The USC women’s soccer team couldn’t live on the edge any longer.
After its last two games ended in a draw, USC found itself in the same position in the first-round NCAA tournament game against Oklahoma State. But this match needed a winner.
Oklahoma State was able to avenge a 1-0 loss to the Women of Troy back in September as the Cowgirls ended USC’s season with a 0-0 (5-4) victory.
Junior Alyssa Dávila had a chance to keep USC’s hopes alive, but the sixth-round shooter’s shot was saved by Adrianna Franch. This is the first time that USC (12-6-3) has failed to advance past the first round of the NCAA tournament since 2004.
“It’s hard to swallow and a very disappointing way to finish the season,” said coach Ali Khosroshahin. “[Penalty kicks] are not a fun way to determine the outcome of a game.”
Khosroshahin put backup senior goalkeeper Brittany Massro in goal for the penalty kicks even though senior Kristin Olsen played the entire game. USC had a competition in practice the day before and Massro outperformed Olsen.
The move appeared to pay immediate dividends, as Massro saved Oklahoma State’s first shot. But after trading scores for the next two rounds of shooters, Franch took away USC’s advantage by saving sophomore Carly Butcher’s shot. The teams again traded two rounds of scoring until Davila’s shot was blocked.
“Brittany did a really good job and made a great save,” Olsen said. “She is really good at penalty kicks and as a goalie, anything you save is a bonus.”
While USC’s defense didn’t allow the Cowgirls to score for the second consecutive time, the offense sputtered in the attacking third. Despite having the majority of possession during the second half, USC failed to put the ball in the back of the net.
Sophomore Brittney Kerridge hit a rocket in the first overtime than Franch had to punch over the crossbar, but those kinds of opportunities were few and far between for the Women of Troy.
“We couldn’t find any rhythm in the attacking third,” Khosroshahin said. “We were a better team in the second half but other than Kerridge’s shot, we weren’t very dangerous.”
USC was called for 17 fouls while Oklahoma State was only called for three. While Khosroshahin isn’t one to make excuses, especially when it comes to officiating, he couldn’t help but wonder if the Women of Troy were ever going to get a break.
“We play hard but I wouldn’t call us a dirty team,” Khosroshahin said. “The officiating didn’t help. I mean they had three fouls in 110 minutes.”
Regardless, the Women of Troy know that the game rested on their feet – but as it has all season, inconsistent play let them down.
They showed promise by beating No. 9 Santa Clara on the road earlier in the season in the midst of a nine game winning streak. But they only won two of their last seven games and had trouble putting together 90 minutes of solid play.
“During this game, we were better in the second half than the first half. We had better control of the tempo and at times played good soccer and at times not so good,” Khosroshahin said.
The Women of Troy will graduate three key players in Olsen, defender Meagan Holmes and midfielder Marihelen Tomer. After playing this season with a group of inexperienced players, the team will come back next year with more experience and look to improve upon this season’s performance.
“I don’t think the outcome shows how we’ve grown,” said Olsen, who will enter the Women Professional Soccer draft next semester. “I think we did a good job dealing with [the inexperience] and the younger girls really took the older girls’ advice. They learned a lot.”