Nebraska's Meg Brandt (32) battles for possession during the game against Baylor at the Barbara Hibner Soccer Stadium on Sunday, Sept. 1, 2019, in Lincoln, Nebraska.

It’s no secret that Nebraska soccer is playing one of the most difficult schedules in the country this season. But with all of the difficult matchups on the schedule, Sunday’s matchup against No. 4 USC may have been Nebraska’s toughest test of the season.

Unfortunately for the Huskers (1-3-1) they failed the test, falling 2-0 to USC in the last game of Nebraska’s two-game west coast trip. However, the Huskers remained in the game from start to finish—an encouraging sign considering the Trojans are the fourth-ranked team in the country and have yet to lose a match.

The Trojans (6-0) have been led by a strong offense all season, and Sunday’s multi-goal performance against the Huskers was no different. USC has scored 16 goals this season while only conceding three.

So the odds were against Nebraska, but the Huskers did not back down from the challenge of facing such a dominant opponent. Senior midfielder Meg Brandt attempted to break down the Trojan defense in the early minutes of the match, firing two shots on goal in the ninth and 14th minute. Brandt also won a free kick in the 16th minute.

Despite the early opportunities, Nebraska was unable to put the ball in the back of the net. Finishing chances is key against quality opponents, and the Trojans made the Huskers pay in the 39th minute. Sophomore forward Penelope Hocking received a great through ball from junior Tara McKeown that split Nebraska’s defense. Hocking then dribbled around sophomore defender Olivia Brown and slotted it past senior goalkeeper Aubrei Corder to give USC a 1-0 lead.

Nebraska continued to push in the second half in search of an equalizer. Brandt had two quality looks early in the second half but still could not find the back of the net. In the 52nd minute, the Trojans doubled their lead as McKeown found Hocking again to put the game out of reach.

Sophomore midfielder Dakota Chan attempted to cut USC’s lead in half by firing two shots in the 64th minute, but neither resulted in a Husker goal. USC kept Nebraska in check for the remainder of the match to seal the victory.

Even though they lost 2-0, the Huskers did play the Trojans evenly. They had 13 shots with six on goal, and USC had 16 shots with seven on goal. What pushed USC over the top was being able to finish their chances—a problem that’s plagued Nebraska all season.

So even though Nebraska soccer is improving with each game, some recurring problems are coming back to harm them. Hopefully, the Huskers can iron out some of these kinks as the non-conference slate wears on so that the team can be firing on all cylinders when conference play begins.

Nebraska returns to Barbara Hibner Stadium next weekend for matchups against Oklahoma and Gonzaga. Friday’s match against Oklahoma is at 7:05 p.m. and Sunday’s bout with Gonzaga is at 1:05 p.m.