The No. 6 women’s soccer team (14-2-1) looks to close its Pac-12 season on a high when it travels to take on No. 5 UCLA (14-2-2) on Friday night.
The Bruins last played Sunday afternoon against No. 22 Cal, downing the Golden Bears 1-0 at home. The game was an even affair throughout a majority of the match until a goal in the 57th minute by freshman forward Ashley Sanchez — her fifth of the season — gave the Bruins the lead. The Bruins dominated the Golden Bears in shots and shots on target 18-9 (7-2) and forced the Cal goalkeeper to make eight saves.
The Bruins are led in offense by Sanchez — who also has eight assists — and junior forward Hailie Mace, who has 13 goals and three assists this season. Although they are the main offense threats for the Bruins this season, UCLA also boasts five other players who have at least five combined goals and assists.
The Bruins have been an offensive machine this season, scoring 42 goals while only conceding 13 in 18 games. In comparison, the Trojans have scored 31 goals while giving up 12. The Trojans’ defense will have to be aware throughout the game, since the Bruins have been free-scoring all season, scoring 3 or more goals in seven games this year.
The Trojans continue to be led in scoring by redshirt senior forward Alex Anthony, who has 7 goals and two assists this season. She is assisted by freshman phenom midfielder Savannah DeMelo, who has 4 goals and five assists. However, the player to watch for the Trojans is sophomore midfielder Ashleigh Plumptre, who has been on fire recently, scoring 2 goals in the past three games, including a wonder-strike against Cal. The Trojans will have to continue their scoring form against UCLA and shake off a tough loss to No.1 Stanford in order to finish the season strong.
These past two games and the upcoming matchup against UCLA will provide a lot of information about the current situation of the Trojans and how they compare to other top national powerhouses as the postseason draws closer.
This sentiment was echoed by head coach Keidane McAlpine.
“The UCLA game, as we move in the postseason are great barometers for who we are and where we are,” McAlpine said.
This upcoming matchup should be a very even affair, as both USC and the Bruins recently played a common opponent in the Golden Bears at their respective home fields, with the teams winning 1-0 in both instances. The Trojans and Bruins both put up similar offensive numbers against Cal, outshooting the Golden Bears in both games.
Although the Pac-12 crown is already out of reach for the Trojans due to their loss to Stanford, the runner-up position is still up for grabs, with the Trojans currently holding a 3-point advantage over the Bruins. The winner of Friday’s game will take home city bragging rights for the next year.
With a win, the Trojans will solidify their second-place finish in the Pac-12 and present a strong case to regain entry into the top five of the national rankings. With the postseason fast approaching, a win against an equally talented UCLA team will give the Trojans the boost needed to start a defense of their national championship title.