Women’s soccer falls to UCLA in double-overtime thriller to close regular season

Sophomore defender Julia Bingham dribbles down the wide open pitch in the Trojans’ game against UCLA at the StubHub Center Friday. (Josh Dunst | Daily Trojan)

Déjà vu hit the USC women’s soccer team hard on Friday night when they fell 3-2 in overtime to UCLA for the second year in a row. The Bruins scored the winning goal in the closing minutes of the second overtime to clinch a victory at the StubHub Center in front of an audience of 8,555.

“What a game,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “It had everything you want: highs, lows, superb talent, flashy plays and the fans were fantastic.”

The game finished the same way it did last season: a 3-2 overtime defeat for the Trojans.

Sophomore midfielder Olivia Athens scored the golden goal for the Bruins after a cross bounced awkwardly just in front of Trojan redshirt sophomore keeper Kaylie Collins, leaving space for Athens to head the ball into the goal and take the game 3-2.

“What a great game, not only for the two teams playing, but for the community of L.A.,” UCLA head coach Amanda Cromwell said. “This is unlike any other rivalry game in the country. It really felt like it was a heavyweight slugfest. It felt like a postseason game. It felt like a final four game.”

The intense rivalry was apparent throughout the game as players from both teams played physically. Two Trojans received yellow cards, and the two teams accumulated 22 fouls throughout the game.

UCLA came out of the gates running, nearly scoring after less than a minute of play. Collins picked up a save to prevent Athens from scoring for the Bruins.

The Trojans were the first to get on the board as redshirt sophomore midfielder Savannah DeMelo scored with a left-footed finish in the 36th minute. Freshman forward Penelope Hocking set up the goal by dribbling past two defenders, leaving space for DeMelo’s open shot on goal. The goal marked DeMelo’s seventh of the year and Hocking’s sixth assist.

UCLA quickly responded with a scoring opportunity as sophomore forward Ashley Sanchez shot just wide of goal in the 40th minute.

The Women of Troy outplayed UCLA in the first half with six shots compared to the Bruins’ three. Moreover, the Trojans put three of those shots on target, while the Bruins put one shot on target in the opening minutes. The Trojans also had more possession of the ball throughout the first half, much of which was in the Bruins’ half of the field.

But the Bruins turned it around in the second half and were the better team. They had 14 shots in the second half compared to the Trojans seven. Nine of those shots for the Bruins were on target while the Trojans had five shots on target in the second half.

“They did a good job in the second half of taking care of the ball a little bit better, overloading the flanks a little bit more, and we did the opposite,” McAlpine said. “That was probably the biggest shift.”

The Bruins quickly tied the game in the second half with a goal from senior forward Julia Hernandez’s in the 52nd minute of the game. The score off of a through ball from junior midfielder Jessie Fleming, which split both of the center backs through the middle, leaving Hernandez clear on goal as she put it away past Collins.

In the 64th minute of the game, UCLA sophomore defender Kennedy Faulknor took down USC senior forward Leah Pruitt in the box, resulting in a penalty kick for USC. Sophomore midfielder Tara McKeown stepped up to take the kick, but her attempt sailed over the goal, keeping the score tied at 1-1.

Shortly after, the Women of Troy scored the go-ahead in the 87th minute of game. The Trojans won the ball in the midfield and quickly had a breakaway. Hocking drove downfield and found sophomore midfielder Alea Hyatt open on goal. Hyatt then passed the ball back to Hocking, who found the back of the net for what appeared to be the game-winning goal.

However, six seconds later, the Bruins followed with an answer as senior defender Hailie Mace scored a stunner from outside the box to tie the game in the 88th minute. The shot was hit into the upper left-hand corner of the goal.

“Off the kickoff, we always try to get a shot off, or get a chance off at goal, so I’m just doing what coach says,” Mace said.

Mace, who typically plays defense, was moved up to play forward in the second half to try and score the equalizing goal.

The Bruins then had a breakaway on goal in the closing minute of the game, however, Collins charged outside of the area and made a game saving tackle to stop the Bruins from scoring.

In the last 10 seconds of the match, the Trojans had an opportunity to close the door. Hocking once again found herself with an opportunity from inside the box. She fired a shot on target, but Micah was there to produce the save to forcing the overtime which would ultimately lead to USC’s demise.

“[Losing] only motivates us to not not want to lose again,” Jacobs said. “So I think taking this [loss] in season is going to help us for postseason.”

The game wrapped up regular season play for both teams. The results had implications on the final season Pac-12 standing as UCLA moved ahead of USC in the Pac-12 standings in second place, while USC finished the season in third place. The Trojans will find out who they play in their first game of the College Cup on Monday at 1:30 pm.