No. 17 USC Shoves Off For Notre Dame Tournament

Aug. 29, 2006

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THIS WEEK: The Women of Troy take to the skies for their first road trip of the year with a visit to top-ranked Notre Dame for the Inn at Saint Mary's ND Soccer Classic on the Fighting Irish's home turf. USC faces No. 1 Notre Dame at 7:30 p.m. local time on Friday (Sept. 1) and then plays Harvard at 11 am on Sunday (Sept. 3).

RANKINGS: USC's highest ranking in the national polls this week has the Trojans (1-0-1) sitting at No. 17, according to SoccerTimes. Notre Dame (2-0-0) is the top-ranked team in that poll, while Harvard (0-0) is unranked in the national polls. USC is also listed as No. 19 by SoccerBuzz and No. 22 by Soccer America.

LAST WEEK: The Women of Troy opened 2006 with a tie and a win on their first weekend of action. USC got bogged down in a scoreless draw with UC Santa Barbara on Aug. 25 despite numerous scoring chances during regulation and both overtime periods. The shutout did mark a career effort for junior goalie Veronica Simonton, who registered her 15th career shutout to tie with the No. 1 mark in USC history. The Trojans rebounded from their scoring slump, however, pumping in four goals against UC Irvine in a 4-1 win on Aug. 27. Lauren Brown led the team with an assist on the first goal just 1:30 into the game, and then tacked up the game-winner at the 13-minute mark. Stacey Strong, Nini Loucks and Jocelyn Hein also scored goals, with Rosa Anna Tantillo and Laura McKee each tallying two assists each in the winning effort for USC.

PAC-10 PICK-'EM: In a tight vote by Pac-10 coaches, USC is ranked No. 4 in the Pac-10 Preseason Poll. The Trojans received one less vote than No. 3 Stanford in the coaches' poll. Defending conference champion and NCAA finalist UCLA was tabbed the No. 1 team, and California -- last season's second-place finisher in the Pac-10 -- was selected No. 2. USC, which finished out 2005 with a 6-2-1 Pac-10 record to place third in the conference, received one first-place pick and ended with 62 overall points in this season's poll. Stanford was the Pac-10's fourth-place team in 2005, but garnered 63 points to take the edge over the Women of Troy in the 2006 poll. Coming in at No. 5 is Arizona (49 pts) followed by a tie at No. 6 between Oregon State and Washington State (34). In the final three slots are No. 8 Arizona State (23), No. 9 Washington (21) and No. 10 Oregon (17).

SCOUTING NOTRE DAME: The Fighting Irish opened with two wins, first posting a 9-0 win over Iowa State before topping Mississippi 2-1. Notre Dame went 22-3 last year and reached the NCAA Quarterfinals. They return eight starters from their 2005 squad, including All-Americans senior midfielder Jen Buczkowski and sophomore forward Kerri Hanks, who leads the team with three goals this season. The Irish are coached by Randy Waldrum, who is in his eighth season at Notre Dame.

SCOUTING HARVARD: The Crimson open their season against Santa Clara at this week's tournament. Harvard returns nine starters, including last season's top scorers in Erin Wylie, Megan Merritt and Allison Keeley. The Crimson are coached by Erica Walsh, who is in her first year coach at Harvard. The Crimson went 8-5-3 in 2005 and finished tied for fifth in the Ivy League.

RODRIGUEZ ROCKS RUSSIA: Sophomore forward Amy Rodriguez will miss several nonconference matches this year while playing in Russia as a member of the U.S. Under-20 National Team. The squad has settled into Moscow to compete in the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Championship, which runs Aug. 17-Sept. 3. Rodriguez has spent the summer competing with both the full U.S. national team and the under-20 team. She earned her fifth cap with the U.S. National Team while in Portugal at the 2006 Algarve Cup, and also helped the under-20 team qualify for worlds earlier this summer. Rodriguez has scored twice so far for the U.S. U20s, first with the winning penalty kick against Congo during group play and then in the 90th minute of a 4-1 win over Germany in the quarterfinals. Rodriguez was recently named to the 22-player Soccer America Preseason Women's All-American Team.

