Soccer sweeps weekend with 2-1 victories

Junior forward Tara McKeown leaves a Utah defender in the dust during USC’s victory against the Utes at McAlister Field Thursday.  (Edison Liu / Daily Trojan)

The No. 4 USC women’s soccer team added two more tallies to its win total this weekend with victories over Utah and Colorado at McAlister Field. 

The number two was the magic number of the weekend for the Trojans. Two goals were all they needed in each game as they took both contests by a 2-1 score. All 4 goals for USC came in the second halves, USC jumped to No. 2 in the Pac-12 and junior forward Tara McKeown picked up two game-winners. 

The Trojans started the weekend by welcoming the Utes Thursday afternoon. Things were quiet at McAlister Field until McKeown put the Trojans ahead in the 74th minute with one of the more impressive goals of the season. 

McKeown handled a cross that she flicked over the head of a Utah defender and rocketed into the net, all in the same motion.

As the clock wound down in overtime, USC seemed poised to escape with a 1-0 win, but a late corner kick set up Utah junior defender Alexis Rushlow in the 89th minute for the equalizer.

The Trojans’ first opportunity in extra time came in the 100th minute, as McKeown stepped up to seal the deal on a set piece from the outside of the penalty box. 

“We always work on those with [associate head coach] Jason [Lockhart],” McKeown told USC Athletics. “So I just knew where the wall was set up and where the goalie was, that she probably wasn’t going to be able to get where I was going to kick it in time. So I just shot it, and it went in.”

Fresh off the win, USC returned to McAlister Field to face the Buffaloes Sunday afternoon. 

Once again, the game saw a scoreless first half. A number of opportunities came USC’s way as the Trojans forced Colorado senior goalkeeper Jalen Tompkins to make six saves in the first half. 

Even with a zero on the scoreboard, the Trojans decided to not mix it up in the second half, sticking to the game plan that head coach Keidane McAlpine had laid out. 

“Do a little bit more of the same,” McAlpine said. “We had a couple ideas that we gave them in terms of trying to get into that width a little bit more.” 

The Trojans didn’t take long out of the second half gate to grab the 1-0 lead, as McKeown found sophomore forward Penelope Hocking in the box. Hocking turned and fired off the right post to put the Trojans ahead in the 48th minute.

It was the 11th time this season the two have connected for a goal. 

The lead was short-lived, as Colorado scored on its next corner kick to even things up at 1 in the 55th minute. Senior defender Kelsey Aaknes fired the corner toward the goal, and sophomore forward Libby Geraghty’s header knotted it up. 

In the eight games in which the Trojans have allowed goals, seven have included second half scores. As on Thursday, the opposition was able to find the net in the latter 45 against USC. 

With one game-winner under her belt on the weekend, McKeown was not finished. Just 64 seconds later, freshman midfielder Savianna Gomez sent a cross through the box, and McKeown headed it in for the lead. 

McKeown, who did not have a game-winner until USC took on Arizona Oct. 6, has had one in each of the Trojans’ last three games.

USC finished the game with a 2-1 win and swept the weekend at home against the mountain schools. Still, McAlpine saw room for improvement moving forward.

“Ultimately, that second goal came from getting into that width,” McAlpine said. “But really we were playing pretty well, so for us it’s more about putting more shots on frame, and I don’t think we did a great job of that today. We need to be better on that end.”

The Trojans improved to 11-1-1 on the season and 4-1-0 in Pac-12 play. It is the sixth straight season USC has won at least 11 games, a feat they’ve accomplished every year under McAlpine as head coach. 

USC will travel north to face Cal  Friday for a 4 p.m. kickoff.