Denver (9-9) hung close to undefeated USC (18-0) in the first half but the Trojans scored four unanswered goals to start the second half and blew the game wide open.
Denver drew first blood at 24:41 on a fast break goal by Elizebeth Behrens. USC tied the match on a free shot by Cynthia Del Core at 19:39 to even the score, 1-1. A minute later, DU’s Nicole Martindale gave Denver the lead again, 2-1. Denver called a timeout at the 16:03 as the momentum begun to shift to the Trojans and DU fouls started to give USC numerous penalty shots. DU junior goalie Maddie Stevenson held up to the mounting pressure. At 12:57, after a long DU offensive possession USC gained control and created a fast break goal by Amanda Johanson to tie the contest. Six minutes later, USC scored again on a Johanson assist to Cynthia Del Core. Layne Vorhees fouled at 7:05 set up a penalty draw and goal by the Trojans Amanda Johanson – and a 3-2 SC lead. At the 2:00 minute mark, USC’s Gabby McMahon scored to double SC’s lead. Martindale countered for DU with only six seconds left to close out the opening frame 4-3, Trojans.
The momentum began to turn midway through the first half as the Pioneers appeared to have tired legs and committed many more fouls than USC (35 – 18 fouls & 37-12 free positions-game). The Trojan pressure carried over after halftime.
In the second half, USC put the hammer down in the first 21 minutes by keeping the ball in the Pioneer end and outscored Denver 4-0 – ballooning their lead to 8-3. SC’s speed and fresh legs seemed to be the difference. Also, on defense SC pressure made DU uncomfortable in the offensive zone. At 8:45 DU finally responded with a goal by Nicole Martindale assisted by Elizebeth Beherns. However, DU remained scoreless for the next six minutes while USC scored twice – at the 2:50 and 2:14 marks- to extend their lead to an insurmountable 10-4 advantage. With 56 seconds to play, the game’s final point was scored by Riley Eggeman.
Final score 10-5, USC.
One had to think that the extra game hurt the Pioneers as they had to foul the much quicker Trojans to make stops. Also, credit USC for solid defense and overall team quickness to create numerous scoring opportunities (30 shots/gm.) and turnovers (17) – they are an excellent team. While the Pioneers will be losing high scoring Christa Reece and a number of other seniors, the team should be very good next year with a solid core of returning players, a great incoming freshman class and a full season with Nicole Martindale. But, the Trojans were clearly the better team tonight.
Stanford dumped Colorado 11-6 in the other semifinal to make it #1 seed USC against #2 seed Stanford in Palo Alto tomorrow night for the league title and automatic berth to the NCAA’s.