Jalen Woodward stood in front of the home crowd at USC’s McAlister Field.
In her left arm, she held a bouquet of red and yellow flowers, and to her right, stood her dad, Jason, and her grandma, Bonnie. It was a picture-perfect senior day for the USC women’s soccer team as it defeated Nebraska, 2-0, to start the season 6-0 for the first time in program history.
Except, someone was missing from the picture.
The person who not only raised Jalen, but helped develop her passion for soccer: her mom, Julie – who was more than 1,211 miles away in Spokane, coaching Seattle University against Gonzaga.
“I know that my mom has a job, and I would never want her to put that behind being there for me even though I know that she would if she could,” Jalen said. “I would never want her to feel bad for missing something like that because she does what she does at work so that I get the opportunity to do what I do here.”
On Friday, the mother-daughter duo will be together again and will celebrate Jalen’s senior year at USC — and Julie’s historic coaching career at Seattle U. But first, they’ll compete against each other, as the Redhawks (3-2-1) host the No. 3-ranked Women of Troy (6-0) at SU’s Championship Field at 7 p.m — the highest-ranked Division 1 team to ever play at the field.
“Having her home, in Seattle, playing in front of family and friends and me, is going to be wonderful,” Julie said. “I think it’ll be a little bit emotional too just seeing her on the field because I remember her being on the field during our camps when she was 5 years old and now she’s 21 years old, and I’m going to be playing against her.”
In her 23 years at the helm of Seattle U’s women’s soccer program, Julie has reached historic heights, including four Western Athletic Conference Championship titles, four WAC regular-season titles and four NCAA tournament appearances, leading the Redhawks to a winning record in 20 of the past 22 seasons. With 297 wins and a .688 winning percentage, she is the winningest coach in program history.
In her playing days with the Redhawks, Julie was a four-year starting defender and a two-time All-American, earning her way into the Seattle University Athletic Hall of Fame. Currently, she has school’s longest tenure of any of its coaches.
That love for soccer naturally carried over to her daughter, who grew up around Julie’s program and the university.
“Honestly, it’s one of the things that has shaped me to be the player and person that I am,” she said. “I’m pretty sure I took some of my first steps on Championship Field. To me, Seattle U is more than just my mom’s work, it’s been my family since I first remember since she’s been there for so long, and it’s one of the most special places in the world to me.”
The USC midfielder has started in 52 of her 70 games for the Trojans, with one goal and seven assists. At Seattle Prep, she was a four-year letter-winner and an All-American as a senior.
Julie lines up both her team and USC’s schedules at the beginning of every season to find times when she can trade in her Redhawk red for USC’s cardinal and watch Jalen’s games.
“I really, truly believe that she has made me a better coach, and I’ve made her a better player,” Julie said. “I’m just extremely proud of what she’s accomplished in her time there.”
Not only do Julie and Jalen share a love for soccer, both share a burning desire to win.
“With whoever wins (on Friday), it will be upsetting for both of them,” said Holly Rothering, Redhawks senior midfielder and Jalen’s former Crossfire Premier Soccer Club teammate. “Both of them are hard losers in a way. No one really likes to lose, but especially those two. They always want to win, they’re always competing.”
Friday will be the first meeting between the teams. The match will be Seattle U’s third Pac-12 opponent this preseason after opening with a 4-0 loss to Washington State and a scoreless draw against Washington.
As a Trojan, Jalen has played in Seattle only once — in 2017, when UW hosted USC. While the chance of extending USC’s season-opening winning streak is exciting, she’s more excited to play at home against her mom in front of family and friends.
“It’s just an experience that gives me goosebumps just thinking about it,” she said. “It’s such a privilege to be able to step foot on the same field as my mom. I’ve looked up to her as a player and as a person and admired her advice for so long, so to be able to play against her, I think it will be surreal.”
Come Friday night, when one team has won and the other has lost, both Julie and Jalen know their competitiveness on the field won’t last past the final whistle.
“At the end of the day, I know that no matter what happens, she’s always on my side and I’ll always be on her side,” Jalen said. “She’s my family, my mom and one of my best friends, and I don’t think the outcome of the game will change that.”