The No. 3 seeded women’s soccer team kicked off its postseason last Friday with a 2-1 victory against a familiar foe — Eastern Washington University. Last season, the Women of Troy dominated the Eagles 3-1 to kick off the 2016 NCAA tournament.
“At least it’s a team we know, we’ve played them,” head coach Keidane McAlpine said before the match. “The hard part is they know us and they’ve played us. They have had another good year and we are going to have to be prepared to play them.”
Despite the Trojans’ preparation, the Eagles stole the early lead. In the sixth minute, the Eagles drove the ball into the USC zone and placed a shot on target. Redshirt freshman goalkeeper Kaylie Collins made the save but was unable to secure the ball. Senior forward Chloe Williams found the rebound and delivered a shot to the back of the Trojans’ net to grant the Eagles the lead.
“When you get scored on early, it wakes you up and the urgency had to pick up,” Collins said. “It was more of everyone getting on each other at that point and asking more from each other.”
After the score, USC played lockdown defense and generated a couple scoring opportunities but was unable to convert the equalizer. The score held at 1-0 going into the half. Even though Eastern Washington held the momentum for the majority of the first half, the Trojans outshot the Eagles 14-3. Something needed to change for the Trojans in the second half if they wanted to extend their season another day.
“We [the coaching staff] asked them what they wanted the end of their season to look like,” McAlpine said. “We changed a few things [with our formation]. But more importantly, [the coaching staff] just challenged them to really think about what they wanted the end to look like and if they wanted today to be it.”
McAlpine’s words must have hit home with the Women of Troy because the Trojans came out flying. In the second half, the Trojans tallied 14 shots and 10 corner kicks. An early Eagle scoring opportunity almost put a damper on the Trojans’ hope of tying the match, but Collins denied the attempt and the USC offense went to work. Senior forward Alex Anthony found the equalizer off of the pass from junior forward Hailey Hite in just five minutes. The Trojans applied pressure for the entire second half, spending most of the time in the offensive zone.
In the 73rd minute, USC nearly found the go-ahead goal thanks to a rifling shot from freshman midfielder Savannah DeMelo. The ball was just wide of the post and the score remained knotted at one.
Neither team could settle the match in regulation and the game went to overtime for the first time this season at McAlister Field.
USC produced a few scoring opportunities in the first 10-minute period with chances from both senior forward Alex Anthony and Savannah DeMelo. Once again, neither squad could best the other and the game was forced into a second overtime.
The fourth period would be short-lived, as the Trojans found the golden goal in just 18 seconds. Deep into the offensive zone, sophomore midfielder Ashleigh Plumptre lofted a cross over Eagles goalkeeper Emily Busselman toward the far post where junior forward Erika Okuma was stationed. Okuma finished the play by pounding the ball into the open net to secure the 2-1 win for the Trojans.
“We found a way to win on a day where it wasn’t our best performance and far from it,” McAlpine said. “But this team has some resolve, and it showed today. Kaylie [Collins] kept us in it in the first half and then between Alex [Anthony] and Erika [Okuma] we found a way to win it in the end.”
With the victory, the Trojans advance to the second round of NCAA Tournament where they will travel to College Station, Tex. to take on the Baylor Bears Friday at 1:30 p.m.