LOS ANGELES -- Senior midfielder Mandy McKeegan netted her first career goal in the 57th minute to bring UC Davis to within a goal, and the Aggies' defense was stout, blocking eight shots on the day, but host and No. 3-ranked USC held on for a, 2-1, victory in the season opener for both teams on Friday afternoon at McAlister Field in Los Angeles.
Facing the defending NCAA National Champions to kick-off the season, UC Davis fell to 0-1 overall on the year heading into its second match of the year on Sunday (Aug. 20) against Mountain West Conference preseason favorite San Diego State at Noon.
It was the second consecutive one-goal result against a Pacific-12 Conference opponent this season after the Aggies played No. 2 Stanford to a 2-1 decision in an exhibition back on Aug. 10.
"We come away from today with a lot of positives," Head Coach Twila Kaufman said. "This team has played the No. 2 and No. 3 teams in the country in back-to-back matches and scored goals. Our team will learn that, when we score a goal, we have to hold ourselves to a higher standard and learn how to, at a minimum, come away with a draw in those games."
Meanwhile, the Women of Troy opened the defense of their national title by improving to 1-0 on the season in the first-ever meeting between the two programs.
After goals in the 22nd and 50th minutes gave the host side the early advantage, the Aggies mounted a threat mere minutes later as sophomore Hailey Rittershofer played a ball ahead to senior teammate Zuzu Romano, who was streaking toward the box on the left side. Romano drew the attention of a USC defender, who hauled her down inches outside the 18-yard box, setting up a free kick for UC Davis.
McKeegan, a two-time Big West Conference All-Academic Team selection and neurobiology, physiology, and behavior major, who entered the year with seven career assists, then stepped to the ball and looped a perfectly placed shot over the wall and off the post in the upper right-hand corner for her first career goal to make it 2-1.
"That goal was not a fluke," Kaufman said. "I've seen her make that same goal in practice many times. I am very happy for Mandy."
Junior Kristina Sola then tested USC goalkeeper Kaylie Collins with a shot in the 65th minute that was turned away, but the Aggies could come no closer.
Junior goalkeeper Alexis Smith made four saves for UC Davis, and got some help from teammate Sydney Burger in the sixth minute, as Burger headed a ball off the line on a shot by Nicole Molen to keep the match scoreless. McKeegan also denied an attempt by Leah Pruitt a minute later, sliding to deny a shot at an open net after a collision caught Smith off her line at the top of the box.
Alex Anthony gave USC the early lead in the first half her first of the year midway through the period, tapping in passes from Pruitt and Molen at the back post for a 1-0 lead, while Arlie Jones added her first just five minutes into the second half on a diving header back to the right post for a two-goal advantage.
"Our senior leaders were very strong," Kaufman said. "Together, we will see to it that our squad learns from every match and we will learn quickly. The goal is to get better with every match and then compete for a conference championship."