A dark, chilly night foreshadowed the USC women’s soccer team’s fate Friday.
In front of a crowd of 3,826 at Drake Field, the Women of Troy (7-13, 4-7) dropped their Pac-12 finale 5-2 at the hands of No. 2 UCLA.
The Bruins (15-1-3, 8-1-2) started fast, putting USC on its heels with a multitude of shots on freshman goalkeeper Carley Pennington. UCLA took advantage of mistakes and found space to run, controlling possession, and the Bruins finally broke through in the 21st minute with a goal from forward Sydney Leroux. UCLA followed this up with two more goals — by midfielder Samantha Mewis and defender Ally Courtnall — in the next 12 minutes to put the difference at 3-0 after just 33 minutes.
“We kept giving the ball away in dangerous parts of the field,” USC coach Ali Khosroshashin said. “You can’t do that against an amazing team like this.”
Despite trailing, USC refused to give in. A goal from junior forward Samantha Johnson in the opening minute of the second half cut the deficit to 3-1. But the momentum was short-lived as Leroux and Mewis each scored their second goals of the contest to put the game out of reach. In the latter minutes of the game, senior midfielder Brittany Kerridge lofted a ball off a corner kick to the far post where junior defender Kristina Noriega drilled a shot into the net to make the final score 5-2. It was Kerridge’s ninth assist on the season and the 15th of her career, which puts her at No. 8 on USC’s all-time list.
“It would have been easy for these girls to give up in the second half with the score being what it was,” Khosroshahin said. “But these girls battled and showed a lot of pride in representing their university. It’s been a tough season and we’ve been very thin with injuries, but I’m very proud of these girls.”
The match marked the last game for five USC seniors: Kerridge, midfielders Ashli Sandoval and Carly Buther, defender Claire Schloemer and forward/defender Ashley Freyer.
Coming off a second-round loss in the NCAA tournament last year at the hands of eventual champion Notre Dame, the Women of Troy started the season at No. 25 in the nation. Losses in 11 of their first 14 games and injuries, however, were too much to overcome.
After the match, Khosroshahin emphasized learning from this season to improve for next year, noting the first priority for the offseason was recovering from the trying season, getting healthy and incorporating the incoming talent to come back next year as strong as possible.
Johnson echoed similar sentiments, as she will be one of nine returning seniors on the roster.
“We need to build up from the bottom and be as strong as possible,” she said. “We’ll be back stronger next season.”