It was a tense scene at McAlister Field on Friday.
After 90 minutes of regulation play and 30 minutes of extra time, both the Trojans and the Texas A&M Aggies remained scoreless. The game had been physical — notching up 28 total fouls — and the Trojans leveled 26 total shots at the Aggies with no result. And after ploughing their way easily into the second round of the NCAA tourney, the Trojans were facing a shoot-out period that could send them home after only two tournament games.
Now, it all came down to one shot.
Senior goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme dove and batted away the first A&M penalty kick, and the fourth ricocheted off the crossbar. The Trojans’ third shot was blocked, but they still led by one goal.
And junior Alex Anthony did what she’s done best for the Trojans this season. She stepped calmly up to the line, paused for a half second, then drove the ball straight into the back of the net, finishing when the Trojans needed it the most. The team poured onto the field, leaping on Anthony and Prudhomme in celebration.
It wasn’t the prettiest win, but the team was moving on to the third round of the NCAA tourney.
The Aggies were a known threat from the beginning for head coach Keidane McAlpine. After a season racked with injuries, the team was healthy, reloaded and hungry for a win. That came across in physical play, which broke up the rhythm of the possession-oriented Trojans’ offense and allowed for fast-paced counter attacks that sent both teams streaking from goal box to goal box.
“They fought until the very end, obviously,” McAlpine said. “This was a team that we knew could bring it from the start, and they did that.”
By the second half, however, the Trojans took control of the pace of play, outshooting the Aggies 10-5. Several no-calls on fouls and handballs in the box left the team frustrated as the game remained scoreless with the clock ticking down on regulation time. And extra time was the same — the Trojans possessed the ball in their attacking half for most of play, sending in shot after shot at A&M, but were unable to find the back of the net.
But once regulation time ended, senior Kayla Mills says the team was determined to see only one outcome to the game.
“We weren’t losing,” Mills said. “Our team has come so far together, this whole season and even just in the last week, and I think we just looked at each other and decided we weren’t going to lose. It wasn’t going to happen, we wouldn’t let it.”
And it didn’t. With four penalty kicks and Prudhomme’s two stops, the team moved on to the next round of the tournament.
Now, their attention turns to Utah, a team that Mills jokingly says “ruined” the Trojans’ season earlier this year. The teams faced off at the end of conference play, ending in a 1-1 tie that prevented the Trojans from winning the Pac-12. It was the type of game that the whole team wasn’t quick to forget.
When the Trojans kick off at noon on Sunday, they’ll be looking for one thing — redemption.