No. 15 USC Stumbles In 1-0 Loss To No. 18 Duke|
Sept. 4, 2015
DURHAM, N.C. — The No. 15 USC women’s soccer team got tagged with a road loss tonight, giving up an early goal to No. 18 host Duke and coming up empty on its efforts for an equalizer down the stretch. The 1-0 loss to the Blue Devils in the Trojans’ first game at the Duke Nike Classic in Durham, N.C., gives USC a 2-2 overall record, while Duke improves to 4-0-1 on the year.
The start of the game was delayed over 40 minutes because the first game of the Duke Nike Classic between Cal and UNC went into overtime. Both USC and Duke got out to a slow start when the match finally got underway. Eight minutes in, a rare misplay from the otherwise sure-footed Sammy Jo Prudhomme led to an early goal for the Blue Devils. Stepping outside the box to make a clear on a long ball, Prudhomme got a bad touch on the ball, hitting it wide but in easy reach of Duke attacking Kayla McCoy. As Prudhomme tracked back in an attempt to cover the open net, McCoy slotted the ball through for the score, netting a 1-0 lead for the Blue Devils in the 8th minute of play.
USC regrouped quickly, however, and was able to turn the tide. An organized Trojan defense helped support a hungry USC offense, and the Women of Troy put Duke’s defense to the test for the next 37 minutes of play. In the 22nd minute, Morgan Andrews blasted a free kick that sailed just high of the frame. A minute later, Whitney Pitalo slipped a beautiful pass up for a streaking Jamie Fink in the box. Fink took advantage and slipped a shot on goal, forcing a save and a corner kick for the Trojans. Finks’ corner found its way to Natalie Donaldson for a rocket, but again the Duke goalkeeper was able to make the stop. The Trojans kept coming and testing the Blue Devils, with Kayla Mills and Tamara Mejia serving up some tasty centering passes. After seven first-half shots and four saves forced out of Duke’s keeper, however, the Trojans still were staring at a 1-0 deficit by halftime.
In the second half, the Trojans and the Blue Devils both struggled to find a rhythm. USC’s defense continued to parry away Duke’s attacking efforts in not allowing any shots on goal through the last 81 minutes of play. Duke’s goalkeeper, EJ Proctor, however, was similarly stubborn in hauling in seven saves in the game. Three of those came in the final 11 minutes of action as Proctor almost single-handedly secured the shutout win for the Blue Devils.
In the 71st minute, a slick series saw Mills send in a ball for Pitalo, who nodded down the ball in the box. An ambitious Andrews got position and reeled off an impressive bicycle kick, but the strike sailed high. Less than 10 minutes later, USC was pushing hard as time ticked down. Andrews delivered a laser from distance, only to see Proctor make a diving save against what looked to be the equalizer for the Trojans. In the 81st minute, Donaldson had a go, blasting another one on frame to force another nice stop out of Proctor. USC’s last-gasp effort had Mills send in a dangerous ball with just seconds left to play. Two Trojans were in reach, and Andrews got a body on the ball, but Proctor made the final snag to secure the 1-0 win for Duke.
The Women of Troy will play their second game of the Duke Nike Classic on Sunday (Sept. 6) at 11 a.m. ET (8 a.m. PT), No. 15 USC will tangle with No. 4 North Carolina to wrap the Trojans’ action in Durham, N.C. this weekend.