Heading into the USC-Colorado game on Friday, it was easy to believe that the balance of power in the MPSF might have shifted from Los Angeles to Boulder. After all, sixth-ranked Colorado had only suffered one loss the entire season, while ninth-ranked USC had lost three. The way the season was unfolding, it wouldn't have been all that surprising if Colorado had marched into L.A. Coliseum and walked away with a win.
The Buffaloes started the game looking like they might do exactly that. They didn't seem to care that it was Senior Day at USC or that USC had won 15 consecutive MPSF regular season games. Outshooting USC 13-12 in the first half, Colorado owned a 5-4 lead at halftime, thanks to a goal scored by sophomore midfielder Miranda Stinson with 5:02 left in the half.
The second half was an entirely different story.
Kerrigan Miller, USC's freshman midfielder, struck first, knocking down a Colorado pass, scooping up the ground ball, taking it the length of the field, and bouncing a shot past Colorado goalie Paige Soenksen. That spectacular goal ignited a 7-0 USC run that left Colorado deflated and, ultimately, defeated. Failing to score a single goal in the second half, the Buffaloes lost the game 11-5.
"At the end of the day, you have to want it more than other team and you have to go out there and get it," Colorado head coach Ann Elliott said after the game. "While we did some things well, overall we didn't want it bad enough to step up and make the plays we needed and USC did. Credit to them there."
The loss dropped Colorado to 4-1 in conference play, while USC improved to 6-0. USC has already locked up a berth in the MPSF's postseason tournament and can clinch the number-one seed with victories in its final two regular season games, at Stanford on April 21 and at UC Davis on April 23.
As devastating as the loss was to Colorado, its players can console themselves with the fact that they too have already earned a spot in the MPSF tournament. They even having an outside chance of earning the number-one seed. For that to happen, they would need to finish the regular season with road wins against St. Mary's and California, while USC would have to lose its final two games.
A more likely scenario sees Colorado getting the second seed. If that occurs and Colorado can win its semifinal game, it will likely match up against USC in the final. Playing the championship at home, USC would have the edge, but the way this season has gone, anything's possible.