As the Women of Troy reach the halfway point of conference play this weekend, they are struggling through a four-game winless streak. The urgency is picking up for the squad to start earning wins instead of the close losses and ties that have plagued them.
With Sunday’s 1-0 overtime loss to Oregon, the Women of Troy (4-6-3, 1-2-2) set a program record with five consecutive overtime games, which began innocently enough with a 1-0 victory over Washington on Sept. 21 to kick off conference play.
Since then, overtime hasn’t been so kind to the team, which has felt the physical effects of playing 10 extra periods this season.
Sophomore midfielder Alex Quincey suffered a leg injury two weeks ago and won’t play in Friday’s game at Washington State. Junior midfielders Elizabeth Eddy and Haley Boysen both suffered concussions last weekend and are considered game-time decisions.
“[Overtime games] are really tiring, and I think that’s what’s affecting the girls most,” junior midfielder Autumn Altamirano said. “Our legs are absolutely dead, but we’re used to it now.”
USC coach Ali Khosroshahin admires the fight his squad has shown to extend matches but hopes they can find a way to close out opponents in regular time.
“It says to me that we have a lot of intangibles and a lot of character,” Khosroshahin said. “Unfortunately, it also says to me that we haven’t been quite able to put our intelligence behind those intangibles.”
This last week, as he felt his freshmen-heavy team getting frustrated, Khosroshahin called a team meeting between all the coaches and players to air out any concerns.
“Anytime you have a group of young players, there’s questions as to why people play, why some people don’t travel with the team, and those things can become a distraction,” Khosroshahin said. “We just needed a commitment as to what it is [the players] all need to be doing, and what we as coaches need to be doing.”
Altamirano admitted the Women of Troy, who are currently tied for eighth in the Pac-12, have been frustrated by the winless streak.
“It’s been really, really hard,” Altamirano said. “The girls have been kind of down, but we’re motivated now.”
The Women of Troy do have a bit of good news to look forward to: Friday’s match against the Cougars (8-4-1, 2-2-1) marks the last road game of the season for USC, which will end the season with a five-game homestand.
Washington State has played well at home, accruing a 4-1-0 record in Pullman this season.
The Cougars, led by goalkeeper Gurveen Clair, are especially strong on defense. They’ve only given up one goal at home all season, and at one point had a streak of seven straight shutouts.
Washington State runs their offense through forwards Micaela Castain and Brandi Vega, who have combined for 13 of the team’s 26 goals.
Castain is tied for second in the conference with eight goals, four game-winning goals and goals per game (0.62).
Khosroshahin is confident USC’s defense, which has allowed one goal in each of the last three games, has turned a corner after ranking last in the Pac-12 in goals allowed for most of the season.
Now he’s hoping the offense, which has scored only two goals in the last three games, can find its groove.
“Lately, when we don’t defend well, we score a lot, and when we do defend well we don’t score enough,” Khosroshahin said. “It’s just a weird funk we need to get out of.”
Altamirano said that if the team wants to attain its goal of reaching the NCAA tournament, they need to snap out of that funk as soon as possible.
“Basically, they’re all must-win games now,” Altamirano said. “We’re fighting now. We just have to finish our opportunities.”
USC kicks off against Washington State on Friday at 1 p.m.