Fall Ball Focus: ASU Sees Opportunity After NCAA Snub, Coaching Change

PHOTO COURTESY OF ARIZONA STATE ATHLETICS

Kaylon Buckner is a breakout candidate this spring, according to Taryn VanThof.


The decision to leave Arizona State out of the NCAA tournament was one of the committee’s more controversial decisions last season. The Pac-12 tournament runner-up upset USC in the semifinal before falling in its first title-game appearance to Stanford.

But 2023 won’t merely be a new season in Tempe. More than a dozen players are gone from last year’s team, including four of the top five scorers. And Tim McCormack departed for Johns Hopkins, making way for Taryn VanThof, who arrives in Arizona after a successful run as the assistant coach at Florida.

“They’re competing and really getting after it on a day-to-day basis, and I think that’s because of the opportunity,” VanThof said. “There’s opportunity to play and opportunity in terms of a new staff. There’s so much opportunity for this young program to grow and be successful.”

But that doesn’t mean the Sun Devils are completely starting from scratch. The core of returners, which includes last year’s starting goalie Katie Vahle (12.80 GAA, .409 SV %) and draws leader Zoe Mazur (81 DC), got a taste of success and want more.

“Building on our success is one of the biggest things we talk about here,” VanThof said. “That comes from how motivated these kids are. You saw the success they had in terms of the Pac-12. Losing the Pac-12 championship, even more motivation. Losing that NCAA bid, even more motivation.”

LAST SEASON

The Sun Devils were late bloomers in 2022. A 16-4 loss to Stony Brook on April 1 put them at 4-6. But ASU bounced back — a 13-12 overtime win over Rutgers two days later was the start of a five-game winning streak. The streak included wins over Stanford in the regular season and USC in the Pac-12 semifinals. But the Cardinal prevailed in the Pac-12 final. At 11-8 overall and 7-3 in conference play, ASU appeared to have a fighting chance at making the tournament. But those hopes were dashed on Selection Sunday when the Sun Devils did not hear their names called.

It was a learning experience for the team.

“They learned [success] is doable,” VanThof said. “They know where they need to be and where they should be … it’s not just a desire. It’s something they can get after.”







BIGGEST FALL QUESTION

Who Will Lead the Offense?

Arizona State will be without its top three scorers from 2022 in Emily Glagolev (44 G, 42 A), Carley Adams (51 G, 28 A) and Taylor Pinzone (41 G, 13 A). Emily Munro, who was fifth on the team in points (35) on 26 goals and nine assists, also graduated in May.

Katie Brodsky, a fifth-year, was fourth on the team in points (46) and third in assists (25). Brodsky played in 16 games, making two starts last year, and will likely have a more significant role this season.

“She is just as strong from X and that quarterback in terms of directing,” VanThof said.

VanThof said junior Mina Scott (14 G, 3 A) has also impressed this fall and is an emerging leader. Her leadership will be critical as VanThof looks to mix in what she calls a strong freshman class that will likely help fill out the offense.

MARQUEE ADDITION: TEAGAN NG

Teagan Ng is poised to be part of the answer to the offensive question mark heading into 2023. The freshman from British Colombia cut her teeth in the sport of lacrosse by playing box with the boys. The multi-sport star also played soccer and basketball.

Ng arrived at ASU ready to go. VanThof describes her as a dynamic lefty who can make an immediate impact.

“She fires from so many different cylinders, whether it’s a feed or dodge,” VanThof said. “She has great vision and stick protection and is a finisher all around.”  

BREAKOUT CANDIDATE: KAYLON BUCKNER

If Kaylon Buckner continues on the trajectory she’s been on this fall, VanThof believes her fifth season will be her finest. The midfielder started all 19 games in 2022 and was second on the team in draws (48). She also contributed 17 goals and eight assists.

“She is going to destroy both ends of the field,” VanThof said. “Her athleticism separates her. Her IQ is increasing every day. She has a knack for finding the ball and is always around it.”

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