USC upset by Utah Valley for first home loss

The Trojans had trouble facing the high press and suffered a 3-2 loss against the Wolverines.

Aalyiah Farmer, wearing a red jersey and red shirts, is dribbling a soccer ball.

The USC Women’s soccer team failed to continue its momentum after the 4-0 win against Purdue last week.

The Trojans (3-2-0) had a tough game against Utah Valley (3-3-1) and found themselves down early in the first half and were not able to cut the opponent’s lead until late in the game. This led to a 3-2 home loss and the first defeat at home for USC.

“We think energy and competitiveness was lacking [in today’s game],” head coach Jane Alukonis said. “That will be the emphasis every day in training. We’ll work on securing the ball and just overall like coming out ready to play.”

Utah Valley pressed high at the beginning of the game, but USC dealt with the press comfortably by passing around. After receiving a through pass at the right front, junior forward/defender Kayla Colbert — who scored a goal in the last game against Purdue for USC — was able to make a threatful first shot to the bottom right corner, but it was saved by Utah Valley’s junior goalkeeper CJ Graham.

USC dominated the ball in the first 10 minutes, with junior All-Pac-12 first-team midfielder Simi Awujo continuously getting the ball back in the midfield and drawing multiple fouls from Utah Valley.

However, the Wolverines did not stop pressing and remained playing physically.

Utah Valley’s high press paid off shortly after, with senior midfielder Heather Stainbrook getting the ball at the right side of USC’s backcourt. She dribbled into the box and caused a handball from a USC defender when making a cross. Although USC’s freshman goalkeeper Hannah Poulter was able to block the penalty kick, junior forward Faith Webber, who took the penalty, got the rebound and sent the ball into the net.

From there, both USC and Utah Valley struggled to get the ball forward and create shot opportunities. The Wolverines continued with their high press but failed to make threatful shots, and the Trojans tried to respond by making counterattacks but were called offside five times in the first half, including a call that overturned a goal.

“We were clear with each other that the first half was unacceptable and just was not enough,” Alukonis said. “We got outworked by Utah Valley, and that’s on us.”

Entering the second half, Utah Valley kept using the same tactic by pressing USC’s backfield, and the Trojans still seemed unprepared. As the clock approached the 50-minute mark, Webber stole a back pass at the edge of the box and placed the ball into the bottom left side, giving Utah Valley a 2-0 lead and Webber her second goal of the game.

USC tried to bounce back through pressing higher, which paid off as USC was getting more opportunities and creating more shots. However, just 10 minutes later, Webber received a free kick from 30 yards out by Stainbrook, got a foot on the ball, sent it to the back of the net and got the second hat trick of her career.

Shortly after, USC’s freshman forward/midfielder Florianne Jourde, who replaced graduate forward/midfielder Hannah Griffin in the first half, stepped up, scoring her first goal of the season by firing the ball to the top left corner after receiving a pass to the middle from senior defender/midfielder Zoe Burns.

Jourde’s goal gave USC some momentum. The Trojans kept winning the ball back in the midfield. Senior forward Angeles Escobar threatened Utah Valley with a long shot outside the box, and Colbert also gave her team shot opportunities by crossing into the box.

Colbert’s effort paid off later in the 78th minute, as she broke through the Wolverines’ defense from the left, got into the box and swept the ball to the freshman forward Maribel Flores, who volleyed the ball in with her right foot.

With the return of Awujo, USC tried playing more aggressively in the final minutes of the match by pressing high. But they did not threaten Utah Valley’s goalkeeper. Graham made multiple saves at the late minutes and sealed the win for the Wolverines.

In the second half, USC had seven more shots than the first half and scored two goals, but the comeback was too little too late.

“We made adjustments such as pressing them a bit higher in the half time, it was just unfortunately too late,” Alukonis said. “So even though the second half was okay, the first half put us in too far of a hole.”

The Trojans will have a week-long break until their next game against New Mexico State at McAlister Field on September 14.