Women’s soccer releases upcoming 2017 schedule

Sarah Kim | Daily Trojan
Stepping up · Forward Hailey Hite will aim to provide more firepower in her junior season after USC graduated two of its three top goalscorers.

The USC women’s soccer team announced its 2017 schedule last Tuesday, as the reigning national champions prepare to defend their first title under fourth-year head coach Keidane McAlpine. The Trojans have a challenging slate on tap this fall, matching up against eight teams that made the NCAA Tournament last year.

The team will raise its championship banner to open the new season at home against UC Davis on Aug. 18. Before the players officially begin their campaign, however, they will play two preseason exhibition games: one against UC Irvine at McAlister Field on Aug. 11 and another at Long Beach State two days later.

USC will play seven non-conference matches prior to kicking off Pac-12 play in late September. After facing UC Davis, the Trojans head east to take on two 2016 NCAA Tournament competitors, Missouri and Kansas, away from home. McAlpine’s squad then returns to Los Angeles to host Santa Clara — who advanced to the Elite Eight last year — as USC aims to avenge one of its four total losses from the previous campaign.

Finally, the Trojans face Iowa State at McAlister Field before wrapping up their non-conference schedule with games on the road against Loyola Marymount and San Diego.

“We have a non-conference schedule that will challenge our team and prepare us for the difficulties we will face in Pac-12 play,” McAlpine said. “I am very excited to see how this new mix of women are able to carry on the standards set by the 2016 national championship team.”

As is the case every year, USC is scheduled to play each of its 11 conference opponents once in 2017. The team begins with a tough road trip on Sept. 23 to challenge Utah, who pushed the Trojans to a double-overtime draw in Salt Lake City last fall. The two sides met again in the NCAA Tournament, and USC bounced the Utes from the bracket, advancing to the Sweet 16 thanks to a late goal from sophomore striker Leah Pruitt.

The team plays its Pac-12 home opener after the trip to Utah, as Oregon State visits McAlister Field on Sept. 28, followed by Oregon on Oct. 1.

Though the Pac-12 provides challenges every week, the Trojans will really run the gantlet near the end of the regular season. They will play rematches against the only two conference rivals to beat them last year — Cal and UCLA — with a game against perennial championship contender Stanford sandwiched in-between. USC will host the Bears and Cardinal at McAlister Field on Oct. 26 and Oct. 29, respectively, then conclude the regular season in Westwood on Nov. 3.

The Trojans prepare for the upcoming campaign after losing a key chunk of its championship core over the offseason. Five seniors were drafted into the National Women’s Soccer League, including Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Year Sammy Jo Prudhomme and 2016 MAC Hermann Trophy finalist Morgan Andrews.

Striker Alex Anthony last year’s joint-top scorer on the team with 10 goals, returns for her redshirt senior season, however. Pruitt is back in the fold as well, after chipping in four goals and eight assists in 2016. With plenty of returning talent and a six-member recruiting class ready to cut its teeth, the Trojans will look to continue their championship form without skipping a beat this fall.