The No. 19 USC women’s soccer team must have gotten most of its goals out of its system during the 5-0 win over Washington Friday, because the back of the net eluded the Trojans for the majority of Sunday’s game against No. 21 Washington State.
But all it took was one chance. Freshman forward Angeles Escobar knocked in her first collegiate goal, lifting the Trojans to a 1-0 victory over the Cougars at the Coliseum.
“Honestly, I didn’t know it was coming, but it felt amazing,” Escobar said. “I’m so grateful for the opportunity that the coaches gave me. Being a freshman and being able to contribute to the team’s success in any way is always my goal, and I’m glad I executed.”
Escobar’s goal in the 55th minute provided a crucial shift in momentum for USC, which was outplayed by Washington State for much of the first half. The Cougars took control of possession midway through the period, and the Trojans had only one shot on goal.
In the second half, USC spent much more time in the attacking third but struggled to create good looks, taking 14 shots but only two on goal. Senior midfielder Savannah DeMelo nearly made it 2-0 on a rebound off a free kick in the 78th minute, but her shot ricocheted off the post.
“We started the game well, but we lost the rhythm in the middle of the half,” USC head coach Keidane McAlpine said. “Credit to Washington State, they stayed on top of us and kept us pinned in a bit. Second half, our energy and our connections started to catch up with the tempo of the game and we were able to flip the tide.”
USC’s five-goal outburst on Friday also came after the halftime break. McAlpine said his team has been amping up the energy level in the second half, successfully taking away their opponent’s passing outlets so they can apply more pressure.
The Trojans posted their fifth straight shutout at home, with the strong defensive effort providing some wiggle room for an offense that wasn’t firing on all cylinders. Despite Washington State’s stretches of solid play, the Cougars rarely made it far enough to threaten redshirt senior goalkeeper Kaylie Collins, and when they did, she came up with five saves.
After not having a preseason this year and getting to know one another through game play, Escobar said her team is beginning to gel as they head into the final stretch of the season.
“We’re starting to feel more confident little by little,” she said. “We’re starting to understand each other more … Every game we gain insight from each other.”
Now with a three-game winning streak, the Trojans will head north to face Stanford on Friday and Cal on Sunday before wrapping up their season April 16 against UCLA.
“Considering where we started, to continue to find these shutouts and find ways to take care of home, that’s important,” McAlpine said. “Now we’ve got to see if we can take it on the road and have similar performances as we play Stanford and Cal.”