“Putting your best foot forward” is about as cliche as it gets when discussing a soccer team, but that is exactly what the No. 22 USC women’s soccer team did over the weekend as it continued its hot start to begin the season. The Women of Troy used a potent attack to knock off Cal State Northridge 4-1 in their home opener Friday at McAlister Field.
USC (3-0) is off to its best start since 2007 with its third straight four-goal performance of the season. Senior forward Elizabeth Eddy, freshman forward Kayla Mills, sophomore forward Katie Johnson and freshman forward Tanya Samarzich each scored a goal for USC, and junior goalkeeper Caroline Stanley picked up four saves.
Northridge (0-4) dropped its third straight game of the season after making the first round of the NCAA tournament last season. The Matadors’ only goal came off of a penalty kick from Chloe McDaniel in the 66th minute.
USC came out of the gate aggressively, hoping to match its first-half production from the previous two matches. The team was held in check for most of the half by Northridge goalie Jovani McCaskill until Johnson sent a pass from Mills into the back of the net for USC’s first goal in the 26th minute. They struck again quickly, with Samarzich deflecting a cross from sophomore defender Marlee Carrillo into the net in the 30th minute.
A tense moment came later in the game, when Northridge’s Natalie Rivas and USC sophomore forward Whitney Pitalo collided around midfield going for the ball. Pitalo appeared fine after the collision, but Rivas remained on the ground for several minutes. She got up shortly after and returned to the bench, only to come back out on the field completely unscathed.
The Women of Troy continued their onslaught on the Matadors in the second half. Eddy scored her fourth goal of the season less than four minutes into the half, off of a pass to the box from senior midfielder Jordan Marada.
“A lot of it has to do with persistence and never giving up, and that’s a strong attribute of our team this year, to keep going,” Eddy said about her goal-scoring outburst. “Even if it’s not successful yet, just keep doing the game plan.”
As USC kept adding to their lead, Northridge started to match the Women of Troy’s aggression, putting shot after shot on goal in order to generate some offense. Despite some forced shots and offsides penalties, the strategy paid off when Lyndsey Preston was tackled by Carillo in the USC area, awarding a penalty kick to the Matadors, which McDaniel put in the back of the net in the 66th minute to cut the USC lead to 3-1. It was the first goal of the year for Northridge, which had been shut out in previous losses to UCLA and Arizona State.
“I think we just worked for each other,” Mills said. “We worked for each other, and we remembered everything we did in practice. We try to work really hard on and off the ball.”
Mills helped put an exclamation point on USC’s performance, speeding down the field in the 75th minute and putting it just past McCaskill to extend the USC lead to 4-1, giving the Women of Troy three consecutive games with four goals scored. McGaskill, who had previously made a nice diving save to block a shot from USC junior midfielder Alex Quincey, finished with four saves on USC’s eight shots on goal.
USC outshot the Matadors 15-11 and had five corner kicks to Northridge’s zero, but committed 13 fouls to Northridge’s nine.
“Twelve goals in three games tells you everything you need to know,” USC coach Ali Khosroshahin said. “I think scoring goals is always a challenge, and when you’re able to score four off of 15 shots, that’s pretty significant.”
The Women of Troy will travel to Minneapolis, Minn. for the Minnesota Gold Classic next weekend, taking on Ole Miss (3-0) on Friday at 2:30 p.m. and LSU (2-1-1) on Sunday at 9 p.m.
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