It only took five minutes for defender Kayla Mills to find fellow senior Morgan Andrews in the box against the University of North Carolina. An arching corner kick and a flick of a header sent the ball into the back of the net, kicking off a 3-0 upset for one of the top teams in the country.Both players have found their rhythm in their final seasons as Trojans, and with that rhythm has come serious attention from across the country. This summer, both Mills and Andrews were named to a watch list of 36 players for this year’s MAC Hermann trophy.The distinction sets Mills and Andrews apart as some of the greatest college players in the country. But for the two seniors, this final season is about much more than personal achievements.The MAC Hermann award is to college soccer what the Heisman is to football. Recent winners include World Cup champions like Morgan Brian, Crystal Dunn, Christen Press, Kelley O’Hara and Mia Hamm.So, it came as a slight surprise to both Mills and Andrews this summer when their phones lit up with texts from friends congratulating them on the distinction.“It’s the greatest honor any collegiate soccer player can earn,” Andrews said. “When you look at the people who have come before, who have won it in the past, it’s pretty incredible to even be considered on that level.”But the news came as no surprise to head coach Keidane McAlpine that Mills and Andrews stood out on a national level. In their years at USC, both players have come through on and off the field as McAlpine shaped his young program.“It’s a true testament to the level of respect that they’ve earned throughout their time here,” McAlpine said. “It’s a huge step forward for them and for our program. But I think, for those who see them practicing and working day in and day out, it’s something we get to see every day. These are world- class players.”In a well-spread offense that finds scoring opportunities with a variety of players, Andrews has already netted three goals this year, including the opening point against the University of North Carolina. Moving up to midfielder after spending last year on the defense, Mills connected to assist two of those three goals.It’s a chemistry that McAlpine has seen develop over the past two years of playing together. And it’s a relationship that has been growing for most of the years that Mills and Andrews have played soccer.The two first met in the U.S. national team system when they were 14 years old. They played with and against each other off and on throughout their high school careers, until Mills became a Trojan and Andrews headed to Notre Dame. Two years later, Andrews transferred to USC and the two became everyday teammates, both for the Trojans and for the U.S. U-23 team.Though they only played together on a daily basis for the past two years, spending eight years as teammates has formed a bond of trust and respect between the two seniors.“I love playing next to her,” Andrews said. “We’ve worked off of each other well. Honestly, she’s just one of the best players I’ve ever seen play. She makes it fun to play alongside her.”Earning a spot on the watch list had a mixed effect on Mills and Andrews. On one hand, it bolstered their confidence, confirming that they are among the top players in the country. Of course, it wasn’t the first confirmation of their status among the best of the best — Mills was named the top youth defender in the country by TopDrawer in August, and Andrews was ranked among the top five midfielders in the same report.It also created a pressure to perform among the best.“I think I always expect the best of myself, whether I’m on a list or whether I’m not,” Mills said. “That pressure comes from myself, from wanting to be my best for my team. And that’s on and off the field. If I need to be the best at cheering on the sidelines, that’s what I’m going to do, and I’m always going to put that pressure on myself.”As Mills and Andrews head into their final regular season at USC, however, personal accolades are the last thing on their minds. Mills approaches each game with the mindset of contributing as much as she can to the team, in whatever way she is needed, whether that means sitting on the bench or playing every second.This feeling is echoed by Andrews. Her goals for the season are simple yet difficult to execute: Win a Pac-12 championship, and follow it up with an NCAA championship. It won’t be easy. The last time they won the national championship was in 2007, and the Trojans have never taken a solo Pac-12 title.Andrews never shies away from saying that the team is a contender for the national championship. If the MAC Hermann trophy comes along the way, so be it. But for both Mills and Andrews, the team is more important than anything else.“There’s no such thing as an individual when you’re playing with 11 people on the field,” Andrews said. “If I win any accolade or if I’m on any list, it’s because of the girls around me. Everyone wants everyone next to them to succeed. It doesn’t matter who puts the ball in the back of the net as long as we win the game.”
Redshirt junior goalie Holly Parker tallied nine saves in the Trojan’s bout with the Anteaters. (Colin Huang | Daily Trojan) “This was a very, very tough game,” Pintaric said. “And it was a good young team with a lot of young players. And with just losing against UCLA in a close game last weekend, it’s always hard emotionally to come back and play next because this is the home opener. So [the] girls had some pressures on and actually I’m very proud of the girls actually coming up with a victory and because mentally it is very hard to play this game.” The win puts the Trojans at 7-1 on the season and in good shape to face the Anteaters again in the Barbara Kalbus Invitational this weekend in Irvine, Calif. Tehaney commented on how the Anteater’s hard press from the beginning was something they were prepared to deal with in order to score. McIntosh would again bring one in to open scoring late in the third after several turnovers and offensive fouls on both sides. With just over 30 seconds left, the Anteaters got one in with sophomore center Piper Smith taking the lead on another power play. The Trojans didn’t let the period end there, with Guiral drawing another 5-meter penalty foul and Mammolito sending one to the back of the cage to bring the game to 6-2. “I think we went into this game knowing that they were going to press us really hard,” Tehaney said. “So driving a lot and just making sure [to get] open, it was a key part. And you knew that they’re a hard-pressing team, so it was knowing beforehand.” The Trojans came into the first period strong with back-to-back goals from sophomore driver Grace Tehaney, the first within 30 seconds of the opening buzzer. With a goal from senior driver Denise Mammolito on a power play and a 5-meter penalty shot from senior driver Kelsey McIntosh drawn by sophomore 2-meter Mireia Guiral, the Trojans were up with 4 unanswered points. After preventing points from three straight UCI 6-on-5s, the Anteater’s junior attacker Calysa Toledo was able to slip one in to bring the score 4-1 going into halftime. “I always tell my team to be aggressive,” said head coach Marko Pintaric of the power play opportunities that were missed. “The best way to score in six-on-five is, you know, right at the beginning when a quick, you know, when when defense is not settled yet.“So I emphasize that before the meeting, I think we were not aggressive enough.” The No. 3 USC women’s water polo team held off a late-game goal surge from visiting No. 6 UC Irvine this Saturday at its season’s home opener at Uytengsu Aquatics Center to defeat the Anteaters 9-6. The Trojans were resilient, and senior drivers McIntosh and Elise Stein saw to it that their two goals late in the fourth would go unanswered, along with redshirt junior goalie Holly Parker bringing her save total to 9 to seal the game total at 9-6. As the fourth brought a four-goal surge from the Anteaters, it would be the Trojan senior line, with key assists from Tehaney, that kept the team from falling under. The Anteaters scored back-to-back on a power play and in even strength within the first few minutes of the period, but Mammolito answered back with a point on the power play. The Anteaters brought another set of back-to-back scores to bring the game to 7-6 with under five minutes to go.