USC faces undefeated Oregon State in Pac-12 opener

Senior defender Kaylin Martin passes the ball in the middle of the field.
Women’s soccer are on a five-game win streak heading into Pac-12 play. (Nayeon Ryu | Daily Trojan)

Women’s soccer begins Pac-12 conference play Friday with a home game against Oregon State. The Beavers are undefeated so far, posting an 8-0 record to start the season. The Trojans come into the game with a streak of their own, earning five consecutive victories, four of which came in away matches.

USC finalized its run of non-conference matches against CSUN Sunday, adding a 4-0 victory to the win column. Oregon State, meanwhile, is coming off a narrow home victory over North Dakota in a five-goal thriller that ended 3-2 in the Beavers’ favor. Oregon State has scored 21 goals while only conceding six this season. USC has managed 20 goals and conceded seven. 

“The mentality stays the same, continuing to try to get better every time we go out,” said head coach Keidane McAlpine in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “I didn’t think we came out to the last game [CSUN] with the right energy to start the game … I think that’s the mentality, get in the game right away, making sure we’re doing the right things, making sure we’re giving the proper energy. Both teams are coming into Pac-12 play 0-0, and I think that is how we should approach it.”

Oregon State’s in-form striker, freshman McKenna Martinez, has contributed six goals this season, two of which came against North Dakota. 

“[Oregon State is] an extremely hard-working team,” McAlpine said. “[Head coach] Lauren Sinacola has done a good job in her first year with the team. They have a belief about them right now that’s really good … It is going to be important for us to take care of the ball, especially in our defensive third, and be able to turn their pressure against them.”

Despite receiving limited playing time at the beginning of the season, senior forward Penelope Hocking is in prolific form, scoring four goals in her last three matches. Hocking was last season’s Pac-12 Forward of the Year and earned a place in the All-Pac-12 first team. 

Junior midfielder Croix Bethune has also contributed five goals so far this season, with her brace proving vital in USC’s 3-0 victory over UCSB. Senior goalkeeper Anna Smith will hold it down between the sticks against Oregon State’s efficient offense. Smith’s 11 saves against Michigan in a narrow 1-0 victory earned her Pac-12 Goalkeeper of the Week recognition. 

“[The defensive] group of six and Anna [Smith], if they can hold things down and provide proper defensive moments but also keep the ball long enough to get to our front half — then I think we create enough chances in every game that we have the ability to win the game,” McAlpine said.

So far this season, USC has nine different goalscorers and 11 players with at least one assist. The variety of contributors demonstrates the depth in McAlpine’s squad rotation and his emphasis on teamwork and ball movement. 

“One of the things that, as [a] staff, we looked at coming into the season [was] just going back and looking at our best teams ever and [they were] always really deep teams,” McAlpine said. “What you are seeing is a lot of players starting to understand their roles and understand what is being asked. We work hard to increase communication and the energy that you provide to the team.”

The Trojans will kick off their first Pac-12 match of the season against the Beavers Friday at 4 p.m at Soni McAlister Field.