USC earns No. 3 seed, will take on Grand Canyon in NCAA first round

It’s the eighth straight NCAA Tournament selection for the Trojans.

A photo of the USC soccer team huddled together in celebration during a game, wearing gold uniforms.

The NCAA Women’s Soccer Committee granted USC a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament and the Trojans will host Grand Canyon in the first round Saturday.

Should the Trojans win their opening matchup, USC will battle the winner of Penn State and Monmouth in the second round. Penn State will be a difficult out as the Nittany Lions handed No. 1 Virginia its only loss of the regular season.

Top seed Virginia and regular-season foe No. 4 BYU will also share the same quadrant of the bracket as the Trojans. USC is one of four Pac-12 teams selected to the tournament with the highest seeded team being No. 2 UCLA.

The Trojans’ selection marks the eighth straight NCAA Tournament berth for USC and continues head coach Keidane McAlpine’s perfect streak of earning USC an NCAA Tournament berth in each of his seasons at the helm.

McAlpine was expecting a No. 2 or 3 seed but thought the team was deserving of a 2 after USC performed well all season even with the injuries the team was dealt, such as the one that sidelined the program’s leading scorer, senior forward Penelope Hocking, for more than two weeks.

“I’d like to get a [2 seed],” McAlpine said after USC’s 3-1 road loss to UCLA on Friday. “I think that would be beneficial. I think our season has warranted it.”

McAlpine also believed that USC’s regular season resume, including a 1-0 overtime win over No. 2-seed Michigan, should have been enough for the NCAA Women’s Soccer Committee to give USC a favorable 2 seed instead of a less desirable 3 seed.

USC finished the regular season with an overall record of 13-3-2 and 8-1-2 in the Pac-12. The loss to UCLA clinched the Bruins a Pac-12 Championship and earned USC second place in the conference.

In the last 64-team NCAA Tournament in 2019, the No. 2-seeded Trojans fell in the quarterfinals to No. 1-seeded North Carolina. The Tar Heels were placed in USC’s quadrant of the bracket again and USC may make a similar deep tournament run this postseason now that Hocking is back from her injury.

Looking ahead to USC’s opening round matchup, McAlpine had a lot of respect for Grand Canyon, especially senior forward Marleen Schimmer, who played for Arizona State in her first two seasons.

“We’ve played against their forward even though we haven’t played against their team,” McAlpine said in an interview posted to the team’s Twitter. “We have a good feel for who she is and how dangerous she is. She scored one banger of a goal against us not too long ago, so we’ll remember that.”

The Trojans will face Grand Canyon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Saturday at Soni McAlister Field.