USC wins over Arizona with tight defense performance

Senior midfielder Savannah DeMelo charges ahead of two defenders with the ball at her feet.
Senior midfielder Savannah DeMelo came close to a goal off a free kick in the 46th minute. (Eli Masket | Daily Trojan)

The USC women’s soccer team defeated the Arizona Wildcats Friday by a score of 1-0. USC junior forward Penelope Hocking, who faced off her twin sister Arizona junior Iliana Hocking, was the lone scorer for the game. 

USC is now 4-3-1 overall, with a 3-3 record in Pac-12 play. The Wildcats fell to 6-4, with a 1-4 Pac-12 record.

Both Arizona sophomore goalkeeper Hope Hisey and USC redshirt senior goalkeeper Kaylie Collins put on an impressive defensive first half, with three saves and one save respectively. In the first half, Arizona only shot the ball four times, while USC had nine shots. 

“I thought [the defense] was fantastic,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “I thought they were communicating very well. Moving forward we expect and hope to get those kinds of performances every time we step out.”

One of USC’s best first-half tries came in the 22nd minute, with a booming shot from sophomore midfielder Croix Bethune. However, Hisey made a leaping save, punching the ball out of bounds. Overall, USC dominated the first half with their ball control, but the slow pace of play forced by the Arizona defense kept the Trojans from scoring.

The second half started with both teams continuing to dominate on the defensive end. An early free kick by senior midfielder Savannah DeMelo just barely missed wide of the goalpost in the 46th minute. In the 68th minute, Arizona senior forward Jill Aguilera’s free kick attempt was saved by Collins. 

In the 71st minute, senior forward Tara McKeown briefly went down after colliding with a teammate on the offensive side of the field. However, she played through, making an excellent pass to Hocking, who secured her fifth goal of the season in the 77th minute with a strong kick from outside the box. Hocking has scored 37 goals in her three seasons at USC. 

“[McKeown] is probably the most tough player we have on our team,” McAlpine said. “Not only does she play through pain, but she tackles, she runs, she works, and it’s a spark plug for everything that we do.”

The duo of McKeown and Hocking continues to light up the stat sheet for USC with a combined 10 goals and three assists between the two for the season. 

After the goal, USC became less aggressive and more defensive-minded, which led to an elevated offensive attack for the Wildcats in the dwindling minutes of the game. In the 84th minute, Aguilera had a great chance to tie up the game off of a well-placed ball from Arizona senior Jada Talley, but her attempt was wide of the goal. The defense came through for USC even though offense struggled throughout the game. 

After a tough road stretch where USC went 0-2-1, they are now back in the win column. 

“It feels great, because I think the team needed it. I think they needed to feel a little success,” McAlpine said. “Pretty happy for the team that they can start to feel, and they can see the fruit of their labor.”

The Trojans will play their next two games at home, where they are undefeated and have not allowed a goal since the season opener. The Washington Huskies and Washington State University Cougars will both make the trip next weekend to face the Trojans. 

Washington is coming off of a three game win streak, and their only Pac-12 loss this season has come from Stanford University. Washington State has also had an impressive season, sitting at 5-1-1 having only lost to Washington. 

The Trojan’s game against the Huskies will be at 6:00 p.m. Friday. They then face the Cougars on Sunday, at 12:00 p.m. 

Both games will be streamed on the Pac-12 Network.