Women’s soccer returns home to defeat Loyola Marymount 2-0

The women’s soccer team defeated Loyola Marymount at McAlister Field 2-0 on Friday behind goals from junior Nicole Molen and senior Morgan Andrews.

The win comes after the Trojans swept a tournament in Auburn last weekend. Although USC opened the 2016 season with two straight losses, the team won its next three, and the Women of Troy made it four on Friday with a 2-0 win against the Lions.

Molen opened the scoring in the 15th minute. The midfielder collided with LMU goalkeeper Charlee Pruitt while getting a foot onto a flick-on from senior Mandy Freeman, and the ball trickled into the net as Molen and Pruitt lay sprawled on the pitch. Andrews doubled the Trojans’ lead just before the half, putting the finishing touch on a well-executed corner.

“The chemistry has been building over the season,” Molen said. “I feel like we’ve found a groove that really works well and helps with our confidence.”

USC actually didn’t settle into a dominant offensive rhythm until the second period of play, but the Women of Troy couldn’t take advantage in the second half. Despite creating several opportunities to extend their lead even further, the Trojan offense failed to capitalize, being denied by offsides, crossbars and lackluster finishing.

“We’re still a work in progress, as much as we’re winning,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “There are still small things that we’re working on, and this was another day where we were presented a new challenge.”

Molen agreed with her coach, but she also vowed that the team would iron out the issues by its next game.

“We definitely have a few things to clean up,” she said. “But we’re going to come out on Sunday, fix what we need to fix and get that win against UNC.”

Fortunately, the Women of Troy haven’t needed a massive haul of goals to win games at the start of this season, thanks to a red-hot Sammy Jo Prudhomme in-between the sticks. The redshirt senior goalkeeper hasn’t conceded during USC’s win streak, was named Co-MVP of the Auburn Soccer Classic and earned Pac-12 Player of the Week honors on Tuesday. Prudhomme was typically sure-handed in net versus LMU, though the Lions didn’t ask too many questions of her, and she recorded a single save en route to yet another clean sheet.

Prudhomme and USC face a tough test next, however, hosting No. 8 North Carolina. The Tar Heels visit McAlister Field on Sunday after playing the Bruins in Westwood on Friday, and they will look to beat USC for the second year in a row. Last year’s squad dropped a close 2-1 contest in Durham, but McAlpine will hope things will turn out differently in Los Angeles.

“We played them really well last year, and I think our players are ready for the challenge,” he said.

Molen was similarly bullish. The junior midfielder respected North Carolina’s fearsome reputation as a women’s soccer program (the Tar Heels have won 22 national championships), but she remained confident her team could deliver.

“They’re definitely a big-time team,” she said. “But we have the talent and the ability and the chemistry and the confidence to go out and get a result against them.”

Seeking a five-game winning streak, the Women of Troy will kick off against North Carolina at 1 p.m. on Sunday. The match will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Network.