The USC women’s soccer team will follow their football counterparts into the desert this weekend, kicking off Pac-12 play with a Sunday afternoon battle against Arizona State.
The Women of Troy (5-3-1) are coming off another bittersweet weekend of play, in which they defeated Florida Atlantic before falling to Cal State Fullerton in their third one-goal loss of the season. The squad will have to put these tough losses behind it before facing the Sun Devils and the rest of the formidable Pac-12 conference.
Head coach Ali Khosroshahin said he understands that Sunday’s overtime defeat was tough for his team to handle.
“[The loss] was tough, but scoring goals is the hardest thing to do in soccer,” Khosroshahin said. “We just have to keep missed opportunities from frustrating us and keep our composure.”
Senior midfielder Haley Boysen is confident her team can regain its focus after such a frustrating loss.
“Morale is good, our team is very together,” Boysen said. “We’ve been getting a lot of opportunities, we just have to work on finishing them.”
Arizona State (5-3) will also be looking to bounce back from a weekend loss. The Sun Devils lost to Boise State 2-0 last Friday after an impressive 4-0 victory over Southern Utah the previous week.
The squad performed well in their toughest matchup of the year thus far, falling valiantly to then-No. 15 Texas Tech early in the season by a score of 1-0. Against lesser opponents, however, the Sun Devils have occasionally struggled. Two of the team’s three losses came against teams outside of the RPI top 50.
The ASU offense will be led by dynamic sophomore forward Cali Farquharson, whose nine goals put her at 10th nationally in that category, just two below the top scorers. Her teammate Holland Crook has set the table for Farquharson consistently, with an impressive six assists. To handle such a formidable offensive attack, the Women of Troy will have to rely on a defense that has been a point of strength for them all season. Goalkeeper Caroline Stanley has allowed multiple goals in regulation just once this year, with help from a stout backline.
On the defensive end, the Sun Devils are less consistent. Goalkeeper Chandler Morris has saved less than 75 percent of the shots sent her way. The balanced USC offense, which boasts seven different players who have scored, will hope to regain an early season form that saw them score four goals in each of their first three games. Khosroshahin has been emphasizing offense in practice for the last few weeks.
“We have to get quicker on offense and not allow the opposing defense to get set,” the seventh year coach said. “But it takes a while to get that understanding, knowing when to zig and when to zag.”
Sunday’s matchup marks the Women of Troy’s entrance into conference play, where their opponents will be consistently stronger.
Three Pac-12 teams currently stand in the NCAA top 25, with Washington State knocking on the door. No. 2 Stanford remains unbeaten, while No. 4 UCLA and No. 11 California are as strong as ever. If USC can navigate its way through these tough teams and avoid overlooking teams like Arizona State, they will be a threat to make a postseason run.
Players understand that the team’s season just got a lot tougher.
“We are a lot more mentally prepared [during Pac-12 play],” sophomore defender Erin Owen said. “We are practicing getting stronger, faster and more direct.”
Sunday’s game will be broadcast live on the Pac-12 Network at 4 p.m.