Second half intensity earns Trojans a win over Washington State

USC built momentum heading into this week’s game against No. 1 UCLA.

Simone Jackson is winding up to kick the ball. Jackson is wearing an all-pink jersey.

The No. 18 Trojans continued their dominant conference play against the Cougars, winning 3-2. Even with senior midfielder Croix Bethune out with an ACL injury and sophomore midfielder Simi Awujo sidelined, USC put on an offensive display.

Head coach Jane Alukonis recognized the challenge of Bethune being out.

“Not having her, her creativity, her leadership, her buzzing around the pitch everywhere is obviously a huge loss,” Alukonis said. “We knew each player had to give 110 precent to make up for any player’s loss.”

With two of their top midfielders out, the Trojans needed to rely more on their forwards. And that’s exactly what happened, with two out of the three goals being scored by forwards.

USC started out the game hot with sophomore forward Simone Jackson immediately breaking away and almost scoring. That led to junior defender Zoe Burns scoring with a high, left-corner goal in the fourth minute.

The Trojans started out with intensity with lots of passing and finding ways to keep the ball away from the Cougars. Sophomore forward Kayla Colbert was able to use her speed to break away from WSU multiple times in the game, and sophomore midfielder Aaliyah Farmer was always able to find the ball in difficult spots.

The tides soon changed, though, in the 23rd minute. Washington State senior forward Grayson Lynch sent a corner kick into a crowded goal area where junior forward Margie Detrizio tapped it into the net. The rest of the half was mostly contested on the Trojans’ side of the field; the defense and graduate goalkeeper Anna Smith were able to prevent any more goals in the first half.

But the real story of the game was told in the second half as the Trojans and Alukonis knew they had to start the second half strong. Alukonis’ halftime speech to her team was focused.

“[WSU’s] game plan is fairly simple and try to negate that,” Alukonis said. “Try to stop the long balls and score as quickly as we can.”

USC started out quickly, taking more shots and crossing the ball over with fluid passes. However, that still wasn’t enough to stop Detrizio from scoring another goal against the Trojans.  In the 49th minute, Detrizio broke away with the ball and attempted a shot that was saved by Smith, but then Detrizio recovered the rebound to put the ball in the back of the net. That put the Cougars ahead 2-1 over the Trojans.

USC, not wanting to taste defeat, responded quickly with a free kick after a handball. Sophomore midfielder Helena Sampaio sent the free kick flying around the WSU defense where it was eventually blocked by sophomore goalkeeper Nadia Cooper. After the block, the ball was left in the perfect spot for junior forward Angeles Escobar to place the ball in the bottom of the net in the 53rd minute.

In the 64th minute, the Trojans were showing they were motivated to make this second half different from the first half. They exhibited dominance when Jackson broke away from a Cougar defender and blasted the ball past Cooper to make the score 3-2 in favor of the Trojans.

USC played all the way through the second half, gaining most of the possession and preventing another goal from being scored by the Cougars. With the 3-2 win over WSU, the Trojan’s record improved to 11-2-3 and to 7-1-2 in conference play.

The Trojans now look to topple crosstown rival No. 1 UCLA on Friday.

“They [UCLA] are a super consistent team, and we would love to get on the board early,” Alukonis said. Alukonis says the game plan is “to compete as hard as we possibly can, keeping the ball as much as we can, and doing our thing, playing our game.”

“They are a completely different opponent and style of play than WSU,” Burns said. “It’s a completely different approach mindset wise. But I’m really excited because I think UCLA matches more how we play.”

The No. 18 Trojans now have a big week of preparation ahead of them. USC hopes to make the upset against the Bruins at 2 p.m. this Friday at McAlister Field.