Women’s soccer falls to No. 1 Stanford at home

Redshirt senior striker Alex Anthony gets by a Stanford defender. USC lost 3-1 on Sunday in its penultimate regular-season game. Photo by Alex Zhang | Daily Trojan

The fifth-ranked women’s soccer team hosted No. 1 Stanford on Sunday at McAlister Field, falling 3-1 after beating the Cardinal 3-0 in the same fixture last season.

The match was set to be a thriller on USC’s Senior Night, with two undefeated Pac-12 teams battling late into the season. Stanford entered the game with a 9-0-0 conference record compared to the Trojans’ 8-0-1 mark.

But Stanford quieted the crowd in the 15th minute, drawing first blood. Cardinal midfielder Jaye Boissiere landed a cross from the top corner of the 18-yard box onto the head of Kiki Pickett. Just outside the 18-yard box, Pickett redirected the ball toward the bottom-right corner of the Trojan goal — just out of the reach of redshirt freshman goalkeeper Kaylie Collins — to grant the Cardinal an early 1-0 lead.

USC quickly responded just two minutes later. With her back to the net, redshirt junior midfielder Sydney Myers received a pass from sophomore defender Julia Bigham. Myers found the equalizer with a quick turn inside the penalty box and a low shot rifled through traffic to the near post. The goal marked Myers’ second of the season — her first came a month ago in a 4-0 win over Oregon State.

In the 26th minute, going toe-to-toe with freshman forward Tara McKeown, Cardinal junior midfielder Michelle Xiao beat McKeown on the outside and delivered an arcing ball just underneath the Trojans’ crossbar to once again take the lead. The remainder of the first half was scoreless thanks to a fantastic flying save from Collins on a header from freshman forward Civanna Kuhlmann.

With some words of wisdom from head coach Keidane McAlpine, USC was able to regroup and come out flying in the second half. McAlpine said the main focus of his team talk was being aggressive.

“We wanted to apply more pressure to their backline, and that was probably the biggest change in the second half,” McAlpine said. “It created enough chances. We just didn’t take them.”

The aggressive mentality and playstyle produced several scoring opportunities for the Women of Troy — none of which were converted into goals. But the Trojan backline played lockdown defense throughout the second half and were able to keep their team in the game. Collins faced 18 shots in the match — her highest tally this season — and saved seven.

But after making comebacks a habit throughout this fall, the Women of Troy did not respond on Sunday, and Stanford netted its second unanswered goal.

Despite the strong defensive performance, the Cardinal sealed the game in the 63rd minute with its third goal on the day, when Catarina Macario sent a bending free kick into the top-right corner beyond a sprawling Collins. Sunday marked the first game since Aug. 19, 2016 — last year’s season-opener against Santa Clara — that USC has conceded 3 goals in one game.

The loss to the Cardinal was the Trojans’ first against a Pac-12 team in 2017, and their conference record fell to 8-1-1. The Women of Troy will now prepare for their final game of the regular season on Friday, when they face off against crosstown rival No. 2 UCLA.

“We have to play a full 90-minute game,” redshirt junior Sydney Myers said. “We have to match the aggression and give our 100-percent effort the whole game. I think we are going to be just as good as we were last year.”

The Trojans fell 1-0 to the Bruins at the StubHub Center last season, and they look to avoid a repeat this Friday in Westwood against a dominant UCLA team.