After a strong non-conference showing, the No. 20 USC women’s soccer team kicked off Pac-10 play this weekend against No. 1 Stanford and No. 21 California.
Despite a tough loss to Stanford Friday at the Coliseum, the Women of Troy (8-3-2) came back strong Sunday afternoon and responded with a 5-4 sudden-death overtime victory against No. 21 California (6-3-4). The Women of Troy won the game five minutes into overtime after they received a free kick. Redshirt junior midfielder Ashli Sandoval did the rest as she placed the ball in the top right corner of the goal, putting an end to a wild game that gave the Women of Troy a hard-fought victory.
“We should have had them in the beginning, but it turned out to be an entertaining game,” Sandoval said. “[I] had to stay calm and focus on that one shot and just put it in.”
USC almost didn’t make it to overtime, as Cal forward Alex Morgan completed her hat trick with just two minutes left in regulation to give the Golden Bears a 4-3 lead.
The Women of Troy refused to quit and responded 14 seconds later, when freshman midfielder Elizabeth Eddy completed a hat trick of her own to tie the game 4-4 and send it to overtime.
“Our team showed a lot of character to pull out the win,” Eddy said. “We worked hard to get back each goal and we got it done.”
The Women of Troy gained an early lead, scoring two goals within the first 3:30 of the game.
Senior forward Megan Ohai added to her already-impressive résumé at USC with a shot that found its way inside the top left corner of the post. A few minutes later, Eddy scored her first goal of the day, giving the Women of Troy a 2-0 lead.
Despite holding a early two-goal advantage, USC allowed the Golden Bears to get back into the game — and momentarily take the lead — in the second half.
In the 65th minute, Cal forward/midfielder Lauren Battung scored her fourth goal of the season to cut the lead in half, 2-1.
“A 2-0 lead is the most dangerous score in the game,” USC coach Ali Khosroshahin said. “We knew if they got one, we knew it would be a dogfight.”
And the game turned out to be exactly that as the Women of Troy and Golden Bears engaged in a seesaw battle the rest of the way.
The Women of Troy responded in the 75th minute when Cal goalkeeper Emily Kruger vacated the net after a defensive breakdown and Eddy poked the ball to the far right post to give the Women of Troy a 3-1 lead.
But in a game where the temperature reached more than 90 degrees, forcing two USC defenders, freshman Mia Bruno and junior Claire Schloemer, out of the game, Khosroshahin had to juggle the lineup.
“When you change your backline, problems can occur because of the continuity you have,” Khosroshahin said. “We don’t really change a whole lot back there, but we had to change it a lot.”
With some of the Trojans’ key defenders missing, the Golden Bears took advantage, cutting the lead to a single goal again when Morgan headed in a ball off a free kick to make it 3-2.
Before the win Sunday afternoon, USC played host to the top-ranked Cardinal on Friday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum. USC fell short, losing 2-1 to Stanford (10-0-2) in front of an announced crowd of 1,429.
“You got to give our ladies credit,” Khosroshahin said. “They kept fighting and kept battling. I thought we had more chances than [Stanford] did, but they just capitalized on the opportunities they had.”
In the first half, the Women of Troy had numerous opportunities to strike, most notably when Eddy was able to break free from her defender, creating havoc for the Stanford backline.
There was a scramble in front of the Stanford net, and the Women of Troy had three shots on goal but were denied by the Cardinal’s defense and goalkeeper Emily Oliver.
In the second half, it wasn’t long before the Cardinal would break the tie — in the 59th minute, forward Christen Press knocked a shot from outside the box into the top left corner of the goal post, giving her team a 1-0 advantage.
“We lost a little bit of momentum after we had a couple of great chances,” Khosroshahin said. “That’s a quality team that capitalizes on the opportunities they have.”
The Cardinal would add an insurance goal in the 65th minute when Stanford midfielder Teresa Noyola managed to get her shot just past USC freshman goalkeeper Shelby Church, giving the Cardinal a 2-0 lead.
“We just gave them too much time on the ball,” senior defender Karter Haug said. “They’re really good players, and if we give them that much time, they’re going to find the goal.”
Though the Women of Troy were trailing, they refused to give up. In the 84th minute, Bruno scored her second goal of the year, cutting the lead in half.
However, it would be too late for a comeback as Stanford held on to win, 2-1.
Khosroshahin said his players showed a lot of heart, refusing to give up when their backs were against the wall.
“We have a [great] team,” Khosroshahin said. “They just got to believe it. The ladies just showed unbelievable character.”