SIMONTON SHUTS IT DOWN: After last season's NCAA First Round 1-0 win over Gonzaga, goalkeeper Veronica Simonton locked down a place of her own in the USC history books, standing tall as the single-season shutouts leader with 11 in 2005. Last weekend, she catapulted herself into a tie as USC's all-time career shutouts leader with Julie Peterson with her 15th career shutout earned in a scoreless tie with UC Santa Barbara on Aug. 25. That puts Simonton just a single shutout away from standing alone with the most career shutouts by a USC goalkeeper.

MCKEE MAKES A POINT (OR TWO): Junior defender Laura McKee tallied the first point of her career with an assist on USC's opening goal against UC Irvine on Aug. 27. She later doubled that effort with a second assist on the Trojans' fourth goal in their 4-1 victory.

TANTILLO KEEPS CLIMBING: Senior midfielder Rosa Anna Tantillo has been a presence in USC's history books ever since being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Now in her final year at USC, she continues to rack up points and climb the all-time ladders. Her two assists against UC Irvine on Aug. 27 pushed her to rank No. 4 all-time in career assists (18) and tie for No. 5 all-time in career points (58). She already sits at No. 3 in game-winning goals (10) and No. 7 in total goals scored (20).

PETROSSI ON THE PROWL: True freshman Jamie Petrossi is listed as a forward/midfielder, but she has been a full-time force on the front lines in her first season at Troy. Petrossi is helping fill the temporray void left by last year's freshman sensation Amy Rodriguez while the sophomore spends time with the U.S. Under-20 National Team. So far, Petrossi has been exactly the impact player the Trojans expected. Her speed and skill on the wings has helped open up the attack for USC, and the freshman has already peppered the opposing goal with five shots so far, so her first career goal can't be far off.

BROWNIE IS BACK: A facial fracture suffered early in the 2005 season put the skids on a quick and powerful start for forward Lauren Brown. She had scored three goals on just six shots for the Trojans before being sidelined for the majority of the season after her injury on Sept. 11, 2005. Now, Brown is back on the attack, and she already has garnered a goal and an assist for USC to lead the team in scoring entering this week's trip to Notre Dame.

INJURY REPORT: USC has lost two players to season-stopping injuries suffered during preseason practices. Junior defender Kat Stolpa tore her ACL in her left knee. She had endured the same injury to her right knee at the close of her freshman season. Incoming freshman defender Briana Ovbude will redshirt her first season after dislocating her ankle.

2005 RECAP: The Trojans posted a 13-6-2 overall record in 2005 and made a strong statement in the Pacific-10 with a third-place finish on a 6-2-1 record. A program record 12 shutouts along with an all-time low of 20 goals against and only two tight Pac-10 losses propelled USC into NCAA action, where the Trojans picked up a first-round win over Gonzaga before falling in the second round to Cal State Fullerton.

2006 PREVIEW: This season's Women of Troy boasts a roster brimming with 16 returning players, including nine starters. Last year's bumper crop of newcomers now have a big year under their belts and return to Troy as 10 older, wiser and sturdier sophomores. Four seniors and four juniors are in line to guide the Trojans, who have four freshmen added to the roster for 2006. Headlining the charge is returning All-American and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Amy Rodriguez, who starred on the front lines as a freshman, knocking in a team-leading nine goals and earning 25 points. Rodriguez is just one of several Women of Troy who earned 2005 accolades and are back for more. Now a senior, Rosa Anna Tantillo has been hauling in awards and racking up points for USC for years ever since being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year herself in 2002. The standout midfielder dished up a whopping 11 assists last season and finished second on the team with 19 points to claim both regional and all-conference honors. Three other Trojans also garnered All-Pac-10 recognition along with Rodriguez and Tantillo, showcasing the versatility and depth coming back to the pitch this year. Meagan Holmes, Nini Loucks and Stacey Strong each hold down a different part of the soccer field, and all three were named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team last year. Defender Holmes also racked up All-American honorable mention and was a First Team Freshman All-American. Midfielder Strong received Freshman All-American honorable mention on the national level, and forward Loucks plugged herself onto the All-Pac-10 honorable mention list following a stellar first season at Troy. USC has four seniors on the roster this year. In addition to Tantillo, the Trojan veterans are midfielder Jocelyn Hein, forward Tracy Lansing and team captain, defender Lindsay Parker.

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