The USC women’s soccer program may not be ranked in the NSCAA Division I national preseason top 25, but there is a serious chance that the Women of Troy will be in the mix for the national title this season.
The team’s 2014 season came to a screeching halt in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, as the Women of Troy were close to advancing but fell to Pepperdine on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw. Losing a penalty shootout in the NCAA Tournament is as painful as it gets, but it often makes a team stronger in the long run.
USC appears to be ready to make the leap from a top-tier team to a true national title contender. It would not be the first time such strides were made in the program’s history.
In 2007, the Women of Troy won the National Championship, the first and only national title USC has captured since the program’s inception in 1993.
That being said, it is not merely blind optimism leading the wave of positivity surrounding the 2015 installment of USC women’s soccer. The pieces are in place.
It all starts with second-year head coach Keidane McAlpine, a veteran who guided the Trojans to a 12-6-3 record in his first season at the helm. McAlpine made his way to Troy from Washington State, where he was named Pac-12 Coach of the Year in 2013 for his outstanding work with the WSU Cougars.
Exactly one-third of the Trojans’ roster is comprised of seniors, meaning there will be no shortage of experience and leadership in the locker room this season. The squad also welcomes a talented batch of freshmen, all in-state products with the exception of Swedish import Olga Langenskiöld.
Savannah Levin, a junior who is capable of playing in the midfield or up top, praised the team’s camaraderie as the 2015 season approaches.
“I am really excited for this season because the team’s chemistry on and off the field continues to grow,” Levin said. “Having a tight-knit team makes you want to compete for each other that much more.”
Looking back at the Trojans’ 2014 season, something is immediately apparent: McAlpine and company sure knew how to take care of business in non-conference play. The team opened with nine non-conference games, losing just one of those fixtures and outscoring their opponents 29-7 in the process.
One of the team’s most impressive wins of the 2014 season came in the form of a 2-1 win against Notre Dame in South Bend. The Irish claimed the No. 9 ranking in the country prior to the match, but the Trojans prevailed despite the fact that they were in enemy territory and were trailing at the half. Winning such contests early in the season can provide a team with tremendous momentum as it enters conference play.
It is also worth noting that the Women of Troy recorded two wins that day, one on the pitch and one on the recruiting front. Morgan Andrews, a midfielder for the Irish that day, has since transferred to USC and figures to be an integral member of the team moving forward. Andrews, who started every game during her two years with Notre Dame, was dominant for the Irish. She had six goals and five assists last season, playing her way to Second Team All-ACC status.
Andrews, a two-time Gatorade National Soccer Player of the Year recipient as a prep star in New Hampshire, is one of three transfers USC has reeled in this offseason. Sydney Myers and Amanda Rooney, formerly of Santa Clara and North Carolina, respectively, will join the Trojans’ midfield along with Andrews. The trio will bolster what was already a strong midfield corps.
As new faces enter the picture, though, some members of the team inevitably fade out of the equation.
Among the departures is standout goalkeeper Caroline Stanley, leaving a void between the pipes. Senior Faith Sugerman, sophomore Julia Murphy and redshirt junior Sammy Jo Prudhomme are all worthy candidates as successor to the goaltending throne.
The team opens play against Texas Tech and Florida State in Albuquerque, New Mexico on Aug. 21. The Seminoles are the top-ranked team in the land after winning the 2014 National Title, but FSU is not the only elite team the Trojans will face before jumping into conference play. The team will also travel to Durham, North Carolina in early September to take on perennial powerhouses Duke and North Carolina.
Though the fans may like to look ahead at the schedule in search of the marquee matchups, the team takes things one game — even one drill — at a time.
“We have a new team motto this year that refers to sticking in the moment and dedicating ourselves to that time,” Levin said. “I think continuing to build on what we’ve learned so far and focusing on the details will help us continue to improve.”