Going into Friday’s game, the storyline appeared to be set.
USC held claim to the worst Pac-12 record, UCLA, the second best.
The Bruins had been a season-long powerhouse, losing only to Stanford, the nation’s No. 1 team.
However, any preconceived notions of which team would prevail were thrown away when the two teams took the field on Friday afternoon at USC.
UCLA was coming off a heartbreaking loss to Stanford the weekend before. While it looked like the perfect chance at redemption, it was actually the opportunity for USC to end its season on a high note.
The Bruins lost 3-2 in overtime to the Trojans in their final regular season game.
After a solid week of practice, the Bruins learned that the devil certainly is in the details.
“(Friday) was not Sunday. We had a good week of practice, I was proud of our learning experience last week,” said coach B.J. Snow. “It was about creating energy and taking care of details. … It was a big lesson and we’re certainly disappointed.”
Even though they closed their season out with two losses, the blue and gold squad is likely headed toward a postseason berth this weekend.
The Bruins have cruised through the season, with 15 wins and two ties before their matches with the Cardinal and the Trojans. Two tough games before the postseason gave them the chance to battle, something they will have to do often in the postseason.
“I think it’s our mentality; we’ve got to really show up,” said senior midfielder/forward Zakiya Bywaters. “We’ve had a couple of breakdowns and now we’ve got to fix those and be mentally focused.”
The Bruins held the lead only for about 10 minutes, from a Bywaters goal late in the first half. However, it wasn’t long before the Trojans evened up the score.
The game remained tied until USC scored with 10 minutes left, but UCLA sent it into overtime with less than two minutes to go on a Sam Mewis shot.
“It gave us the extra push,” Bywaters said of the goal from the sophomore midfielder. “It was a better effort than the last game; we really tried to push.”
However, the tying shot was all for naught.
USC got a throw-in at UCLA’s end in the last 10 seconds of overtime, and when the Bruins were slow to get back on defense, the Trojans took advantage.
“We should have been tighter on defense. We kind of gave up and let them get a goal. We need to learn to keep playing no matter how little time is left,” Mewis said.
Now, all the Bruins are looking forward to is the postseason. Seedings will be announced on Monday.
“Certainly we’ve played more than a couple tough games lately, and that gives you a good picture of what your team has to offer,” Snow said.
“I think the silver lining is that the NCAA tournament starts next weekend, we have a week to prepare … and we’re excited.”