by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Sunset girls soccer player Taylor Coon signed her national letter of intent to play for Arizona State University next season.

When Taylor Coon combed through the wooing letters, listened to the good-sounding recruiting pitches and explored college campuses up and down the West Coast, Arizona State stood out from the start.

The year-round warm weather of Tempe. Sound academics. A budding women’s soccer program that offered the chance to get on the field early. Arizona State had everything Coon was on the lookout for when it came to going to college and playing girls’ soccer at the next level.

So, while most of her classmates were preparing for their junior proms the all-state defender — who helped the Sunset girls’ soccer team win a state title as a freshman and took the Apollos back to the title game as a senior — verbally committed to the Sun Devils last May, concluding her recruiting process in order to focus on her final year as an Apollo.

On Wednesday, Feb. 6, Coon made it official with ASU, signing her letter of intent to suit up for the Sun Devils starting in 2014-15.

“It all came together really well,” said Coon. “As soon as I stepped on campus, I knew that was where I wanted to go. The team was super welcoming. They included me right away.”

ASU head coach Kevin Boyd has let it be known he thinks Coon can step onto the pitch immediately as a freshman and be a big contributor to the Sun Devil backline. At a strong 5-foot-11, Coon plays with the physical tenacity that’ll endear her to her ASU teammates and maybe ruffle a few feathers around the Pac-12. Coon isn’t timid about mixing it up with anybody, regardless of size or stature. She’ll bully forwards and midfielders off the ball with physicality if it means turning possession back over to her team.

What sets Coon apart from her peers on the pitch, however, is her speed, a superior set of wheels that erase mistakes defensively and help run down the fleetest of scorers and ballhandlers. A state champion sprinter in the 200-meter dash, who also runs a 12.12 in the 100, Coon is a powerhouse who won’t lose many foot races on the high school or collegiate level.

That potent, prized combination of velocity and stature was enough for ASU to offer Coon early and lock her up before other programs came calling.

“The older girls might be older and have more experience, but my speed can make up for that,” said Coon. “I look forward to improving my technical skills too, because that’s an area I feel is a little lacking.”

Coon hit it off with the team and the coaching staff, both of which made her feel at home and welcomed as if the Apollo team captain was already a Sun Devil. The recruits taking their visits at the same time as Coon bonded with the Apollo defender too. Coon and Pinnacle High (Ariz.) midfielder Madison Kmetko became fast friends on their recruiting trips and decided to room together during their freshmen year. The kindred spirits along with the wonderful weather of Tempe and the scholarship Coon was offered from ASU, was enough to sell the all-state defender on suiting up in the crimson and gold.

Coon said Oregon State, Oregon and Loyola Marymount were the other three schools she focused on, though ASU was always at the top of her list. At first, the defender was intrigued by the Beavers, but backed off those notions once she traveled to Corvallis. Loyola, though it competes on the Division One level, was too small of a school. Plus, it didn’t have a football team, which is something Coon wanted in a potential university because of the school spirit football games tend to bring to the student body. Academically, Coon wants to be a physician’s assistant, and ASU was able to offer her courses and a major in that respective field.

by: TIMES FILE PHOTO - Taylor Coon was first-team, all-Metro League; first-team, all-state; and co-Metro League Player of the Year during her stellar senior year for the Apollos.

“Arizona State just fit perfectly,” said Coon. “Oregon State just didn’t feel right. I liked Oregon, but I didn’t want to stay in Oregon because of the weather, and I didn’t want to be that close to home.”

ASU finished this season with a respectable 9-8-1 record and seventh in the Pac-12. It beat perennial powers Stanford and USC along the way. Boyd and the Sun Devil coaching staff put on a five-week bridge program during the summer for the incoming freshmen to help them get adjusted to Tempe’s summer heat and up to speed for the Pac-12 level. Coon and her freshmen mates will also take a term of summer classes to ease the changeover from high school to college. Boyd recruited Coon as a defender, of course, but left the option open of moving the Metro League Player of the Year to defensive midfield.

“It’s definitely going to be a hard transition,” said Coon. “You condition and train year-round, so it’s going to be a lot of work. But, I’m ready for it, and the coach is super supportive in helping us transition. I’m excited to get down there and get started. It’ll be challenging, but I’m excited to see how much I can improve over the next couple years.”

An ultra-competitive athlete, who says she still thinks about the Apollos’ 2-0 state championship loss to Tualatin in the fall, Coon said she was extremely proud of her Sunset career, which culminated in first-team All-Metro League, Metro League Player of the Year and first-team, all-state honors. More than the individual accolades, Coon noted she’ll remember the friendships made off the field with her teammates, including this year’s group of seniors that’s sending three additional players to the collegiate level.

“It was like having 18 sisters,” said Coon. “We were so close and did a bunch of team bonding things outside of practice. I’m going to miss not having them there for me all the time.”

Last spring, following her state championship in the 200, Coon openly questioned whether she would run track again as a senior and risk hurting herself before moving down to the desert. However, Coon confirmed she will indeed be back in a purple and white tank top this spring, defending her 200 title while trying to take gold in the 100 and 4X100 relay.

“It definitely helps my speed and keeps me in shape,” said Coon. “I have to take it easy, so I don’t get an overuse injury, but I know it’ll be fun. I’m really hoping to win both of the individuals (championships). And, looking forward, We’re going to have a strong girls’ side all together. I think we can win a state title, but we’ll see what happens when we get on the track.”

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