Slow Start Hampers Buffs
LOS ANGELES—Three first-half goals in favor of No. 11 Southern California was too much for Colorado to overcome on Thursday. The Buffaloes were held off the score sheet the first 75 minutes, falling 4-1 at McAlister Field.
Colorado (6-5-1, 1-2-1 Pac-12) struggled to keep USC out of the penalty area in the opening 15 minutes, allowing the Trojans to sneak two early goals past Dani Hansen. CU played much of the first 45 minutes on its back heels, getting outshout 14-1 in the period.
"We started the exact opposite from what we wanted," head coach Danny Sanchez explained. "I thought we were tentative. We weren't playing with confidence. Sure, it was an own goal, but it came from a lot of pressure. Credit to USC. I thought they came out with a lot more energy and focus."
USC (9-2-0, 3-0-0 Pac-12) got on the board in the 6th minute off an own goal and things never got turned around for the Buffs. Penelope Hocking scored in the 21st minute, to get a 3-0 lead and become the Trojan's all-time leading goal-scorer (49).
Freshman Ellen Jones finally broke through for the Buffs late in the second half, scoring her first career goal. Jones was effective in her 42 minutes off the bench, as was the rest of the freshman class that saw significant minutes in the final 45 minutes.
"I thought all the players that came in off the bench [for us] were very good," Sanchez continued. "I thought Ellen was good. I thought Hannah Duguid was good. Holly Hunter and Phoenix Miranda were very good as well. Then in the back Bella [Grust] was able to get some time in goal. We were pleased with what the freshen did today. They put themselves in a better position going forward."
The Buffs finished with a season-high 10 saves. Hansen accounted for seven stops in the first half, with freshman Bella Grust closing out the second half in relief.
How it Happened
The Trojans came out on the attack early, forcing Hansen to make her first save in the fourth minute. The push continued from USC and a dangerous cross into the goal center of the goal box ricocheted off the CU defense and into the net.
Almost an identical ball from Hocking found Jada Talley, who slipped in undetected, and buried her shot into the open net extending the USC lead in the 13th minute. Hocking then got her record goal in the 21st minute with a left-foot strike, finding the upper left corner for the 3-0 lead.
"Every team we play in the Pac-12 is going to have All-Americans," Sanchez added. "Obviously, she's [Hocking] one of the best strikes in the lead. We were just too tentative to start the game.
"If we're going to say 'we have nothing to lose,' then you have to have nothing to lose and play loose. That's what I thought we saw in the second half. We played loose and we played a lot better."
USC's fourth goal came off an initial save by Grust. The ball bounced right back to Simone Jackson to put the Trojans up 4-0 in the 53rd minutes.
The Buffs got some offense flowing in the second stanza. Colorado was able to generate more shots (6-4) than USC in the second half. Scoring chances from Jayden Newkirk and Tessa Barton helped get the ball rolling and eventually led to Jones knocking in CU's lone tally in the 76th minute.
"Sofia [Weiner] crossed the ball and Shyra [James] went for it," Jones explained. "Then Shanade [Hopcroft] put it off the post and I got on the end of it and put it in. It felt really good [to get the goal]. It feels really rewarding. It was just a good shift from the team."
Colorado continues its stay in SoCal, heading crosstown to No. 3 UCLA on Sunday. Kickoff is set for 1 p.m. MT and will be on the Pac-12 Networks.
The four goals allowed were the most by the Buffs since a 4-0 loss to Stanford in 2019…Jones is CU's 11th different goal scorer this season…She now has three points this season (1 G, 1 A)…Hopcroft's assist was her sixth of the season, adding to her team lead in assists and points (14)…CU is now 0-3 against ranked opponents this season...the win for USC was its ninth straight.