No. 16 USC To Face No. 18 Gonzaga In NCAA First Round

Nov. 8, 2005

TOURNEY TIME: The Women of Troy have blasted their way into the NCAA Tournament, taking a 12-5-2 overall record into their NCAA First Round match against Gonzaga (12-3-4) at 5 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 11) in Fullerton, Calif. The match will be the first-ever meeting between the two programs, and Gonzaga's first-ever trip to the Tournament. Also bracketed with the Trojans is host Cal State Fullerton (17-3-0) and UNLV (13-6-3), who will face off for their first-round game 30 minutes after the USC-Gonzaga match. The winners of those matches square off at 1 p.m. on Sunday (Nov. 13) at the same site for the second round.

RANKINGS: USC (12-5-2, 6-2-1 Pac-10) climbed higher in the national rankings this week, receiving its top pick at No. 16 in the Soccer America poll -- the Trojans' highest rank of the season. For the first time all year, USC appears in the four main national polls, including a No. 24 ranking from SoccerBuzz, No. 20 from Soccer Times and No. 24 by NSCAA/Adidas for the Trojans' first ranking of the year in the latter poll. Gonzaga's highest ranking comes at No. 18 from SoccerBuzz -- its highest pick of the year as well. The Bulldogs (12-3-4) also sit at No. 23 in Soccer Times, No. 19 in Soccer America and No. 23 in NSCAA/adidas. Cal State Fullerton (17-3-0) ranks highest at No. 15 by NSCAA/adidas and SoccerBuzz, and UNLV (13-6-3) is unranked .

LAST WEEK RECAP: The Trojans posted two important home wins last week, closing out Pac-10 play with a seven-game home winning streak intact. USC entered the week in a three-way tie with Arizona State and Arizona in the Pac-10 standings, and managed to claim sole possession of third place with victories over both squads. On Friday (Nov. 4), USC took ASU into overtime after a scoreless battle through regulation. In the first overtime period, Amy Rodriguez clinched USC's first overtime win of the season with a golden goal in the 96th minute of play after Nini Loucks got the ball to Stacey Strong for the assists on the game-winner. On Sunday, the Trojans hosted then-No. 23 Arizona for the rights to sole ownership of third in the conference. Again, USC took it down to the wire, utilizing stingy defense to keep the Wildcats scoreless. This time, Rodriguez kept the Trojans out of overtime with her second straight game-winner. At the 88:25 mark of the game, Rosa Anna Tantillo got the ball up to Rodriguez, who slipped in the winning score for USC's latest regulation goal of the year and a 1-0 victory. The two shutouts pushed goalkeeper Veronica Simonton to 10 solo shutouts this season -- 11 overall for the Trojan defense.

HONORING A-ROD: Freshman forward Amy Rodriguez became the first Trojan women's soccer player since 2002 to be named Pac-10 Player of the Week after knocking in back-to-back game-winning goals against Arizona State and Arizona. She now has a team-best nine goals this year, including four game-winners to jump into the all-time top-10 at USC for game-winning goals and single-season goals and points (25). She has either scored or assisted for the Trojans in the past six games. The last Trojan to be named Pac-10 Player of the Week was goalkeeper Julie Peterson, who received the honor as a sophomore on Sept. 10, 2002. It is USC's 17th weekly Pac-10 award overall.

SIMONTON SHUTS IT DOWN: Sophomore goalkeeper Veronica Simonton has locked down a place of her own in the USC history books, standing tall as the single-season shutouts leader. With her shutout efforts in a 1-0 win over Stanford on Oct. 28, Simonton earned her eighth solo shutout of the season to tie with Julie Peterson. Two games later, Simonton had bumped up that tally to 10, earning herself sole possession of the single-season shutout title. Now with 13 career shutouts, Simonton is just two shutouts away from tying Peterson's all-time career mark. She already is even with Peterson with the best mark of three straight shutouts.

