Going into this past weekend, women’s soccer head coach Keidane McAlpine and his team knew what they needed to improve on: bringing the energy — especially in the first half — and capitalizing on early opportunities. With those objectives, the women’s soccer team beat both Santa Clara and Iowa State at home.
On Friday, the Trojans started their two-game stretch facing off against Santa Clara. The Broncos entered the game with a 2-3-1 record, having played a couple tough Pac-12 teams including No. 1 UCLA. But the experience of playing top-tier teams was not enough to help the Broncos in their battle with the Trojans.
As McAlpine had hoped, the Women of Troy came into the game on fire. For the first 20 minutes of the match, the Trojan offense was creating opportunities left and right but was unable to capitalize on their chances. To add to the dominance, the USC defense managed to push Santa Clara to the outside of the field, preventing the Broncos from moving inside the Trojans’ box.
However, the Trojan defense broke down and allowed a goal to freshman forward Kelsey Turnbow midway through the first half. Although the Trojan defense began to fade, the Broncos were denied any further goals. If it were not for two jaw-dropping saves by redshirt freshman goalkeeper Kayla Collins, the Women of Troy could have easily entered the half trailing by 3 goals.
Per usual, the Women of Troy re-established focus at halftime and returned to play a magnificent second half. The intensity surged back into the Trojan offense resulting in goals from each member of the freshman duo — Savannah DeMelo and Tara McKeown. The equalizer came in the 58th minute after junior forward Leah Pruitt raced down the right side of the field and placed a perfect pass onto the foot of DeMelo, who tapped the ball in to tie the score at 1-1.
The tie seemed to have only sparked the Trojans’ offense more as they continued to pound shots toward the Broncos’ goal. In under 10 minutes, the Women of Troy converted the
go-ahead goal with a blistering shot from McKeown in the 66th minute.
For the final 10 minutes of the match, Santa Clara threatened to score multiple times but failed to find the equalizer. With the win, the Trojans improved their record to 3-1 heading into their game against Iowa State.
In a post-game interview, McAlpine discussed the first half performance of his team and how he plans to build on the performance heading into Sunday.
“I wouldn’t say [the first 30 minutes] were great, I would say they were better,” McAlpine said. “What would make it great is the discipline on the finishing, the discipline on the defending and not breaking down in those moments — ending more tackles in the middle of the field.”
In the Sunday match against the Iowa State Cyclones, the Women of Troy took another step in the right direction. At the start of the contest, the Trojans were energetic, aggressive, strong defensively and absolutely dominant. However, the Trojans’ intensity diminished later in the game. Despite the improvement, McAlpine believes his team needs to finish the match the way they started.
“Today was one of our best efforts in that area,” he said. “However, I was disappointed in our ability to maintain our competitiveness and energy throughout the 90 minutes of the game.”
The Trojans opened the first half with their fastest goal of the season. USC took an early lead in the 7th minute as junior forward Leah Pruitt attacked a deflected pass and found the back of the Iowa State net. The Women of Troy returned to the Cyclone’s zone to add another goal just 12 minutes later. From the top of the 18-yard box, sophomore defender Julia Bingham launched a shot toward sophomore keeper Antonia Reyes. Before Reyes could get a hand on the ball redshirt senior forward Alex Anthony deflected it into the bottom left corner of the net to extend the Trojans’ lead to 2 goals.
The Trojans’ offense had several scoring opportunities in the second half, none of which were converted.
“[We] got the goals early,” Pruitt said. “We could have done better staying with that intensity.”
USC’s defense limited the Cyclones to seven shots, all of which came in the second half and none of which were on target. As a result, redshirt freshman keeper Kayla Collins recorded her second shutout of the season, without making a save.
The Trojans now head back on the road with a proud 4-1 record to compete with Loyola Marymount and San Diego.
Angel Viscarra is a junior studying broadcast and digital journalism. His column, Viscarra’s Vice, runs Tuesdays.