USC Women's Soccer Holds Off Oregon State to Open Pac-12 Play
Behind goals by forward Sydney Johnson and midfielder Nicole Molen, the Women of Troy held off a late push by Oregon State to start off Pac-12 conference play with a 2-1 win on Saturday afternoon at McAlister Field.
Johnson scored her fourth goal of the season right before halftime and Molen, who recorded a team-high seven shots on goal, made it 2-0 in the 59th minute with her first of the year.
“We did a really good job of framing the goal and getting people in the box,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “Early in the year we weren’t doing that very well. I thought [Johnson and Molen] in particular really ran into the box exceptionally well.”
But a foul by Molen in the 85th minute led to a goal by Beavers’ defender Greta Espinoza, who headed it past Trojans’ goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme to cut the USC lead in half. The Women of Troy hunkered down after that, however, keeping the ball in the Oregon State end and running out the clock for the victory, even manufacturing a few scoring chances.
Nonetheless, Molen took responsibility for the goal.
“I’m going to take total ownership of that goal,” she said. “It was bad marking on my part. I gave up the free kick. Ultimately, you want to get shutouts, but we’re going to move forward and not let it happen again.”
Added McAlpine: “It started with a bad pass, ended up with a bad foul and bad marking in the box. If we want to be the best team we can be, that’s something we’ve got to clean up. That’s a detail that has to improve.”
That was just about the lone negative for USC in the sweltering mid-afternoon affair. The Women of Troy outshot Oregon State 23-5, limiting the Beavers to just one shot in the first half and no corner kicks.
“We talked about trying to be a really solid defensive team and I thought – for the most part – we did a really good job of that,” said McAlpine. “We eliminated corner kicks; we know they’re very good in their set pieces.”
USC was able to table the strong defense into offense. Despite dominating possession and generating several prime chances, the Women of Troy either missed the target or were denied by Beavers’ goalkeeper Bella Geist. Just minutes before USC’s first tally, Molen couldn’t convert on two point blank opportunities; Geist stopped the first and the second went over the crossbar.
Still, the Women of Troy went into halftime with the lead after Johnson’s goal in the 44th minute. Johnson, who subbed in at the 30th minute, scored with a header off a cross from the left corner by Reilly Parker.
“Right before halftime, it’s good to know that all our hard work for that half goes to something good and we can finally leave the half on a good note,” said Johnson.
The second goal in the 59th minute gave USC some breathing room. Molen was in the right place at the right time after a long throw-in by Sydney Sladek bounced off goalkeeper Geist back in front, and Molen was there to follow it in.
Molen recorded a team-high seven shots, more than the entire Oregon State team combined.
When asked about the key to getting those opportunities, Molen responded, “I try to work hard for the ball, get shots when I can around the goal and try to put it on frame.”
McAlpine and his players underscored the importance of a win to open up conference play.
“You’re either first or last,” said Johnson. “After the first game, being first right now is good.”
The Women of Troy improve to 6-3-1 on the season, and will head on the road to Washington to face Washington State – McAlpine’s former team – on Oct. 1 and Washington on Oct. 4.
“It’s always good to see some old friends and players you’ve spent a lot of time with and still love,” said McAlpine, who coached at Washington State prior to USC. “You want them to do well – just not too well when we play them.”
In all, McAlpine sees improvements from his team, but knows there is work to be done.
“From game one through this game, we’re continuing to get better,” he said. “Recognize moments and situations a little faster and play a little quicker. It’s just about getting better. This is just the beginning, not the end.”