The last game of the regular season for both No. 16 USC and No. 5 UCLA came to an end with a 2-2 draw in front of friends and family at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum Friday. The matchup between the Bruins and Trojans was the first game since the beginning of the pandemic in which guests of players and coaches were allowed to visit the stadium.
“Fans always add an extra level of energy and it has been missed,“ head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “It was truly, truly exciting to have people back in the stands.”
The Trojans started the game strong, with senior forward Tara McKeown testing UCLA goalkeeper Lauren Brzykcy thrice before assisting junior forward Penelope Hocking’s goal in the 10th minute. The early goal fueled UCLA’s forwards to attack, as the Bruins attempted six shots thereafter. However, USC held their 1-0 lead for the rest of the first half.
A corner kick in the 46th minute led to McKeown heading the Trojans’ second goal of the match in the corner of the net, pushing the USC lead to 2-0. In the 55th minute, UCLA senior Delanie Sheehan put her team on the scoreboard, defeating the USC defense with impeccable skill and beating redshirt senior goalkeeper Kaylie Collins in a one-on-one to make it 2-1. Afterward, the Trojans countered with a combination of passing and support play and an attempted shot by freshman forward Katie Roditis.
With the game holding at 2-1, the Trojans’ defense parked the bus and had the majority of the team behind the half line for the rest of the half. They faced a strong UCLA offense that kept control of the ball and had nine shots in the second half.
It was a truly impressive game for Collins who, with support from defense, was able to fend off the Bruins. Collins successfully faced several one-on-one’s from UCLA’s attack and had nine saves in total.
“It always gives our team, the backline in particular, more confidence when you have someone back behind you who you have the utmost belief in,” McAlpine said. “Our team played better as [Collins] got more confident.”
In the 87th minute, UCLA senior midfielder Olivia Athens took advantage of a free kick lobbed into the Trojan box and scored to tie the game at 2 apiece. The last minute goal sent the game into overtime, which ended goalless. It was the second time this season the Trojans squandered a 2-1 lead against UCLA with minutes to spare.
“It was really about fortitude — who was willing to fight through the fatigue,” McAlpine said. “Stay focused, locked in and really just get after it, and I thought they did a really great job.”
The Trojans have not lost a game since their back-to-back upset losses at Utah and Colorado in March, having lost 0-2 and 2-3 to the respective teams. The Trojans have also avoided conceding a goal since their previous match against the Bruins in March, a streak which was broken Friday against UCLA.
“Coming off the Colorado loss … we had to change the way we were doing things and it says a lot about the team … and their competitive spirit that they locked in,” McAlpine said. “We were in a winner goes home mode for the remainder of the season and were able to get results.”
The Bruins have done well to avoid losses this season, losing only once to Arizona State and drawing twice against USC. Freshman forward Reilyn Turner established herself as a crucial member of the team, having scored 9 goals this season — the highest on the team.
After having finished their regular seasons 7-3-3 and 12-1-2, respectively, USC and UCLA will now wait to find out their seeding in the NCAA tournament. Seedings will be revealed Monday.
“You got to be proud of the way we closed the season,” McAlpine said. “I think we’re playing with great form going into the tournament and I think we deserve to be in it, potentially seeded.”