The No. 12 women’s soccer team defeated Kansas 2-0 at McAlister Field on Friday, extending their winning streak to six matches.
The Women of Troy faced a Jayhawks side that qualified for the Big 12 Championship game last year, but goals from sophomore striker Leah Pruitt and junior midfielder Sydney Sladek ensured USC kept rolling.
Both teams threatened in a back-and-forth first half, each creating a handful of scoring chances, but the opening 45 minutes finished scoreless. Barely a minute after the second-half restart, however, Pruitt broke the deadlock, smashing a long half-volley past Kansas goalkeeper Regan Gibbs.
Jayhawk center back Addisyn Merrick was unable to clear past Pruitt after freshman Ashleigh Plumptre stormed down the left wing and whipped a cross into the box. The sophomore transfer from San Diego State pounced on the loose ball and fired on-target from over 20 yards out for her first goal in Cardinal and Gold.
Pruitt described her maiden effort as a “good shot” after the game.
“I’m just really excited I got my first goal under my belt,” she said. “I’ve been trying to score a lot.”
The goal couldn’t have come at a better time, as Kansas had barely touched the ball in the second half before suddenly staring at a deficit — all after a relatively even first period.
“They’re coming out of the half…feeling good about themselves, so immediately, when you score like that, the momentum shifts,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “We could play a little bit more freely, not necessarily having to go get the goal, which I think helped open them up a bit.”
The Women of Troy continued to challenge the Jayhawk backline, but the defense remained disciplined after conceding. USC clung to its slim advantage until Sladek took advantage of another misfired Kansas clearance and slotted home with three minutes to go to seal the win.
After starting the season with consecutive losses at Santa Clara and Long Beach State, USC appeared in danger of squandering some of the program’s momentum from 2015, when the Women of Troy made a Sweet Sixteen run in the NCAA Tournament. But three weeks and six wins later, the team is sitting pretty: USC is currently ranked No. 12 in the nation, largely thanks to its 3-0 drubbing of No. 8 North Carolina last weekend.
Despite the admirable position, McAlpine isn’t satisfied.
“Today was a poor day for us in terms of our energy, our work rate, and executing the things we trained for,” he said. “However, it’s days like this when you start to believe in yourself a little bit because you had a bad day, but you found a win.”
McAlpine said he still considered the game a “step forward,” and he was bullish on the team’s position heading into USC’s conference opener next week. Even after a disappointing performance, the team has won six on the trot, and redshirt senior goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme hasn’t been beaten in over nine hours of soccer.
“It’s a reminder, sort of like the first two games of the year, that you still have to do the work, be disciplined, and be focused for every team you play,” McAlpine said. “Today was no different, and going into Pac-12 [play] adds a level of urgency now.”
The Women of Troy will look to extend their streak again next Friday, when Arizona visits McAlister Field for USC’s first Pac-12 matchup of the fall.