No. 10 USC will play Colorado this Friday and Oregon on Sunday. The Trojans will try to extend their nine-game winning streak and secure the top seed for the Pac-12 tournament later this month.
At their last meeting with Colorado on March 16, the Trojans defeated the Buffaloes 11-5 on the road. At halftime, they led 6-4 and only allowed 1 goal for the rest of the game. Including the match against Colorado, USC has only allowed 40 goals in its last six games for an average of just 6.6 per game.
Sophomore defender Lizzy Wagner, who has started all 13 games this season, attributes the team’s success to its fast-paced defensive approach.
“Our low goals against average is largely credited to our fast pace defensive style, which focuses on playing quick with our feet rather than relying on our sticks,” Wagner said.
The Trojans look to continue their impressive defensive performance to close out the regular season.
USC has four upcoming winnable games against Colorado, Oregon, Stony Brook and Arizona State. It will be crucial for the team to maintain its current momentum heading into the Pac-12 tournament, and most likely the NCAA tournament.
Earlier in the year, USC blew out Oregon 14-5, only letting Oregon shoot the ball three times in the entire first half. USC was well balanced on the attack with six players scoring at least 2 goals. Sophomore midfielder Sophia Donovan led the Trojans with a hat trick and an assist.
Oregon freshman goalie Rachel Hall currently leads the NCAA in saves with 161. The talented goalkeeper will challenge the Trojans to choose and place their shots carefully.
USC recently swept the Pac-12 Player of the Week awards: Sophomore goalie Riley Hertford was named the Defensive Player of the Week, and sophomore midfielder Kelsey Huff earned Offensive Player of the Week.
The season looks as though it is heading down a similar path as last season, which ended with a loss to Stanford in the second round of the Pac-12 tournament. The Cardinal appear to be the second strongest team in the conference and seem destined for a rematch with the Trojans.
Although USC beat Stanford in both of this year’s matchups, both games were decided by slim margins of 1 point, making the upcoming contest anybody’s game. The referees made a crucial call in the final seconds of both games that heavily affected the outcomes, so the Trojans and Cardinal are evenly matched.
Although USC boasts one of the best records in the NCAA, the team still barely made the top 10. However, Wagner said the Women of Troy are not worried about their ranking in the polls.
“We try and ignore the rankings and the perception that we are underdogs,” she said. “Every time we hit the field we have the mentality that we have something to prove.”
That cutthroat mentality is easy to maintain for a team still reeling from the disappointment of its failure to make the NCAA tournament last year.
This year, the Trojans have a chance to secure the team’s best record since the program’s inception for the 2013 season.
USC faces Colorado 3 p.m. Friday and Oregon 1 p.m. Sunday at McAlister Field.