USC prepares to face Pac-12 leader Stanford

You and I collide · The Women of Troy’s upcoming pair of matches against Stanford and Cal will both carry Pac-12 title implications. - Brian Ji | Daily Trojan

You and I collide · The Women of Troy’s upcoming pair of matches against Stanford and Cal will both carry Pac-12 title implications. – Brian Ji | Daily Trojan

The women’s soccer team will hit the road to take on Stanford on Thursday before playing Cal on Sunday.

Stanford is currently ranked No. 4, boasting a 14-2 record and sitting atop the Pac-12. Like any quality side, the Cardinal will present USC with challenges. However, head coach Keidane McAlpine has led the Women of Troy to a 7-1 record in Pac-12 play and has his team playing free-flowing soccer.

Thursday’s clash could very well be the game of the season in the Pac-12.

Stanford has a plus-21 goal difference on the year, while USC is not far behind with an impressive plus-17 in that category. Stanford averages over 19 shots per game. USC tallies nearly 18 per game.

In other words, Thursday’s fixture should see plenty of offense.

College soccer fans probably think of U.S. Women’s national team stars such as Julie Foudy, Kelley O’Hara and Christen Press when they think of this Stanford program.

Like USC, Stanford has a proud tradition and history. In fact, Stanford and USC have each won a national championship in the past decade — Stanford in 2011 and USC in 2007.

When these two giants collide on Thursday, there will be serious ramifications on the national landscape. The Women of Troy have climbed to No. 16 in the NSCAA rankings and are gelling at the perfect time. If USC can steal a road win against this top-five team, a spot in the top-10 would not be out of the question.

However, the quality of the performance against Stanford will be just as important as the result of the game. Even after two wins this past weekend, McAlpine stressed that the team must continue to grow game by game.

“We’ve got to keep building from where we are,” McAlpine said.

USC did not look like its dynamic self against Utah last Friday but then on Sunday dismantled a strong Colorado team. McAlpine will be looking for a well-rounded showing against Stanford because the postseason is rapidly approaching.

Playing well in these games down the stretch is a necessity in many ways, as teams who enter the NCAA Tournament in good form stand a better chance of taking home the hardware.

The Women of Troy will then face Cal on Sunday. Cal is another top-20 team enjoying a fine season.

The Golden Bears are led by junior forward sensation Arielle Ship. Ship has found the back of the net 11 times this season while also recording five assists.

Ship is scoring nearly two goals every three games for the Golden Bears. She is one of the most potent attacking threats in the country and figures to test USC’s back line.

Cal had a few hiccups early in Pac-12 play, but the team really hit its stride in October. The Golden Bears have won six out of eight this month and are fresh off of a 1-0 road win over Washington State.

“We’ve given ourselves a chance,” McAlpine said, referring to how well his team has performed so far.

USC hosted the Cardinal and the Golden Bears last season, losing 1-0 and 2-1, respectively.