LATE-GAME HEROICS: The Trojans' knack for late scoring became even more extreme last week after back-to-back game-winners against Arizona State and Arizona. The Arizona State win marked USC's first overtime victory of the season, with Amy Rodriguez's game-winner coming in the 96th minute of play. Against Arizona, Rodriguez blasted in the Trojans' latest regulation goal of the year with a score at the 88:25 mark to beat the Wildcats. Before USC's 2-1 loss to Cal on Oct. 30, the Trojans had posted four straight late-game scores. Stanford had been the fourth straight team to befall USC's scrappy second-half pressure. At the 87:38 mark against the Cardinal, Nini Loucks put away her first game-winning goal after a swift trap and strike to the back of the net off a cross from Rodriguez. USC has now scored with no more than 10 minutes left to play in eight games this season -- all victories.

TOP HEAVIES: USC's freshman/junior tandem of Amy Rodriguez and Rosa Anna Tantillo have combined for a load of points for the Women of Troy. With two game-winning goals over the weekend, Rodriguez remains the team leader in goals (9) and points (25). Junior captain Tantillo is right in stride, boasting a team-high 10 assists (one over the weekend) along with four goals and 18 points. Fiery freshman Rodriguez has managed to dish up either a goal or an assist in the past six games, and 15 of USC's 19 games this season. Most recently, the duo teamed up for the USC's game-winner against then-No. 23 Arizona on Nov. 6, with Tantillo serving up the assist on Rodriguez's goal in the 88th minute of play to boost Rodriguez's game-winning goals mark to four on the season and keep Tantillo as the undisputed assists leader with her 10th of the year. Freshmen Stacey Strong and Nini Loucks are next in the Trojans' points production with 11 points each after joining forces to assist on Rodriguez's golden goal against Arizona State on Nov. 4.

OFFENSE ON: The Women of Troy had a 10-game scoring streak snapped on the road with a 0-0 tie against Oregon State on Oct. 14, but their production at home was strong this season. After failing to score in their home opener against Florida State -- the Trojans' only home loss of the year -- they scored 17 goals in their seven home victories. Overall, 13 different Trojans have hit the back of the net this season, and nine have now done it at least twice. USC is No. 1 in the conference in assists with 38 total and 2.00 per game and is second in scoring with 35 total goals and 1.84 per game.

DEFENSES UP: Sophomore goalkeeper Veronica Simonton and her defense have now combined for 11 shutouts this season to rank second in the Pac-10 and tie for No. 14 in the nation with a shutout percentage of 0.58. Before coming up against the potent Penn State offense on Sept. 11, the Trojan defense -- with Simonton in the cage -- tacked up three straight shutout wins to tie the top all-time mark at USC. Against UCLA on Oct. 7, Simonton faced a whopping 24 Bruin shots, and came away with a career-high 11 saves in the tough 3-2 double-overtime loss.

GONZAGA NOTES: The Bulldogs (12-3-4) are undefeated in their past six games, posting three wins and three scoreless ties since falling 2-0 to top-ranked Portland in West Coast Conference play (also the last time Gonzaga allowed a goal). This will be Gonzaga's first trip to the NCAA Tournament, and the No. 18 ranking is its highest in program history. Gonzaga set school records this season with 12 wins, fewest goals allowed (14), longest win streak (7), most shutouts (11) and most consecutive shutouts (6). At 3-1-3 in the WCC, the Bulldogs have posted their highest finish in conferenct play at third place. This will be USC's first-ever game against Gonzaga. The Bulldogs return all 11 starters and 19 letterwinners from last year's team that went 11-8 overall and finished 3-4 in the WCC at fifth. Shannon Stiles is in her seventh year as head coach, and Nanda McCormick is the team's leading scorer with nine goals on the season.

COMEBACK KID: It had been a while since the Trojans have staked a come-from-behind effort like they did against Oregon on Oct. 16. On Sept. 24, 2004, USC fell behind to St. Mary's and fought back to win in the 67th minute -- thanks to a game-winner from Rosa Anna Tantillo. Over a year later, it was Tantillo again who staked the Trojans to a turnaround. On Oct. 16, after the Ducks put the Women of Troy in a 1-0 hole, Tantillo managed a tying score in the first half and then tacked up her second goal of the the game-winning goal in the 87th minute of play. A week later, Tantillo punched in her 10th career game-winner by breaking a 1-1 tie with Washington to win in the 84th minute of play on Oct. 23.

