The first two home matches of the USC women’s soccer season yielded two drastically different results, as the Women of Troy split a pair of nonconference matchups over the weekend by defeating Saint Mary’s 4-1 Friday before falling to Minnesota 4-1 Sunday.
The Women of Troy (2-1) took their first loss of the season on Sunday despite outshooting the Gophers 16-15.
Freshman forward Katie Johnson scored her first career goal for USC on a close-range shot in the 25th minute to draw first blood for the Women of Troy.
Freshman defender Marlee Carrillo chucked a throw-in all the way into the center of the box, where sophomore midfielder Alex Quincey headed the ball toward the back post to let Johnson tap it in for a 1-0 lead.
“We knew that in the first five minutes after [a goal] and in the beginning of the game we needed to be focused,” Johnson said. “Those are the most crucial times in a game.”
The Women of Troy applied consistent pressure at the beginning of the contest, with Johnson even drilling the crossbar on a powerful shot.
Similar squandered scoring chances shifted momentum in Minnesota’s favor.
Less than three minutes after Johnson’s goal, USC found itself down 2-1 thanks to two quick responses from the Gophers.
Minnesota forward Taylor Uhl, who played with USC sophomore goalkeeper Caroline Stanley on a regional team in high school, gathered a cross in the box and sent a strike past her old teammate for the equalizer in the 26th minute.
Less than two minutes later, the Gophers struck again when a save from Stanley rebounded to Minnesota midfielder Taylor Wodnick, who knocked in the close-range shot.
“We scored a pretty good goal, and then it just got really flat,” said USC coach Ali Khosroshahin. “Anytime you play a well-organized, disciplined group, and you make the kind of mistakes we made, they’re going to punish you for it.”
Before the end of the first half, freshman forward Megan Borman was denied on a breakway by Minnesota goalkeeper Cat Parkhill, who turned in an exceptional performance for the Gophers.
After escaping the first half with the lead intact, Minnesota put the game out of reach by capitalizing on a USC defensive miscue in the 69th minute.
Minnesota midfielder Allie Phillips intercepted an errant pass deep in USC’s territory before giving the ball to Uhl, who capitalized on a one-on-one with Stanley for her second goal of the game.
The fourth and final score came courtesy of Phillips in the 73rd minute. Her arching lob from the left side of the box sailed over Stanley’s head into the net.
In response to the four unanswered goals, Khosroshahin insisted that his team cannot let small mistakes snowball into a greater deficit.
“We’ve got to be a little bit more alert; we’ve got to pay attention to the details,” Khosroshahin said. “I think we took too many mental breaks, and we got punished for it.”
The Women of Troy’s goalie agreed.
“There were some defensive breakdowns that I felt heavily responsible for,” Stanley said. “I hold myself to a higher standard than how I played today.”
Sunday’s letdown was a stark contrast from Friday’s 4-1 victory, which yielded the highest scoring home opener for USC since their 2007 national championship season.
It also marked the first time USC had started the season 2-0 and won both its home and season openers since 2008.
Eight newcomers to the program started on Friday, reflecting the roster makeover the team underwent after finishing 7-13 last year.
Twenty of the squad’s 34 players, including 16 freshmen, are donning the Cardinal and Gold for the first time this season.
Those fresh faces shone brightly against the Gaels, as three freshman accounted for USC’s four goals.
Forward Megan Borman netted two scores for the Women of Troy, and defender Erin Owen and forward Whitney Pitalo added a goal apiece as USC outshot Saint Mary’s 26-8.
In contrast to the game against Minnesota, the Women of Troy responded promptly when the Gaels got to within one goal in the 53rd minute of play on a tally by Celina Minnisian.
In less than 10 minutes, Borman took advantage of a loose ball in the box to net her second goal.
Of course, inexperience might bring inconsistency at first.
Stanley says she expects USC’s inexperience to cause a wide range of results on the field.
“We have so many new players, and it’s expected that you’re going to have your ups and downs,” Stanley said. “We just need to keep our heads up and take this [weekend] as a learning experience.”
The Women of Troy won’t have to wait long to see if they learned anything valuable from their first two home games — they host No. 2 Duke on Friday at 4 p.m. as part of the USC Futbol Classic.