The No. 9 USC women’s soccer team needed an enormous effort to push pass Cal Sunday, and it came from the smallest player on the field who rose up above everyone and provided the golden touch.
Junior midfielder Alyssa Dávila scored the golden goal on a header in the first overtime as USC (11-4, 3-1) avoided a Bay Area sweep by beating No. 17 Cal 3-2. USC was blanked by No. 1 Stanford 4-0 Friday.
After being denied once on a header in overtime by the Cal goalkeeper, Dávila wasn’t going to let it happen again. On USC’s second corner of the period, senior defender Meagan Holmes flicked a header to Dávila who headed it past the goalkeeper for her second goal of the game and the game winner.
“I don’t know if players underestimate my size or whatnot, but I think I’m just good at moving players and being sneaky,” Dávila said.
The Women of Troy were lucky to even reach the overtime period, as Cal came out in the second half and took it right at them. They had shots clank off the crossbar and had two goals called back because of offsides.
But USC’s defense finally cracked and blew the lead. Sophomore Miranda White scored in the 74th minute to cut USC’s lead to 2-1 and then she assisted on junior Alex Morgan’s goal in the 78th minute.
“They just out worked us,” coach Ali Khosroshahin said. “I think we were fortunate to even get into the overtime period. But in overtime, the ladies made a choice to put the game away and I think it shows the character of our young team.”
USC jumped out to the early lead thanks to goals by sophomore forward Ashley Freyer and Davila. Freyer got on the end of a Marihelen Tomer cross in the 19th minute and Dávila followed that in the 31st minute by gathering in a long ball from goalkeeper Kristen Olsen and putting it in the back of the net.
The Women of Troy were able to come back after giving up the lead, but they weren’t as fortunate on Friday as they lost to No. 1 Stanford 4-0. The loss ended USC’s nine-game winning streak.
The Cardinal outplayed USC for most of the game, yet the Women of Troy held their own as they went into halftime tied 0-0.
But Stanford came out in the second half and unleashed on Olsen and USC. The Cardinal scored four goals in 15 minutes in the second half to put the game away.
“We just didn’t step on the field with a lot of confidence,” Davila said.
Khosroshahin said that the Women of Troy need to play intelligently and recognize proper matchups rather than relying on their athleticism. He said that’s what hurt them in the second half of both games.
“We didn’t adjust to the adjustments they made at halftime,” Khosroshahin said. “It was brutal to watch and be a part of, but we learned valuable lessons about what it takes to be the best team in the country.”
After giving up only three goals in the last nine games, USC gave up six goals in two games this weekend, and all six goals were in the second half.
“We need to come out harder in the second half and we need to know that teams will come out fired up and ready to come at us,” Holmes said. “We need to have the mentality to keep pressuring them no matter what the score is.”
That mentality comes with experience, and that’s something the young Women of Troy are gaining everyday. Six starters are sophomores or freshman. As long as the team improves, Khosroshahin expects the results will come later in the year.