No. 5 women’s soccer blanks Washington

first_imgLocked in a three-way tie atop the Pac-12 standings with Stanford and Colorado, No. 5 USC women’s soccer hosted Washington at McAlister Field on Sunday in search of another vital victory and came out with a 1-0 shutout win over the Huskies.The Women of Troy began Sunday level with the Cardinal and Buffaloes at 18 points apiece (all teams were 6-1-0), and they pulled ahead with three points on Sunday. Redshirt junior forward Alex Anthony’s strike made the difference for USC in the team’s home finale.Washington was sitting in the conference cellar and had lost eight of its last nine coming into Sunday’s game, and the Women of Troy tried to twist the knife with an aggressive start. Despite a great deal of pressure, however, USC was caught offside several times in the opening minutes, scuttling its offensive momentum.“[Washington] played much higher than many of the other teams we’ve played so far,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said, crediting the Huskies’ offside trap. “But the quality and timing of our final pass wasn’t good. We had opportunities … that we just missed.”The Women of Troy appeared to be the more threatening side early in the first half, stringing together passes and spending significant minutes inside the attacking third, but it was Washington that came up with the first shot on target. A long-range effort forced a smart save out of redshirt senior goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme in the 17th minute, and the Huskies were ruled offside when the ball wound up in the net on the subsequent corner kick.The game opened up from that point, with an emboldened Washington team challenging the heavy favorites. USC continued to move the ball effectively up the pitch, but no one was able to execute the key pass to fashion a clear-cut scoring opportunity. Prudhomme’s save was one of  two she made in the entire first half, and the Women of Troy had yet to test Kaylyn Smith in the Huskies’ goal when the first 45 minutes ended 0-0.Anthony admitted the team was pressing a little too hard, which made passing a little wayward.“It was on us — our concentration and our focus from trying to get that final pass in,” she said.As the team has done so often this season, however, USC came flying out of the gates to start the second half and seized a 1-0 lead. Sophomore Leah Pruitt cut inside on the right flank, hugging the end line, and played in a short pass to Anthony, who was set up at the goalmouth. The redshirt junior rolled her defender at point-blank range and calmly fired home to break the deadlock in the 49th minute.Though Anthony said she was disappointed that the team was only able to beat the goalkeeper once, McAlpine was happy with his squad’s offensive effort.“That’s a quality forward talking,” he said of Anthony’s comments. “No — I think they made it tough. They made the spaces to play in very difficult, so it was really important to find seams.”USC looked like it was finally settling in after pushing in front, but the Huskies found some momentum in the closing stages. Washington laid siege to the Trojan net for the final 10 minutes of the game, pumping multiple free kicks into the box, but Prudhomme and company held firm to seal a nerve-wracking win when time ran out on the comeback.“We haven’t had a game like that in a while, where we needed to kill it at the end,” Anthony said. “So it was a good reminder of how to slow down and finish out the game when we only have a 1-0 lead. It was a good test for us, and I thought we handled it well.”Heading into the final three games of the regular season, USC will have few complaints about a victory, and McAlpine was confident in the team’s play as the postseason looms.“The title race is tough at the top: The top six are very tight,” he said. “Today was very, very important, and I feel good about the direction we’re going in.”The Women of Troy hit the road next, traveling to Salt Lake City to take on Utah this Thursday before facing Colorado in Boulder over the weekend. USC then wraps up its regular season with a tilt against archrivals UCLA at the StubHub Center on Nov. 4.last_img

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