By Jessika Harkay | Sports Writer
After dropping two of their last three matchups, Baylor soccer looks forward to a weekend of possible upsets as it hosts the No. 2 USC Trojans on Friday night and Gonzaga on Sunday afternoon.
USC comes to Waco undefeated (7-0) and averaging three goals a game, already outscoring opponents 19-5 on the 2019 season.
The Bears last played USC in the second round of the 2017 NCAA Tournament. The Trojans, who were the defending national champions at the time, fell to Baylor in overtime as the Bears took a 3-0 advantage in penalty kicks.
With that said, it isn’t the first time the Trojans have been favored over the Bears — which may be a good thing in the eyes of head coach Paul Jobson.
“I told the girls the other day, this is probably the first time this season that we’re not the team with a target on their back,” Jobson said. “We’re finally playing the role of the underdog once again, which is a role that’s always been favorable to Baylor. I think that takes a little bit of pressure off.”
Redshirt senior defender Kylie Ross was there for the matchup back in 2017. She said that although it’s a new year, the team can bring back “the passion and fight” that the Bears played with in the upset.
“We really had something to prove and we still have something to prove, so I think it’ll be a good challenge for us,” Ross said. “It’s a little bit nerve wracking because USC is a great team. We know they’re a great team but I know if we bring everything we got, we really can’t be matched because our hard work and chemistry on the field is going to show.”
The Bears will have to capitalize defensively as the Trojans offensive is led by six different players who have scored this season. Additionally, Jobson’s team will be short of two senior forwards — Camryn Wendlandt and Raegan Padgett.
Ross believes the dynamic of USC’s offense offers an opportunity for the team to learn and improve.
“USC is a really athletic, really fast-on-the-ball team,” Ross said. “I think playing someone like that defensively will be really good for us because we haven’t really seen anyone of that caliber.”
Aside from a tough matchup, Jobson hopes his team takes the game to focus on manifesting what the girls want out of the season.
“While they’re a great team and not taking anything away from them, you know, it’s just another team,” Jobson said. “Our mentality has to just be about us. It’s not about the name on the other jersey, it’s about what we want to be about as a team and this is just another opportunity for us to prove that.”
The Bears kick off at 6 p.m. Friday at Betty Lou Mays Soccer Field, followed by a contest against Gonzaga at 1 p.m. Sunday.