Hicksville’s Rooney Reflects On USC’s National Title

Amanda Rooney
Amanda Rooney is now a NCAA National Champion. Photo: USC Athletics

It’s been quite the fall semester for Amanda Rooney at USC.

As with other college students across the country, Rooney spent a good portion of her time in early December taking finals.

But her time was also occupied with helping the University of Southern California capture the school’s second women’s soccer National Championship. The Trojans 3-1 win over West Virginia on Sunday, December 4, at Avaya Stadium in San Jose – home of Major League Soccer’s San Jose Earthquakes — was the team’s first title since 2007.

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“It’s been one big celebration,” Rooney told SleterFC.com just days after USC won the title. “There have been constant smiles on the faces of my teammates. I really don’t know how to describe the feeling, but it’s been a lot of fun.”

The response from fellow students and faculty at USC, a school with a long and rich history in intercollegiate athletics, has also been quite positive, she said.

“I have received so many text messages and words of congratulations from so many people I didn’t know,” Rooney said. “People may think that with having a big football team on campus that not too many people would care about women’s soccer, but that’s not the case.”

The highly competitive nature of Division I women’s soccer makes any run to a national title impressive, and that’s also true for USC. With a 19-4-2 record, the Trojans battled through challenging conference and non-conference schedules that included big wins over perennial powerhouse North Carolina (3-0 on September 11) and Stanford (3-0) on October 6.

“Those were two huge wins for us,” Rooney recalled. “The North Carolina game kept our season rolling and when we beat Stanford, we gained a great deal of confidence and started to think that we could make a real deep run (in the tournament).”

The win over the Tar Heels was also a bit sweeter for the Hicksville High School graduate, who transfered to USC from North Carolina after the 2014 season. Rooney said several factors including the Tar Heels training regimen and playing style led to her decision to trade UNC’s powder blue for the crimson of USC.

“There were many reasons I needed a change and once I met with Keidane (McAlpine, USC’s head coach), I quickly realized this was the place for me,” she added.

But the decision to leave North Carolina, which has 21 national titles since 1982, for USC may have raised a few eyebrows. But the move proved to be a good one for Rooney.

“USC is a school that is up-and-coming and I think many people understood what I was looking for,” she explained. “In the end, I wanted to put myself in a good position to succeed and it paid off.”

While the move west has led to a national title for Rooney, the foundation of her soccer career was built on Long Island. A member of Hicksville High School’s Class of 2013, she played high school ball starting in eighth grade.

Outside of school, she was a member of Albertson Elite Fury for eight years and played for the Eastern New York Olympic Development Program’s state team for six years. In 2009, Rooney won her first national championship as a member of Long Island Fury.

Developing a passion for the game at a young age, she recalls the positive impact coaches such as Paul Riley and Mike DeMakis had on her career.

“When I was with Albertson, the coaches were the ones who made me realize how seriously you need to be about the sport,” she recalled. “They, along with my mom (Laura), kept me on the straight and narrow.”

With Rooney a red-shirt junior, she has one more year of eligibility at USC. While defense of a national title will come first, she is also looking down the road and hoping for a professional career in the National Women’s Soccer League, where her youth coach Riley serves as Western New York Flash’s head coach.

“It would be great to one day play in the NWSL and play for Paul,” she said.