With the memory of last game’s tie still fresh in its mind, the No. 14 Cal women’s soccer team walked into McAlister Field with a bitter taste in its mouth. The Bears entered this game against No. 7 USC only three days removed from nearly pulling off a huge upset against No. 10 UCLA and were determined not to let another game slip away.
In the end, history failed to repeat itself, as they beat USC 1-0 and proved to the nation that they’re still serious contenders.
“This was a battle between two talented teams — USC gave us everything we imagined and more,” said Cal head coach Neil McGuire. “I was very proud at how our players responded and shut out such an exceptional team.”
The Trojans entered this game off their best performance of the season last Thursday, when they demolished No. 1 Stanford, 3-0.
But the Bears didn’t let this fact intimidate them. It was obvious in the early stages of this game that Cal was determined to leave Southern California with at least one weekend win.
The Bears began the game with tons of aggressiveness, acquiring two shots and a corner kick only six minutes in. But the Trojans defense held, ensuring that none of these opportunities found success.
Cal defenders such as senior Lynsey Hromatko and junior Indigo Gibson also did a great job of disrupting USC’s offensive attacks throughout the first half. This was especially true in the last five minutes of the half, when USC sophomore forward Hailey Hite did everything she could to put her team on top, as she got her shot blocked in the 45th minute.
The second half of the match was marked by great defense from both squads. The first real action of the second half came in the 52nd minute, when Cal sophomore Miranda Nild drove the ball to the right of the box and kicked a shot on goal. But USC goalie Sammy Jo Prudhomme was just too good, diving to her right and getting her fingertips around the ball.
It didn’t take long, though, for Cal to have another scoring opportunity, this time coming in the 57th minute. Redshirt senior Ifeoma Onumonu had a beautiful run down the left side of the box, getting her positioning right and launching the ball at the goal. But, like before, Prudhomme was once again in position to make the block.
In the end, it was Cal’s underclassmen that got the Bears over the hump. The much-needed play began with an excellent possession by freshman Mia Corbin, driving the ball down the middle of the field and finding a window to pass it to fellow freshman Abigail Kim. The rest was history, as Kim beat the goalkeeper to her far side and put a beautiful touch on the ball to give the Bears the lead with just minutes remaining.
“It’s great to see young players get rewarded for their hard work,” McGuire said. “These types of games can be overwhelming for young players, but they handled the game very well.”
Cal’s defense was able to shut down the Trojans for the rest of the game, redeeming itself for the debacle against UCLA. All in all, this game was significant for the Bears, as it proved that they could truly compete with any team in the nation.
Alex Quintana covers women’s soccer. Contact him at [email protected].