USC looks to continue strong form against Colorado

Sophomore defender Zoe Burns carries the ball on the sideline to get ready for a throw-in.
Women’s soccer scored at least two goals in each of their last six outings and only conceded three goals over that stretch of games. (Nayeon Ryu | Daily Trojan)

Women’s soccer continues its Pac-12 schedule Thursday with a home match against Colorado. The No. 11 Trojans will look to extend their winning streak to nine games, and senior forward Penelope Hocking will attempt to break USC’s career goals record.

Despite Hocking potentially etching her name in the record books, Head Coach Keidane McAlpine said the team is more focused on the match at hand than the individual accolade.

“We’re not really talking about it all that much,” said McAlpine in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “Everyone is just going about their business. If it happens, it happens. She deserves it. She’s done her part. But it’s more important that we go about the business of trying to win the game.”

The career goals record Hocking will try to shatter was set by Isabelle Harvey more than 20 years ago. Harvey earned the Pac-10 Player of the Year award in 1998 and was inducted into USC’s Hall of Fame in 2015. Hocking tied Harvey’s record with her 48th career goal in Sunday’s match against Arizona.

But Hocking’s success does not mean the team is without its faults. USC struggles to start games with its foot on the gas this sesaon. The Trojans have trailed in each of their conference matches despite holding a perfect 3-0 record in conference play.

Another slow start could mean disaster against a talented Colorado team. One of the most skilled players in the Pac-12, Colorado senior midfielder Shanade Hopcroft, posted four goals and five assists this season.

The Trojans are coming off a 4-1 win over Arizona while the Buffaloes look to rebound from a 2-0 loss against Washington State. The two teams are trending in opposite directions, and Colorado will need a victory to keep its season from derailing.

Overall, the Buffaloes are 6-4-1 on the season and 1-1-1 in conference play, but Colorado’s lackluster record doesn’t tell the full story. The team’s lone tie came against California, where the Buffaloes led 2-0 in the first nine minutes and eventually gave up two second-half goals to the Golden Bears. Colorado also had a close 2-1 loss against No. 1 Florida State. 

“Colorado is really good in set pieces and really good in the air,” McAlpine said. “They’ve got a long throw, really aggressive. And they play until the end and compete.”

The key to USC’s success against Colorado will be its defense. The Trojans have allowed 10 or less shots in each of their last six games and senior goalkeeper Anna Smith has made 36 saves on the season. The combination of great shot-stopping and limiting the amount of shots opponents can put up has been one of the biggest contributors to USC’s success this season.

The team has put a heavy emphasis on building a strong defensive front to keep opposing teams at bay.

“We want to be aggressive and we want to be assertive in terms of how we force teams to play,” McAlpine said.

Although capable of putting together a complete 90-minute performance, the Trojans are looking to figure out how to start strong in Pac-12 play so far this season.

“We’re going to have to bring it and we’re going to have to stay sharp and stay focused,” McAlpine said.

The Trojans return from their away games to face the Buffaloes at 4 p.m. Thursday at Soni McAlister Field.