TANTILLO TERRITORY: Junior midfielder Rosa Anna Tantillo continues to climb the USC charts. Her 15th career assist against Arizona on Nov. 6 helped bump the team captain to 18 points on the season and 55 career points to hold her at No. 7 all-time at USC. Even more impressive is Tantillo's game-winning goal tally, which ballooned to 10 career game-winners with her score against Washington on Oct. 23 to lock Tantillo at No. 3 in the Trojan history books. And with that assist against Arizona, Tantillo -- USC's 2004 scoring leader -- also improved her single-season assist total to 10 to move farther past current assistant coach Isabelle Harvey's assist mark of eight set her junior season onfield for the Women of Troy. Entering the NCAA Tournament, Tantillo is poised to launch herself past Harvey's other single-season assist marks of 12 and 11 set during her career on the field for the Women of Troy. Now with 15 career assists, Tantillo still has some catching up to do to reach Harvey's historic top mark of 39 career assists.

GONE IN 16 SECONDS: Tracy Lansing's goal against Georgia on Sept. 16 marked a new school record for the fastest goal scored in a game. Just 16 seconds into play, Lansing finished off a pass from Amy Rodriguez, who received an early feed from Stacey Strong, eclipsing the previous fastest mark of 36 seconds set in 2003. In USC history, the Trojans have scored in the opening minute of play four times (2005, 2003, 1998, 1997).

GALLEGOS GETS GOING: After being sidelined for the start of the 2005 season, senior transfer Leah Gallegos has jumped right back into her position as an impact player in the front lines. Gallegos set numerous records at Flordia State before tearing her ACL and then choosing to come back home to Los Angeles for her senior season. She got her first start and first goal of the season against Long Beach State on Sept. 27. After that, Gallegos was in the starting lineup for three straight games and made a distinct impression on opposing defenses with another goal and assist against Washington State and Washington, respectively.

LECHE LIGHTS IT UP: Jocelyn Leche took another step up in the USC history books with a Sept. 18 game-winning goal on her perfect corner kick score against Oakland. The goal marked her third career game-winning score -- good enough to lift her to the ninth-best total on the USC career leaderboard.

STARTING FRESH: Six freshmen have stepped in with starting roles in their first seasons as Women of Troy. Five -- Meagan Holmes, Nini Loucks, Ashley Nick, Amy Rodriguez and Stacey Strong -- got starting nods in the season opener.

2005 SEASON PREVIEW: The 2005 Women of Troy are a dynamic blend of veteran players and new talent. The Trojans' 12 newcomers were heralded as the top recruiting class in the nation, joining a core of veteran talent including junior leading scorer Rosa Anna Tantillo, senior defenders Hillary Schwarzbach and Jocelyn Leche and sophomore goalkeeper Veronica Simonton. New to the USC coaching staff is four-time All-American Isabelle Harvey, who completed her Trojan playing career in 2000. Headlining the group of incoming talent are a pair of freshmen with U.S. national team experience -- forward Amy Rodriguez and defender Meagan Holmes -- and Florida State transfer Leah Gallegos. The returning talent and fresh faces have already commanded the respect of the powers that be, as the Women of Troy have racked up a No. 18 national ranking and the No. 2 pick in the Pacific-10 Conference coaches poll.

McALISTER FIELD: Beginning with the 1998 season, the USC women's soccer team no longer had to share a practice field with the football team, as the Women of Troy received a field all their own. USC played part-time on McAlister and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until 2002, when the team began playing all its home games at the new facility. After going 7-1 at home in 2005, USC now boasts an 32-11-5 (.719) record at McAlister Field.

LAST SEASON: In 2004, the Women of Troy missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years after finishing tied for 8th in the Pac-10 with a 3-6-0 record. USC won five straight games in September and October, but lost its last four conference games to finish at a 9-9-1 overall mark.

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