Texas A&M's season came to an end as the No. 9 University of Southern California handed the Aggies a 2-1 loss in the second round of the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament.
Another slow start for the Aggies put them in a deep hole they ultimately could not get out of. It took USC’s Tara McKeown only seven minutes to open scoring for USC. Starting with a cross by Penelope Hocking that created a frenzy in the box, a defensive deflection that popped the ball up in the air allowed McKeown to step in and score.
Although A&M held majority possession all game, 64 percent in the attacking half of the field, USC was efficient on the counterattack and made the most of its few opportunities. A turnover in the 32nd minute by A&M senior Callyn Walton in front of the goal gifted USC with an effortless second score by Hocking.
Despite the costly mistake, the Aggies continued to battle. Just minutes into the second half, a run by Katie Smith down the left side of the field set up a Jimena Lopez cross that Ally Watt buried into the back of the net for A&M, bringing the score to 2-1.
USC had a chance to deliver the knockout punch in the 60th minute, but Hocking blew a golden one-on-one opportunity with A&M’s keeper. The missed chance nearly cost USC with ten minutes remaining in the match.
Throughout the second half, USC's defense managed to withstand the A&M offense and keep the relentless attack out of goal to secure the victory. Trojan goalkeeper Kaylie Collins had a great performance, tallying seven saves.
After the match, USC coach Keidane McApline said his team's defensive performance was solid.
"We gave up a quick one in the beginning of the second half which I was disappointed in," McApline told the Pac 12 Network after the match. "But all in all our defense played pretty well all day and once we made an adjustment there after they got the momentum right at the beginning of the second half, I thought we did a great job of just managing and defending well against a very good Texas A&M team."
Coming off a historic first round performance for USC, Hocking continued to display her top form today. The Trojan's attack was extremely efficient, as Hocking and McKeown recorded a goal each from only one and two shots on goal respectively.
McApline said the duo’s versatility has allowed USC to have success this season.
"It helps this team," Coach McApline explained about the quality of USC forwards Hocking and McKeown. "We still have to be solid in the other aspects of the game. Those two they defend as forwards, they hold the ball up well, they do more for us than just score goals. I think the team feeds off that. It allows them to be better in their roles and their jobs knowing they've just got to keep grinding it out because they have got some people that can just tuck it away."
USC will face Santa Clara in the round of 16 on Sunday, after Santa Clara defeated Oklahoma State 3-1.