Perhaps a bit of a letdown was inevitable at some point.
In a season where very little has gone wrong for the University of Colorado soccer team, little went right on Sunday, as the No. 22-ranked Buffaloes couldn't keep pace with No. 4 USC in a 3-0 loss.
USC scored twice off set pieces in a 12-minute span late in the first half while limiting the Buffs to three shots on goal. Trojans junior Alex Anthony, a Littleton native from Arapahoe High School, scored two of USC's goals.
The result dampened an otherwise festive atmosphere at Prentup Field, where Ralphie made a rare run across the soccer pitch and the Buffs played before a crowd of 1,917 — the highest attendance of head coach Danny Sanchez's five-season tenure and the fourth-best all-time at Prentup.
"I thought we started OK, but (USC) has the No. 5 RPI in the country for a reason," Sanchez said. "They're just so dangerous going forward. But having said that, those two set pieces we didn't defend well. The second half I thought we came out with more energy. Obviously they are going to take the foot off the gas a little bit, but I thought we created some half-chances.
"Today wasn't our day. All the credit to USC, they deserve the win for sure. But we still have a lot to play for."
CU entered the match with wins in 12 of 13 games while sitting in a tie with Stanford atop the Pac-12 Conference standings. With one game remaining in the regular season, the dream of a complete worst-to-first turnaround in the league isn't over, but the Buffs will need some help to make it happen.
Sunday's result allowed USC to jump CU in the standings. Not only will the Buffs need a victory in the regular season finale Friday at home against Utah to have a shot at a share of the conference crown, but the Buffs also will need losses by Stanford and the Trojans as well. That scenario isn't entirely out of the question, as Stanford plays at No. 18 Cal while the Trojans host their cross-town rivals, No. 9 UCLA.
With CU all but assured of a spot in the 64-team NCAA Tournament field when the berths are announced Nov. 7, Sanchez simply wants to see a return to form against the Utes while the standings sorts itself out.
"We just have to stay positive from here and definitely learn from what happened during this game," sophomore midfielder Sarah Kinzner said. "We have a big game ahead of us and we just have to come out hard for that one."
USC opened the scoring in the 24th minute on Anthony's first goal, as she pounced on a rebound of a Morgan Andrews free kick that CU goalie Jalen Tompkins saved but was unable to control.
A defensive miscue 12 minutes later left the Buffs facing a two-goal deficit at halftime. The Trojans dropped a short corner kick to Savannah Levin beyond the penalty box on the right wing, and the Buffs were slow to pick up the ball before Levin dropped a shot inside the near post.
Anthony ended any thoughts of a CU comeback with her second goal of the match in the 67th minute.
"This was super special. I'm so happy to be home," said Anthony, a junior who transferred to USC this year after two seasons at Maryland. "I didn't think that I was going to have this opportunity, and thanks to transferring to this awesome school I got to get home and perform a little bit."
No. 4 USC 3, No. 22 Colorado 0
At Prentup FieldUSC (14-4-1, 8-1-1) 2 1 — 3
Goals (assists) — USC: Anthony (Andrews), 24th minute; USC: Levin (unassisted), 36th minute; USC: Anthony (unassisted), 67th minute.
Goalies (Min-Goals allowed-Saves) — USC: Prudhomme (90-0-2); CU: Tompkins (68-3-5); Watson (22-0-2).