The University of Southern California Trojans upset the West Virginia University Mountaineers, 3-1, to win the 2016 College Cup.
To advance to the College Cup final, both USC and WVU defeated their semifinal opponents (Georgetown and UNC, respectively) 1-0 for a shot at the national title, and both teams had given up only one goal apiece previously in tournament play. USC came into the final off four consecutive shutouts, while WVU came into the match on a 17-game unbeaten streak. The Mountaineers also made program history by advancing to the final for the first time in program history, as well as being the first ever Big 12 team to advance to the final.
Despite the odds being slightly against them (WVU was the no. 1 team in the nation and a number-one seed in the tournament), USC took an early lead in their NCAA College Cup national championship win, but it was by no means an easy battle for the Trojans. Despite a goal by MAC Hermann trophy semifinalist Morgan Andrews in just the second minute of competition, the fastest goal ever scored in a women’s College Cup final, the Trojan attack all but disappeared after the first 15 minutes of the match. However, with a second-half brace from Katie Johnson, who also scored the semifinal-winning goal against Georgetown, USC fought back in the second half to defeat the favored Mountaineers.
USC first took the lead after Andrews earned a corner kick for the Trojans just minutes into the competition. The ball was served in and was not cleared out successfully, going instead to USC defender Savannah Levin, who headed to ball into the box, where Andrews managed to flick the ball with her head past Rylee Foster to put USC on the board first. The goal is the fastest goal ever scored in a College Cup final and Andrews’10th of the year, tying Alex Anthony for most goals for the season for USC.
Here's a look at the header by Morgan Andrews that gave @USC_WSoccer the early 1-0 lead over West Virginia! #WCollegeCup pic.twitter.com/1lHh9f3syL
— NCAA Soccer (@NCAASoccer) December 4, 2016
Michaela Abam followed Andrews’ goal by earning two free kicks for WVU in the vicinity of their offensive third, giving the team set pieces in good scoring position. However, the Mountaineers could not capitalize on the opportunity, with USC goalkeeper Sammy Jo Prudhomme coming off her line to deny Kadeisha Buchanan an opportunity on goal, and the second being cleared out of danger soon after being served in.
Although USC came out strong and saw their momentum surge after Andrews’ early goal, the momentum shifted in WVU’s favor about 15 minutes into the match. USC took the first three shots of the match, but then failed to get off a single shot in the last 30 minutes of the first half, allowing WVU to take 10 unanswered shots. Abam’s ability to draw fouls to earn free kicks was beneficial to creating opportunities off set pieces. Ashley Lawrence, Sh’Nia Gordon and Amandine Pierre-Louis all provided strong runs that resulted in opportunities in front of the net, only to be denied each time. Prudhomme made a number of good stops, although the ball often was not cleared as well as the Trojans would have liked. That resulted in a number of loose balls in front of goal, but WVU was unable to finish. Because of that, the game went into halftime with USC still leading WVU, 1-0.
The second half seemed much more even than the first as both teams shared possession and got off a number of quality shots on goal. WVU had a couple opportunities right in front of the goal early in the second half, but failed to finish any of them but earned a corner off the sequence. The ball was perfectly served into the goal, but Prudhomme got a finger on it before it was headed out by a WVU attacker.
Ashley Lawrence leveled the score in the 66th minute when she received the ball at the top of the box and maneuvered around Sydney Sladek to get a look on goal. Prudhomme had difficulty seeing the ball as there was some traffic in front of her, and her diving save came up short as Lawrence’s ball found the back of the net.
BOOM! Take a look at Ashley Lawrence's equalizer from just outside the 18! #WCollegeCup pic.twitter.com/Mf4zHDgWkQ
— NCAA Soccer (@NCAASoccer) December 5, 2016
USC followed the Mountaineer goal up with a shot on goal of their own by Katie Johnson, the hero in their semifinal win over Georgetown. Andrews played the ball to Leah Pruitt, who kept the ball in bounds and continued driving down the left side line, eventually going 2v1 before crossing the ball to Johnson. Foster seemed to hesitate on the play, staying on her line and allowing Johnson to take the shot. Johnson’s shot went right but Foster dove left, allowing Johnson’s ball to go into the back of the net.
Great composure by Southern Cal's Katie Johnson as she places the ball for Trojan goal number two! USC leads WVU 2-1! #WCollegeCup pic.twitter.com/TRQVA4XUfs
— NCAA Soccer (@NCAASoccer) December 5, 2016
Once USC retook the lead, the WVU attack seemed to panic, firing shots off from distance that failed to test Prudhomme. Kadeisha Buchanan also pushed up into the attack while the Mountaineers searched desperately for an equalizer, which made their defense much more susceptible to attack. That proved fatal in the 87th minute when Katie Johnson took a shot from outside the box and scored an insurance goal to increase USC’s lead to 3-1.
Johnson’s brace was more than enough to seal the win for USC, and the Trojans celebrated their second College Cup final win in program history. It is the second win in just two appearances in the national championship game for the Trojans, making them perfect in College Cup play. The Trojans’ last national title was won in 2007 when they defeated Florida State 1-0.
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