USC wins its second women’s soccer national title, beating top-ranked West Virginia
Mandy Freeman admits she was more than a little skeptical when Keidane McAlpine showed up at USC in 2013 with a plan to take a women’s soccer program that had lost 33 games and a coach in three seasons to an NCAA title within the next three years.
“We were in a bad place,” Freeman, then a freshman, remembered. “The coaching staff, individual players, just the type of environment that we were playing in.
“Definitely, it took me awhile to get with the program. When he first came out with it, it was ‘There’s no way.’ ”
Freeman decided to stick around anyway, and Sunday she was rewarded when, in her last college game, McAlpine coached the Trojans to the second NCAA soccer title in school history with a 3-1 upset of top-ranked West Virginia.
The three-year plan, McAlpine said, was never in doubt.
“This group was a special group from Day One, when we set foot on campus. They just didn’t know it yet,” McAlpine said. “We had to remind them, and then we had to add the right pieces to the group.
“Three-year plan — it’s nice to see the end.”
But if the end came just the way he planned, Sunday’s game didn’t follow the script with two of the nation’s top defenses combining to give up four goals.
USC had scored multiple goals just once since Halloween; it got two Sunday from one player, Katie Johnson, during a 12-minute stretch of the second half. And those goals came against a West Virginia team that hadn’t allowed two goals in a regulation-length game this season.
That story line vanished after 82 seconds, when Morgan Andrews scored on a header to give USC a 1-0 lead.
West Virginia needed 63 minutes to get the equalizer, with Ashley Lawrence beating USC keeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme with a hard right-footed shot from outside the box that just slipped in at the near post. But that was the only mistake Prudhomme would make in a game that would see West Virginia get off 21 shots, nine on goal.
Consider those eight saves McAlpine’s gift for saving Prudhomme’s career.
“I was actually getting to the point where I wanted to quit. That’s how much I hated soccer,” said Prudhomme, who spent two frustrating seasons at Oregon State. “This coaching staff did an amazing job bringing players from similar situations back to a place mentally where they believe that they’re good players.”
Once on the verge of leaving the game for good, Prudhomme is now planning to declare for next month’s National Women’s Soccer League draft.
By pressing Prudhomme on the offensive end, however, West Virginia left itself open to the counterattack and the Trojans took advantage on the two goals from Johnson. On the first, Andrews made a steal deep in the USC end and sent a long ball over the top for Leah Pruitt. She battled her way past one defender, forcing Kadeisha Buchanan to slide over and help out, leaving Johnson wide open at the edge of the box for the easy score.
Johnson then added an insurance goal on another breakaway in the 87th minute for the seventh-ranked Trojans, whose 19 wins are the second-most in school history.
As the final seconds ticked off, West Virginia goalkeeper Rylee Foster, who anchored a defense that posted a nation-leading 18 shutouts, dropped to her back on the grass. And after the final whistle, many of her teammates began to cry.
But for West Virginia Coach Nikki Izzo-Brown, whose team went 23-2-2 this season, there was more to cheer than mourn.
“There’s been many things that we’ve accomplished that this team needs to celebrate,” Izzo-Brown said. “This game was huge. But we’re not going to allow this to define us.
“A team that won 23 games has a whole lot to celebrate.”
Go beyond the scoreboard
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