“Life’s a Pitch” is a column by Elizabeth Islas about collegiate and professional sports.
Let’s take a look back at the USC women’s soccer team after the 2013 season. The Trojans finished their third-straight losing season under then-head coach Ali Khosroshahin. After some initial success, including a championship victory in his first season, Khosroshahin was not USC’s answer to long-term success.
Enter Keidane McAlpine.
Coach McAlpine was hired shortly after the devastating ‘13 season, giving USC fans hope for change. And that’s exactly what he delivered.
He took a team that averaged seven wins a season and sculpted them into a women’s soccer powerhouse. He led the squad to five straight NCAA tournament appearances and took them all the way to a championship in 2016 — three years into his tenure. This is the longest playoff streak for a USC women’s soccer coach; former coach Jim Millinder previously held this record with four straight appearances (2000-03).
His success can greatly be attributed to his unique coaching style. If you’ve ever seen him on the sidelines during a game, you would know he stays calm through the entirety of the game, which helps keep the players focused on the field. He fosters a family-like team that holds the entire team responsible for its performance. This helps the players to all hold themselves to a higher standard.
McAlpine is also a master of recruiting high-profile players. In 2018, the team welcomed the No. 2 recruiting class in the nation; this season, they have the No. 3 class. If it’s not the constant success the prospective recruits are attracted to, it’s definitely the team dynamic that these new players are sold on.
He has developed nine All-Americans, 22 All-Conference, two Pac-12 Goalkeepers of the Year, a Pac-12 Freshman of the Year and a Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year. He has the makings to lead the team to multiple championships. If this doesn’t scream “Hall of Fame,” I don’t know what will.
Coach McAlpine reminds me of a former coach in the USC Athletics department … his name is Pete Carroll.
The USC football team was disappointing in the late 90s and it seeped into the new millennium. But that was before guiding light Carroll joined the team. He was hired as the head coach prior to the 2001 season and he led the team to their first bowl game in two years. He went full-force for the remainder of his time as USC head coach, taking the team to nine straight bowl games and winning back-to-back national championships in 2003-04. And he’s in the USC Hall of Fame.
McAlpine is currently en-route to achieving something similar, if not better.
He has the chance to lead the soccer team to their sixth straight NCAA tournament appearance, which ties the team record. They have gotten off to yet another great start this season, going undefeated in their first eight games this year. The team will travel to Stanford to face the Cardinal, attempting to keep their undefeated streak alive.
“Life’s a Pitch” runs every Friday.