The Last Goal

 

Courtesy of Nick Vu

Courtesy of Nick Vu

SOCCER: Devon Delarosa wasn’t expecting to be the hero; without her, UCI never would have reached the Sweet 16.

It was the greatest moment of her athletic career. A half British, half Mexican girl named Devon Delarosa was swarmed by her teammates. What just happened? Two goals in two minutes. The atmosphere, the opponent, the time on the clock, it was shocking. It was the defining moment of her career.

The day is November 12, 2010. Arizona State’s women’s soccer team walks into the first round NCAA Tournament matchup at Anteater Stadium on a bad note. First, they scoff at having to use the public restrooms that are shared by fans just outside of Anteater Stadium. Then during pregame, Delarosa overhears an opponent mutter, “They actually think they’re going to beat us right now.”

Irvine enters the matchup 17-2-2, having defeated Long Beach State the week prior to become the first team in program history to win a Big West Championship.

In front of the biggest crowd in school history, the Anteaters go down 1-0 17 minutes into the first half when ASU’s Devin Marshall acrobatically volleys a shot into the upper right-hand corner of the net to put the Pac-12 powerhouse on top.

UCI hadn’t lost in over a month. Coach Scott Juniper knows his team just needs to stay aggressive as ASU plays ball control, rather than pushing for a two-goal lead. Play quick, but don’t rush.

In the 72nd minute, Irvine’s biggest threat dribbles down the right sideline attracting all of the attention. Tanya Taylor is the Big West Player of the Year. She would wind up with 11 goals and a school record 12 assists that season. As ASU keys in on Taylor, intent on not allowing Irvine’s best offensive threat to beat them, Delarosa slips into the box. Taylor rifles a shot off  the right crossbar. As ASU starts to exhale, Delarosa’s heart skips a beat. The sophomore forward had just two goals all season. Ricocheting off the right crossbar to the left, the ball winds up at Delarosa’s cleat. She taps it out of ASU’s goalkeeper’s reach and into the left side of the net to tie it up at one.

Two minutes later, Taylor is weaving up the right sideline once again, running out of room and style points as ASU continues to drape themselves all over her. Facing the crowd, Taylor turns and chips a beautiful fly ball into the middle of the penalty box, where a 5-foot-4-inch tall Delarosa skies for the loose ball. Off her head, into the net. Delarosa is mobbed by her teammates, but there’s still more than 15 minutes left to play.

When the final whistle blows, Delarosa is demolished by her team. She had never scored two goals in a game in her lifetime, let alone in the same half, let alone two minutes apart. Over a span of two minutes, Delarosa single-footedly earned UCI’s first NCAA Tournament win in school history. The team went on to defeat Wake Forest in the round of 32 before falling to the University of Washington in the Sweet 16, which still stands as the deepest playoff run in school history.

Set to graduate in a few weeks, Delarosa will receive her bachelor’s degree in sociology with a minor in education. She plans to become a special education teacher and possibly coach in the future. Two years have passed after that November night in her sophomore season. As a junior, Delarosa was named a team captain, but as the team began to develop more transfers and difference-making freshmen, her playing time dipped considerably. Those were the last two goals she’d score in college: can’t beat that.