Women’s soccer looks to extend winning streak against crosstown rival USC
With victories in each of the past four seasons over its crosstown foes, No. 3 UCLA women’s soccer has the chance to win its fifth straight victory against No. 12 USC in a nonconference fixture Thursday night. (Daily Bruin file photo)
Thursday, 7 p.m.
Wallis Annenberg Stadium
March 18, 2021 2:07 p.m.
The Bruins will host the Trojans with an irregular twist.
No. 3 UCLA women’s soccer (8-0, 5-0 Pac-12) will begin its four-game homestand against No. 12 USC (3-3, 2-3) on Thursday night at Wallis Annenberg Stadium. The contest will be the first of two matchups this season between the crosstown rivals. The Bruins will host the midseason nonconference fixture, while the second match – counting toward each squad’s Pac-12 record – will take place at the LA Memorial Coliseum on April 16.
Though this bout does not have any conference implications, coach Amanda Cromwell said she still anticipates a competitive battle.
“At the end of it, they’re our rivals, (and) you always want to win those games,” Cromwell said. “So we are going to go out there and put our best foot forward and expect a really good, exciting game.”
The Bruins go into the game riding a four-game winning streak against the Trojans dating back to 2016, with two of the victories requiring an overtime decider. In 2019, the last duel between the teams, then-junior midfielder Viviana Villacorta – who is missing her senior season after tearing her ACL – and then-junior defender Lucy Parker each scored within a three-minute span in the second half to drive UCLA’s 4-2 win.
“The games are always down to the wire,” Cromwell said. “We know no matter what’s going on with each team and their season, the games are always going to be competitive. I know ‘SC is coming off two losses, so they’re going to be a bit desperate for a win. They’re going to come out with guns blazing, so to speak, in the first 10, 15, 20 minutes to try to put us under some pressure.”
USC was picked to finish third in the Pac-12 preseason coaches poll but currently sits in eighth place following a 2-0 loss at Utah on Friday and a 3-2 overtime defeat by Colorado on Monday. Through their first six games, the Trojans have surrendered six of their eight total goals on the road, where they remain winless.
The blue and gold returned to Westwood from the same road trip with two shutout wins to continue its undefeated start to the year. Following the clean sheets, senior defender Karina Rodriguez was honored as the Pac-12 Defensive Player of the week, joining teammates Parker and redshirt senior Jacey Pederson as the third Bruin defender to earn the award. The entire backline has only conceded three goals through eight games for an average of one goal allowed per 243 minutes of action.
“Our defense has been great,” Cromwell said. “We have had some adjustments with (Rodriguez) in Mexico and (Parker) out right now with injury and converting Michaela (Rosenbaum), a freshman, to right back when she’s a midfielder (and Pederson) coming back from injury after being out a while. I think our backline has been our unsung hero for the season so far.”
Unlike in years past, this season’s matchup will take place without fans in UCLA’s home stadium.
“This is a game that we’ve always had great energy and great crowds,” said Cromwell. “So this will be the first game where I truly miss the fans. We’ve had some fans on the road and it’s been great, but the energy that this game brings – that the fans bring – is like no other. We will miss it.”
As they have all season, Cromwell said she expects the Bruin bench to provide energy throughout the match to compensate for the lack of attendance.
“Our bench players create so much energy. They’re so loud – they bring the energy for us,” Cromwell said. “I point it out when I watch the video, how excited they are celebrating each other’s success. They’re a great group. They’re truly for each other in every way, and they celebrate each other, and it’s fun to watch.”
UCLA can extend its winning streak over USC to five games and remain unbeaten on the season with kickoff scheduled for Thursday at 7 p.m.