The No. 14 Trojans kicked off their season at the Coliseum Monday with a back-and-forth win over No. 10 BYU. Graduate forward Jennifer Westendorf called game, knocking down a golden goal in the 96th minute to push the Trojans past the Cougars 4-3.
The scoring started in the 11th minute with none other than senior forward Tara McKeown. McKeown received the ball and pushed past a BYU defender, forcing the goalie to come out of the box. After beating the goalie, it was a wide open net for McKeown to put the Trojans on the board.
Sophomore midfielder Croix Bethune, who placed the ball where only McKeown could reach it, earned her first career assist.
“It feels great,” said Bethune, who missed the 2019 season with an ACL injury. “It’s been a while since I’ve played, and it just feels great to be back on the field with my amazing teammates.”
A shot on goal in the 40th minute from BYU headed for the top right corner, causing redshirt senior goalkeeper Kaylie Collins to elevate, getting just enough of the ball to toss it over the crossbar for the save.
The Trojans headed into halftime with four of their six shots landing on goal and two saves from Collins.
BYU sophomore forward Rachel McCarthy put the Cougars on the board to tie it up early in the second half. But less than two minutes later, Westendorf sent the ball through multiple defenders and junior forward Penelope Hocking answered with a goal, returning the lead to the Trojans.
The back-and-forth would continue, with BYU’s sophomore midfielder Bella Folino tying it up after a long throw-in in the 68th minute. After dribbling the ball inside the box, Hocking, trying to shake her defender, drew a foul in the 70th minute, sending McKeown to take the penalty kick.
McKeown, calm and unfazed, slid the ball past senior goalkeeper Cassidy Smith to put the Trojans on top once again.
The seesaw game didn’t stop there as Folino stayed hot, nailing the equalizer in the 77th minute that sent the game into overtime.
After going one-on-one with a defender near the penalty box, Hocking went down, forcing head coach Keidane McAlpine to replace her with Westendorf. In the 97th minute, USC’s senior forward Savannah DeMelo, who missed last season due to an ACL injury, kicked the ball out to Bethune, who put on some fancy footwork to find Westendorf. Westendorf fired a shot from outside of the box, landing in the far right back of the net, sealing the win for the Trojans.
With their season opener originally scheduled for Feb. 4 against Pepperdine canceled, the Women of Troy were more than ready to take the field.
“After being out so long, it was great to get the first one under our belt,” McAlpine said. “We’ve got a little bit to work on, but I’ll take it.”
McAlpine said one of the key things the Trojans will be working on moving forward is defense.
“Obviously giving up three goals is not what I want to do,” he said. “So we’re gonna do a lot of work defensively, but I thought all in all, we created enough chances to score a few more goals and we’ve got to be better there.”
McAlpine and the Trojans are optimistic that the return of key players like DeMelo — one of the catalysts of USC’s game-winner — will further bolster a team that advanced to the semifinal of the 2019 College Cup.
“She just gives us the ability to escape different defenses and her ability to find people on the field is unbelievable,” McAlpine said. “If this is her starting point, we’re in for a really good season.”
The season continues on Feb. 26 at 6 p.m. as the Trojans open Pac-12 play against Arizona State in Tempe.