Despite posting a solid 15-2-2 season, the No. 8-ranked women’s soccer team received the No. 4 seed in the NCAA Division I College Cup, stunning head coach Keidane McAlpine.
“Anytime you see your name you’re happy to be in,” McAlpine said. “It rewards us for the work that we’ve done. Was I a little shocked by being a four? Absolutely, but it is what it is.”
The Trojans will have home field advantage in its opening round as a result of their seed and will host Long Beach State on Friday.
“We’ve got Long Beach — an opponent we know — and that’s our focus right now,” McAlpine said. “You line up. You play the games.”
USC has not missed a postseason appearance under McAlpine and will be making its fifth-straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament after finishing the regular season with a Pac-12 record of 8-2-1.
After a heartbreaking double overtime loss to UCLA Friday at the StubHub Center, USC dropped to a four-seed. USC entered the tournament selection process ranked No. 6 in the most recent Coaches Poll.
The Trojans shut out the 49ers earlier this season with a dominant 3-0 win. The Trojans should use the outcome as a motivation — but should still work hard for conference play.
“I remember that game was our senior night, so it was really emotional. So, I think going in without the emotion might help us a lot too,” said senior forward Leah Pruitt.
The 49ers won its final match with a 2-0 shutout against UC Santa Barbara to win the Big West Conference title this weekend, with goals from seniors forward Ashley Gonzales and midfielder Dana Fujikuni. With a 12-5-3 season, the Big West Conference win sends them into postseason play with an automatic bid for the first round of the tournament.
Long Beach State will be making its seventh College Cup appearance, bringing a five-game unbeaten streak into tournament play. The 49ers take on Trojans for the first time ever in the NCAA postseason.
A win against the 49ers would match the Trojans against the winner of LSU-Boston University in the second round.
USC has an all-time postseason record of 21-12-3, with two NCAA championship titles under its belt.
The 2016 USC team secured the National Championship with a 3-1 win against West Virginia. Coming off a big season title, the 2017 Trojans went in with a No. 3 seed, but their postseason was cut short in a penalty kick loss to Baylor in the second round.
“We’ve just got to play how we play and come out strong, so we’ve got something to prove,” Pruitt said.
Even in the wake of an unfavorable seed and a predicted heavy travel schedule, the Trojans are hopeful hoping to secure a spot in another national championship.
“We’re going to go all the way,” Pruitt said. “We’ve just got to take it one game at a time. We might not have been the highest seed we wanted to be, so we are probably going to have to travel which … we’ll do it. We’ll do it anywhere.”
USC will face Long Beach State Friday at 1:30 p.m. at McAllister Field.