The USF Dons women’s soccer team opened up West Coast Conference play against the Santa Clara University Broncos on Sept. 30 at Negoesco Stadium. It was a hard-fought affair, but the Broncos, who are ranked No. 4 in the nation, ultimately came out on top 3-2.
The Broncos started the game dominantly, racking up eight shots in the opening 15 minutes. The Dons kept the score level early as a result of an excellent goalkeeping displayed by junior Olivia Camera.
Eventually, the pressure was too much for Camera and the Dons to handle, with Broncos midfielder Kelcie Hedge breaking the deadlock in the 17th minute. The ball fell to her deep inside the Dons box after a deflection off of a USF defender. Hedge then thumped the ball into the top of Camera’s net from a tight angle, her shot beating the third-year keeper at the near post.
USF found an equalizer against the run of play with 14 minutes remaining in the first half. Junior Miciah Madison received the ball with her back to the goal, turned and took a clever touch into the opposition’s box. Miscommunication between Santa Clara’s keeper Melissa Lowder and midfielder Alex Loera resulted in Loera poking the ball into the top-left corner of the Broncos’ net for an own goal.
10 minutes into the second half, the Broncos won a free kick a few yards outside of the 18-yard box. Hedge powered home a beautiful ball above the wall and into the top-left corner of the goal from the free kick, leaving Camera rooted to the ground and restoring the Broncos’ lead.
Eight minutes later, the Broncos would double their lead to make it 3-1. Kelsey Turnbow slalomed her way into the left side of USF’s box using some skillful dribbling. She then clipped a ball in towards the back post, where the diminutive Maddy Gonzalez rose above her marker to powerfully head the ball into the back of the net.
But the Dons would not go down easily, with freshman Karley Weeks cutting the deficit to one goal in the 67th minute of the match. Weeks intercepted a poor back-pass by a Broncos defender intended for the keeper. With Lowder off her line, Weeks rounded the keeper to pass home her second goal of the season into the back of the net.
In the 72nd minute, it seemed as if Madison had scored the equalizing goal for USF, only to be flagged offside by the referee’s assistant. This would prove to be the Dons’ last chance on goal for the rest of the match.
The Dons can hold their heads high knowing they played a competitive match against an elite opponent. The Broncos are the odds-on favorite to win the WCC this year and have historically been an almost-unbeatable opponent for the Dons, who have a 1-33-1 all-time record against them.
With their first WCC match in the books, here is a look at the Dons’ remaining schedule and how they may fare in the upcoming matches.
Two away matches await the Dons this weekend against in-state WCC rivals, the Pepperdine University Waves on Oct. 5 and the Loyola Marymount University Lions on Oct. 7. The game against Pepperdine, the defending conference champions, should be a challenge for the Dons, but this season the Waves have posted a middling 6-6 record through their first 12 games. The Dons will certainly look to assert themselves as serious contenders for the WCC title in these two road games.
Based on years past, the upcoming home games against the University of the Pacific on Oct. 14 and Gonzaga University on Oct. 19 could produce positive results for the Dons. But the home fixture against a rising University of Portland team could prove to be a difficult affair on Oct. 21.
On Oct. 25, USF will face BYU away from home. This game will most likely make or break the Dons season, with it coming against a historically tough opponent on the road. BYU claimed the WCC title for five years in a row from 2012-2016. The Dons will be looking to cement their status at the WCC table with a win in this match.
The Dons play their final road game of the season on Oct. 28 against a University of San Diego team currently struggling for form in the WCC, having already lost to both Portland and Gonzaga. Finally, the team will return to Negoesco Stadium on Nov. 3 for their final game of the season against bitter rivals, the St. Mary’s College Gaels. The Dons will be looking to end the season on a high note, with the match against the Gaels certainly presenting a winnable fixture.