No. 11 USC starts NCAA tournament against Grand Canyon

Senior forward Penelope Hocking dribbles the ball during USC’s last match against UCLA Friday.
Senior forward Penelope Hocking dribbles the ball during USC’s last match against UCLA Friday. Hocking scored against the Bruins. (Amanda Chou | Daily Trojan)

No. 11 women’s soccer will begin its 2021-2022 NCAA tournament in a first round bout against Grand Canyon University Friday. The Trojans are the No. 3 seed in the tournament, and enter the match-up having finished their Pac-12 season Friday in a 3-1 loss against conference champions No. 3 UCLA. 

USC played at UCLA’s Wallis Annenberg Stadium in a match that determined the Pac-12 champion. Two goals from sophomore forward Reilyn Turner and graduate midfielder Olivia Athens within the first 23 minutes propelled the Bruins to an early advantage entering the second half. 

A strike from the penalty spot by USC’s all-time leading goalscorer senior forward Penelope Hocking, who returned as a substitute after a period on the sidelines due to an injury made it 2-1, UCLA’s graduate midfielder Marley Canales scored the third and final goal to cement the
victory and the Pac-12 title for the Bruins. 

USC’s loss in the final Pac-12 fixture ended its unbeaten run that lasted 15 matches. The Trojans began the streak after the first two losses against BYU and Pepperdine University at the start of the season. USC won all five home games during conference play. 

“[I’m] super proud of the way we bounced back after those first early losses, we had a lot of growing up to do and we had a lot to really learn,” said Head Coach Keidane McAlpine in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “I think we learned a lot along the way and this group showed resilience in finding ways to win games and getting better week-to-week [and] getting better throughout the year.” 

USC’s first round NCAA tournament opponent, Grand Canyon University, finished first in the Western Athletic Conference as the Western Division champions. Grand Canyon finished the conference with 23 points, three points ahead of second-place Utah Valley, while honing a 7-1-2 record. 

Grand Canyon’s sole loss of the season came against New Mexico State University in a laborious 2-1 double overtime against the Aggies. 

“Grand Canyon is good — they’re tough, we have played against their forward [Marleen Schimmer]… she transferred out of Arizona State [University],” McAlpine said. “Lot of respect for what they have done … they’re a champion, they won the regular season.” 

The Trojans remained the Pac-12 leaders for multiple fixtures before losing their last regular season matchup against the Bruins. Despite failing to clinch the title, McAlpine remains positive and looks forward to the postseason. 

“Refocus, reset, start over,” he said. “Get back to the basics of competition, learning from the championship game that we just got the chance to play. Switching our mentality and bringing that mentality into practice so we can carry that forward into the game.” 

USC bounced out of the last NCAA postseason in a penalty shootout against the University of Mississippi after drawing 2-2 in regulation time. 

The Trojans will begin their next bid Saturday against Grand Canyon University at home in the Soni McAlister Field. Kick-off is at 1 p.m.