No. 9 USC women’s soccer will host No. 22 Texas A&M for the second round of the NCAA Tournament after blowing past Cal State Fullerton 5-1.
The Trojans capped last week's game with five second-half goals, with sophomore forward Penelope Hocking contributing to all five scores. Along with four goals of her own, she assisted freshman midfielder Savianna Gomez’s goal in the 80th minute.
Hocking’s performance against the Titans set a USC postseason record for goals scored and matched the USC single-game record held for over two decades.
The door for opportunities was open for junior midfielder Alea Hyatt with junior forward Tara McKeown sidelined with an injury. Hyatt ran right through the door, matching a USC record with three assists.
“I’m glad [Hyatt and I] had that connection today when [McKeown] was on the bench,” Hocking said.“She’s awesome. It was kind of unexpected too … [head coach Keidane McAlpine] always says it doesn’t matter who’s out … it’s just important that we all work super hard and we all stay focused and stay working together.”
With McKeown’s status still unknown, the newfound connection will be crucial for the Trojans to build upon in Friday’s game.
This is the second time in four years that Texas A&M and USC will play in the second and third round pod. In 2016, the Trojans emerged victorious in a nail-biting 4-3 shootout after a scoreless draw to continue to the Sweet 16. USC went on to win its second national title that same year.
At 14-4-3 on the season, the Aggies advanced to the second round via a 4-1 victory over the Texas Longhorns. Senior forward Ally Watt and junior midfielder Jimena Lopez will be the players to watch in maroon and white, leading their roster in goals this season.
Both players were named to All-SEC First Team (2019) and have started for the Aggies in every game this season. Watt was named SEC Forward of the Year for 2019 with 16 goals, six assists and 36 points in the regular season. Lopez ranks second in the nation with 13 assists and was named 2019 SEC Midfielder of the Year.
The Aggies also have incredible defensive power in senior defender Briana Alston and freshman midfielder/defender Katie Smith. Smith was named to the SEC All-Freshman team and Alston earned second-team honors.
No. 13 Oklahoma State Cowgirls and No. 20 Santa Clara Broncos are also in Los Angeles this weekend. The winners of the two second-round matches play will play for the Elite Eight spot Sunday at 3:30 p.m.
First, the fate of USC and Texas A&M will be determined today at 1:30 p.m. The game will be played at McAlister Field and will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.