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Eva van Deursen’s last-second heroics propel Sun Devil Soccer to win in Pac-12 opener

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BOULDER, Colo. – Eva van Deursen’s shot from long distance with three seconds remaining found its target to propel the Sun Devil soccer team to a 3-2 win at Colorado on Friday in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.

For the Sun Devils (5-0-2, 1-0 Pac-12), van Deursen’s goal – her second of the game, a new single-game career high – capped a see-saw battle to help them remain unbeaten.

A little more than 30 minutes before the improbable finish, it did not appear the Sun Devils would need van Deursen’s last-second heroics to claim the win after her first goal in the 59th minute, set up by teammate Nicole Douglasgave ASU a 2-0 lead.

The Buffaloes (6-2-2, 0-1), would not go down without a fight. Goals from Julia Hayward (70th minute) and Civana Kuklmann (72n.d minute) knotted the score at 2-2 and suddenly it was a brand-new game.

“I felt for the first hour, we really controlled [the game]. Then, created another opportunity where I felt we should have had a penalty kick, but it wasn’t given,” ASU head coach Graham Winkworth said. “That moment almost changed the game. Colorado came back and scored two good goals themselves. Fortunately, the game lasts 90 minutes, and with three seconds to go Eva [van Deursen] stepped up and scored the winner. Overall, I felt it was a fair result. We deserved the three points. “

Ultimately, it was the play of three of ASU’s fifth-year players that helped the Sun Devils establish early control and then still find a way to come away with the win after their lead evaporated.

Alexia Delgado (64th career start in 71 career games), who with van Deursen (73rd start in 76 career games) provides the Sun Devil midfield with nearly 150 games of experience, gave the Sun Devils the lead after scoring the game’s first goal in the 30th minutes. Douglas, who came into Friday’s contest leading the NCAA in goals per game and points per game and who made her 78th start in as many games on Friday, teamed with van Deursen to extend ASU’s advantage to 2-0 in the 60th minutes. After the game, Winkworth noted the importance the trio played in the win.

“Alexia scored on a beautiful free kick. It was a wonderful strike,” Winkworth said. “The combination between [Nicole Douglas and Eva [van Deursen] to make it 2-0 was sublime. It was a beautiful team goal. Having that type of leadership, but also that type of quality, has been huge for us all season and it was again today.”

Equally important to Winkworth was his team’s ability to stay focused after Colorado tied the game, something that was made possible by a big play made from ASU’s freshman goalkeeper. Pauline Nelles.

“We controlled the match for the first hour and the lack of penalty call was a momentum swing,” Winkworth explained. “Credit to Colorado for getting themselves back into the game. Pauline [Nelles] pulled off a wonderful save to keep it at 2-2, and moments like that emphasize why we wanted her to be a Sun Devil. She pulled off a massive save to keep it 2-2, and fortunately we were able to win the game after that.”

Winkworth said what ASU accomplished is even more impressive when taking into account the caliber of opponent they were facing.

“Colorado is a well-coached team and they have a lot of athleticism,” Winkworth said. “They are deadly on set pieces, which I felt we dealt with extremely well today. They have some excellent talent. I wish them the best for the rest of the season and hopefully both teams can still be playing later into November.”

The Sun Devils will be back at home next weekend for games against California (Thursday at 7 pm) and No. 19 Stanford (Sunday at 1 p.m.). Click here for more information on how to purchase tickets to either or both games.

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