SAN JOSE, CA. — On national signing day, a lot of the young women formalizing their college commitments dream about winning a national title with their respective schools. For six members of the University of Southern California Trojans, who are just two wins shy of this goal, that dream started out with them wearing different colors than the Trojans’ trademark cardinal and gold.
Transfers are a huge part of the reason that in just his third year at the helm in Troy, head coach Keidane McAlpine’s Trojans have reached the final weekend. These transfers have been impactful all of over the field as three of the team’s four leading scorers started their college careers elsewhere and a transfer in net, Sammy Jo Prudhomme, won the PAC-12 award for Goalkeeper of the Year.
“The goal was to get there (competing for the national title) as quickly as possible,” McAlpine said about using transfers to build his program. “At the time there were some impact players available, and so how do you pass them up if you have the opportunity to go get them?…We have quite a few others that we took a look at, but these were the right ones. They fit the needs that we had available and I think that was more than anything else, they fit the character that we were looking for.”
For each of the transfer students representing the Trojans this weekend, the reasons for transferring may differ but in essence it boils down to the idea that their former programs weren’t the best place for them to grow and achieve their soccer ambitions.
“Personally, I felt like I needed to go somewhere else in order to improve as a person, as a player as a student and so overall, it felt like USC was the best place for me for that,” senior Morgan Andrews said of her decision to transfer from Notre Dame after following up an ACC Freshman of The Year campaign with All-American honors as a sophomore.
Andrews is currently the second leading scorer on the team and a year ago she led the country in goals scored in the NCAA tournament, tallying five goals in USC’s run that ended in the round of sixteen.
“I just felt that when I was at Oregon State, I loved Oregon, I loved the school, but the soccer program wasn’t exactly what I thought it would be when I got out there,” Prudhomme explained. “I just decided that the environment wasn’t healthy for me anymore and that I needed to make a change if I wanted to keep playing.”
The major hole coach McAlpine was looking to fill heading into 2016 was goal scoring. Maryland transfer Alex Anthony, in particular, who leads the team with 10 goals, has been especially key in alleviating this area of concern. Last season, Anthony captained Maryland as a redshirt sophomore and graduated from the school with two years of eligibility left.
Both Andrews and Prudhomme admitted how important this year’s transfers have been in getting the team to this juncture.
“I know that when we transferred in, obviously, it’s difficult to come into a new environment that you’re not exactly sure how it’s going to work,” Prudhomme said about the transfers who’ve joined the program since her arrival.
“You’re taking another chance, probably coming from a place that you weren’t very happy with before, which is why you left, so it’s always kind of scary,” Prudhomme said. “ I mean to be honest the other transfers that have come in (Amanda) Rooney, (Leah) Pruitt, Anthony, they’re awesome. They have contributed a ton to our success this year in particular.”
To Andrews the fact that the team has woven together so many players that have come in from different programs is what makes them special. She considers it a strength, which is remarkable considering how difficult it can be to generate team chemistry given the sport’s notoriously short season.
“I think part of what makes our team unique is the transfer progress that each of us have gone through. Each of us have a story and it’s different and similar in other ways as well. I think it connects the teams in different ways compared to other teams…I think having as many transfers as we do it makes us unique and special,” Andrews said.
While their paths to the College Cup may be a little less orthodox than most, this year’s Trojans exemplifies the idea that it’s not where you start but where you finish that matters. USC will face Georgetown in the semifinals Friday at 7:30 pm ET.
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