The women’s soccer team is taking a trip to the South this weekend to face off against the University of Georgia and No. 12 Auburn University in the Auburn Soccer Classic.
The Trojans enter this weekend with a 1-2 record in non-friendly competition. They’ll face an important opponent in their second game of the tournament against Auburn, a team known for pressing the attack and forcing mistakes on defense. Auburn will bring an impressive own set of offensive firepower, fueled by senior attacking midfielder Casie Ramsier, who was named to a list of 36 players on the MAC Hermann Watch List in July.
“These are two highly skilled teams that we’re facing [this weekend],” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “SEC teams will run at you. They’re very athletic and it’s going to give us a challenge.”
But the Trojan lineup is equally stacked with praiseworthy players. Senior defender Kayla Mills and senior midfielder Morgan Andrews were also named as potential MAC Hermann recipients, making USC one of seven schools to boast multiple players on the list. And a new influx of freshman strikers such as Taylor McMorrow is adding new life to an offense that struggled to connect last year.
Last season’s main difficulties came from a lack of finishing. Although the Trojans often dominated possession through solid defensive and midfield play, the front line struggled to convert offensive opportunities into points. This led to a style of offense that didn’t pressure defensive backs as much as McAlpine wanted.
“In the past, teams weren’t as concerned with our front line and the pressure they could bring,” McAlpine said. “Last year, we were a team built on defense.”
This year’s pace of attack is much more of his speed, with a mix of experienced and fresh strikers to create more pressure in the front line. Now, the main focus for McAlpine has shifted toward cementing a backline that has seen a great deal of transition since last season.
The team started this season off balance, dropping two games to Santa Clara and Long Beach State in between dominating victories in exhibition games against Air Force and Beijing General. With a top 25 ranking and a Sweet Sixteen finish from last season, it was an unexpected way to kick off the year.
After an up-and-down start the year, the Trojans needed a win against No. 20 Pepperdine — and the front line delivered. An early penalty kick followed by two more goals in the first half was enough for the win, and McAlpine felt that his team gained a necessary boost in confidence following the 3-0 win.
He looks forward to the weekend’s tournament with the expectation that both games will provide both a challenge and an opportunity for his team to make adjustments as they head into the regular season.
“They’re feeling good,” McAlpine said. “They’re definitely smiling a lot more during practice. I think everyone collectively made the decision to step up. They pulled together and locked in and the energy has been great since then. They’re ready to have fun this weekend.”