a red card in the 70th minute. The sequence that culminated with the red card began when Sun Devil midfielder Taylor McCarter was battling for the ball with Colorado defender Amy Barczuk. The referee blew his whistle to call a foul on Barczuk after McCarter was pulled to the ground. Around the same time the foul was called Roth was coming in to clear the ball. Because the ball was right next to the fallen Barczuk as Roth was attempting her clearance, one of the linesmen determined that Roth had kicked Barczuk and he notified the referee, who in turn gave Roth the card.
"[Jasmine] came in to clear the ball and pulled her foot back, but there was no intent at all [by Jasmine to kick their player]," Boyd said. "[Barczuk's] head was sliding down toward the ball in the play and so there was no intent at all."
With Colorado in essence now on a `power play' for the remainder of the contest, the Sun Devils would find themselves playing on their heels for much of the last 20 minutes as their opponents launched several desperate attempts to find the equalizer.
Playing a big part in turning back the Colorado attack time and again were a pair of Colorado natives - junior goalkeeper Alyssa Gillmore (Evergreen, Colo.) and junior defender Sierra Joseph (Highlands Ranch, Colo.) - who helped the Sun Devils preserve the shutout and pick up their first Pac-12 win.
"[Alyssa] was sound," Boyd said. "She was good and solid and I thought [Sierra] had one of her best games yet. I am really thrilled for both of them to be in front of their parents and family and friends and play well."
It was ASU's fifth shutout of the season and the third for Gillmore, who made five saves on Sunday. One of Gillmore's biggest saves came in the second half as she deflected a shot off the foot of Colorado midfielder Kate Russell, who had a wide open shot after receiving the ball right in front of the Sun Devil goal.
Tying for the team lead in shots were Holland Crook and Alyssa Freeman, who had two shots each.
After being on the road for three straight weekends (last five games), the Sun Devils return to Sun Devil Soccer Stadium this weekend when they host No. 23 Oregon State on Friday (7 p.m.) and Oregon on Sunday (1 p.m.).