Keidane McAlpine has the USC women's soccer team off to a great start in his debut year with the team, but now the real test begins.
From 1998 to 2010, Trojan Futbol only missed the NCAA tournament once and won a national title in 2007. But in the past three seasons, USC has a combined record of 21-33-5, with no postseason appearances.
Last season, there was some hope of a revival when SC started the season with a three-game winning streak, only to lose eight of their last 12 games. That included a 4-1 loss to UCLA, who went on to win the national title.
Now McAlpine has the Women of Troy in an even stronger position as Pac-12 play begins. The team is 6-1-2 and ranked No. 18 in the nation, the program's best start since 2000. The team has scored 29 goals so far from 14 different players, compared to 31 goals scored all of last season. USC defeated then No. 9 Notre Dame on the road, and their only loss came last week in a 2-1 defeat to No. 12 Pepperdine.
Now USC must keep that momentum going against the best conference in the nation. Five teams in the Pac-12 are nationally ranked, and nine teams are in the top 50 of the NCAA RPI. The conference schedule begins with a road tilt against the Arizona Wildcats (6-1-1), a team with a nearly identical record to USC and a six-game unbeaten streak.
After this game, the Women of Troy get a five game homestand that starts off relatively easy with Colorado and Utah, but then gets harder with games against Cal, Stanford, and ASU, all of whom are ranked. The Bears in particular have had USC's number, winning the last three games against them.
USC then travels north to face the Oregon and Washington schools on the road, all of which are projected to finish in the bottom half of the Pac-12 standings except for Wazzu. The season comes to an end at the Coliseum against the Bruins, who are currently ranked No 1 in the nation with a 8-0-1 record.
It is a very difficult road for the Trojans to get to the NCAA Tournament, but the Notre Dame upset gives them some leeway. Even if they lose the four games against ranked teams, there are still six very winnable games left for them to pad their resume with (the road game against WSU is a toss-up). The possibility of a return to the Women's College Cup is there for USC.
Now it's up to the Trojans to claim it.