USC will host fellow title contenders Stanford at home Sunday

Freshman midfielder Simi Awujo dribbles the ball during a match against Colorado Oct. 7.
Freshman midfielder Simi Awujo dribbles the ball during a match against Colorado Oct. 7. (Polina Past | Daily Trojan)

No. 10 women’s soccer, the current Pac-12 leader, will face off against No. 9 Stanford in a contested bout between title contenders. The Trojans beat UC Berkeley Thursday after two draws against the Washington schools last weekend. 

Entering the match, the Golden Bears were amid a prolific run as they managed three consecutive victories and clean sheets over Utah, Arizona and Arizona State. 

USC ended its historical 11-game win streak with draws against the two teams from Washington but remained unbeaten in Pac-12 play. 

“It was a great performance,” said Head Coach Keidane McAlpine in a postgame interview with the Daily Trojan. “Clearly, we got some energy being back home … I thought we executed the game plan really well.” 

USC persevered through previous player absences, with redshirt senior forward Jada Talley missing the previous game against Washington State and senior forward Penelope Hocking absent in the games against Washington and Berkeley. 

Junior forward Hannah White and freshman forward Simone Jackson once again were included in the starting eleven. The former contributed a goal and an assist to in-form junior midfielder Croix Bethune en route to a 2-0 victory over Cal Thursday. 

“I think they showed great spirit,” McAlpine said. “It’s a testament to what we have been able to do sort of all season — getting a lot of people experience, so, in these moments, they are ready to take the opportunity. [Bethune] and [White] have been consistent throughout. I also thought Savannah DeMelo’s performance defensively was fantastic.” 

Seasoned forward Hocking missed a second consecutive game against Berkeley after experiencing a knock against Washington State last week. USC’s all-time leading goalscorer currently has 5 goals and 2 assists in seven Pac-12 matches. 

“It’s all day-by-day,” McAlpine said. “ [Hocking] is recovering and doing well, but no set timeline.” 

The Trojans’ match against the Cardinal as the Pac-12 leader is part of a three-horse race for the conference title that includes Stanford and UCLA. Following the victory over Berkeley and Stanford’s loss against UCLA Thursday evening, USC remains on top of Pac-12 standings with a 2-point advantage over second place UCLA. 

However, USC’s confrontation with Stanford on Sunday will intensify the race for the conference title. 

“As we hit this final stretch, you’re talking about being in first place and holding on to that,” McAlpine said. “We beat a good Cal team [Thursday] … Stanford is the next one in front of us, and we will create good tactics for it.” 

Before conceding a last-minute goal against UCLA Thursday evening, Stanford held two consecutive victories with a total of 6 goals and two clean sheets. Despite falling down to third-place and 19 points in the Pac-12 standings, Stanford still has a mathematical chance to clinch the Pac-12 title. 

“We think we’re pretty in-form as well,” McAlpine said. “[Stanford has] to prepare for us the same way, so we’re looking forward to it.”  

USC will play its second-to last Pac-12 match against Stanford Sunday in a vital match for the race for the conference title. Kickoff is at 12 p.m.