The USC Trojans looked comfortable through 45 minutes in their opening 2021 NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament game on Friday against Ole Miss, but things took a turn for the worse after that, as they were pushed to the brink and were ultimately eliminated from the competition after losing 3-2 in a penalty shootout following a 2-2 scoreline through double overtime.
The Trojans were ranked the No. 8 seed overall in the tournament, so the loss will be a disappointment for the program after a strong Pac-12 season, but both teams had NWSL draftees among their ranks and on the day, Ole Miss did just enough to advance, as USC rued a series of missed chances in the 2nd half and overtime.
USC opened the scoring in the 23rd minute, with Tara McKeown heading in the chance off a short corner kick routine.
First goal of the postseason goes to a usual suspect! Vergura and DeMelo with the assists!— USC Women's Soccer (@USC_WSoccer) April 30, 2021
Watch: https://t.co/SthUXKsIkR#FightOn | #GrindToShine pic.twitter.com/K4X4VkVFuj
They found an insurance goal in the 43rd minute, with Zoe Burns scoring her first goal at USC, cleaning up the rebound left by McKeown’s saved shot, to make it 2-0.
McKeown with the assist as her shot leads to Burns' first career goal! Great start for the Trojans!— USC Women's Soccer (@USC_WSoccer) April 30, 2021
Watch: https://t.co/SthUXKsIkR#FightOn | #GrindToShine pic.twitter.com/t3OjP0E9Et
The Trojans went into the halftime break fully in control, but with 45 minutes to play needed to keep level heads for the rest of the match.
Ole Miss really offered nothing in attack in the 1st half, but started to ratchet up the intensity a bit in the 2nd half, out of necessity. USC goalkeeper Kaylie Collins started to get tested, and for a while held on to keep the shutout.
But Ole Miss made things interesting, when Haleigh Stackpole scored for Ole Miss with 22 minutes left to play, to make it 2-1.
Collins had a huge stop with 14 minutes left to in regulation, as an Ole Miss free kick trickled over to the far post, the goalkeeper blocking the point-blank shot and it trickled out of bounds. But off the subsequent corner kick, Ole Miss found the equalizer courtesy of Ramsey Davis and USC were on the ropes with just over 10 minutes to play.
USC almost had a winner with just over a minute to play from Penelope Hocking, but the Ole Miss goalkeeper was on the spot and blocked the shot.
But the game went to overtime with it finishing 2-2 in regulation. With the Golden Goal rule in effect, Hocking drew a penalty a few minutes into overtime, but McKeown’s spot kick was saved and the game continued. A couple minutes later, Hocking nearly bundled the ball into the goal, off a deflection, but it bounced off the post and Ole Miss recovered.
USC really had the run in the first overtime period, with Stackpole saving a goalbound shot off the line for Ole Miss in the final two minutes to keep the game alive.
In the 2nd overtime, McKeown had another good look with the ball pinging around in Ole Miss’ box, but she leaned back and the ball sailed over the goal. The teams finished overtime tied 2-2, leading to a penalty shootout to decide the winner.
Ole Miss took a 1-0 lead through Channing Foster, but Hocking’s attempt was saved, putting the Trojans down early. But Collins saved Ole Miss’ second attempt to keep her team in the game. Then, USC’s second shot, from Madeline Vergura, was saved. But Collins saved Ole Miss’ third shot, and USC tied it up on their third try, at 1-1, courtesy of Sade Alemolekun.
Ole Miss scored their fourth shot to make it 2-1, before Jennifer Westendorf scored after Ole Miss’ keeper got a hand to it, to tie it up at 2-2. Ole Miss made their fifth shot, and McKeown had her shot saved yet again, ending the penalty shootout and USC’s season.
It’s a disappointing result for a Trojans team that had aspirations of making a deep run in the Tournament, especially with a smaller field this season. But it wasn’t meant to be, and we’ll have to see what USC have to offer when they’re back in action next season.