The USC women’s soccer team looked to begin Pac-12 play on a high note, competing in a hard-fought contest against Arizona State. Unfortunately, a goal in the final minute of regulation gave the Sun Devils a 1-0 win over the Women of Troy on Sunday.
USC (5-4-1, 0-1-0 Pac-12) and ASU (6-3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) engaged in a rough, defensive match, with both teams pushing for the early advantage. ASU came the closest to scoring in the first half in the 19th minute, attempting two shots in a span of 10 seconds, but both of them hit the post.
The first half favored the Sun Devils, who outshot USC 12-4 (5-3 on goal). The teams combined for 15 shots in the first 32 minutes before a 13-minute lull in the action kept both teams from getting a shot, until ASU’s Blair Alderson got a shot on goal against junior goalkeeper Caroline Stanley to close the half.
The second half featured more of the same, with USC pushing the pace and trying to generate more scoring opportunities. The strategy worked, with USC out-shooting ASU 9-4 in the second half.
Neither team, however, appeared to be able to put a shot on goal, making it look like the game was headed to overtime. A header from sophomore defender Marlee Carrillo in the 87th minute appeared to be USC’s best chance, but the deflection off of the goalie was off the mark and went wide left.
Just when it looked like the game would be headed into overtime, ASU’s Devin Marshall managed to get the ball on a fastbreak, putting it past Stanley with 19 seconds left to give the Sun Devils the win.
“Unfortunately, instead of playing at our standard, we played at ASU’s standard,” sophomore midfielder Jamie Fink said. “We did some good things in the final third, but we need to improve on just playing our game and sticking to our game plan rather than stooping down to our opponents.”
Opening up conference play with a loss is not an ideal way to begin the Pac-12 season, but Fink asserted that she and her teammates would be able to learn from their mistakes in the ASU match and rebound quickly in the coming weeks.
“This game was taken as a lesson,” Fink said. “We are picking our heads up, learning from our mistakes and moving forward as we play Washington and Washington State this weekend. The team is remaining positive, and we are ready to attack our games this weekend.”
Stanley finished with five saves on six shots for the Women of Troy. Junior midfielder Alex Quincey led the scoring attack for USC with three shots, while Carrillo, senior midfielder Jordan Marada and Fink each had two shots total and one shot on goal.
Marshall provided ASU’s only goal, giving her six on the season. ASU forward Cali Farquharson led the team with four shots, while Chandler Morris earned three saves.
The contest maintained a high intensity throughout, with a combined 31 fouls between the two teams (USC 17, ASU 14). The Sun Devils also earned two yellow cards: Jasmine Roth in the 74th minute and Marshall in the 90th minute, just before her game-winning goal.
Each of USC’s four losses have been one-goal defeats. The Women of Troy’s goal differential on the season is plus-10, which ranks No. 8 in the Pac-12.
The biggest reason USC has struggled of late is because of its defense. The team’s 11 goals allowed is second-worst of all conference teams, though its 21 goals scored is tied for No. 3 in the Pac-12.
USC hopes to get back on track at McAlister Field next weekend, as they prepare to take on Washington on Friday at 2 p.m. and Washington State on Sunday 6 at 3 p.m. They will then travel north the following weekend to face California on Oct. 11 at 3 p.m. and No. 2 Stanford on Oct. 13 at 5 p.m.
With 11 conference games remaining on the schedule, USC is still very much in the hunt for the Pac-12 crown. But improvement needs to be made in all aspects of the team’s play in order for the Women of Troy to reach their goal ultimate goal of a conference championship, something the players are well aware of.
“One of the main positives that we took out of Sunday’s loss was that this game was early in our conference play, so we can refer to it for learning purposes,” sophomore defender Erin Owen said. “This game will also act as our motivation for the remainder of the season. This week we are focusing on putting in second and third efforts when we have just won the ball so we can eliminate any counterattacks from the other team.”
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