No. 20 USC Returns Home For Two Pac-10 Challenges

Oct. 24, 2006

THIS WEEK: The Women of Troy return home this week for a pair of Pac-10 tangles at McAlister Field. The Trojans first play host to Washington State in a game to be televised by FSN. USC kicks off against the Cougars at 2 p.m. on Friday (Oct. 27). The Trojans will then face Washington at 1 p.m. on Sunday (Oct. 29). USC is seeking its first home Pac-10 victories this week after playing through ties with Stanford and California and an overtime loss to UCLA before getting a road win and tie last weekend.

RANKINGS: USC's highest ranking in the national polls this week has the Trojans (8-3-4, 1-1-3 Pac-10) ranked at No. 21 according to Soccer Times, while they sit at No. 23 in the SoccerBuzz poll. Washington State (8-5-3, 3-1-1) and Washington (6-10-0, 1-4-0) are both unranked.

LAST WEEK: The Women of Troy tacked up their first Pac-10 victory of the year last week on a wild road trip to Arizona. USC came out strong against host Arizona State on Friday and punched in a first-half goal from Lauren Brown that stood tall as the Trojan defense locked down once again, pocketing a long-awaited Pac-10 win and USC's 10th shutout of the year. It also was the first time in four games that the Trojans avoided overtime, but that luck wouldn't carry into their next match, unfortunately. The Trojans got stuck in their fourth overtime game of Pac-10 action even after outshooting host Arizona on Sunday. Scoreless regulation gave way to two more scoreless overtime periods, leaving the Trojans with their third Pac-10 tie -- a mark never before reached in USC history. Two USC goalies did their part to help USC secure its 11th season shutout in the Arizona game. Veronica Simonton tallied one save before a collision with a Wildcat striker left her injured, sidelining the junior just before halftime. Freshman Kristin Olsen stepped right in and took over solidly, however, grabbing five saves -- including three in overtime -- to keep USC's defense as stubborn as ever. USC again outshot its opponent in the match, this time putting 25 shots up against the Wildcats' 12.

SCOUTING WSU: The Cougars are 8-5-3 overall and 3-1-1 in Pac-10 play after falling 1-0 to Stanford and beating California 2-0 last week. WSU returns five starters from last year's team that went 11-7-2 overall and finished tied for fifth in the Pac-10 at 4-4-1. Head coach Matt Potter is in his fourth season at WSU. Carly Dobratz leads the Cougars in scoring so far with three goals and five assists. USC is 8-3 all-time against WSU after posting a 2-0 win over the Cougars in 2005.

SCOUTING WASHINGTON: The Huskies are 6-10 overall and 1-4 in Pac-10 play after losing 4-1 to California and 2-0 to Stanford last week. Washington return nine starters from last year's team that had a disappointing 0-17-3 season last year, going 0-8-2 in Pac-10 play. Head coach Lesle Gallimore is in her 13th season at UW. Melissa Beal leads the Huskies in scoring so far with four goals and three assists. USC is 5-6-1 all-time against Washington after posting a 2-1 win over the Huskies in 2005.

LEADER OF THE PAC: USC leads all conference teams in assists (25 total, 1.67 apg) and on the defensive end in fewest goals allowed (7), goals-against average (0.44) and is tied with in total shutouts with 11. Individually, Rosa Anna Tantillo is the league leader in assists (8) and assists per game (0.53), and Veronica Simonton is the Pac-10's top goalie with an 0.47 goals-against average and with eight solo shutouts.

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 three goals and three assists for USC this season, including a pair of game-winning goals against UC Irvine and San Diego. She recently tacked up a third game-winner to lead the team in GWGs after her score against ASU on Oct. 20.

THE FIRST 15: The Trojans have had some quick starts this season, scoring in the first 15 minutes of action five times. The quickest goal of the year came from the foot of Stacey Strong at the 1:31 mark of USC's eventual 4-0 win over UC Irvine. The momentum of those five early goals has carried USC to wins every time.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS Amy Rodriguez?: She's back! Sophomore forward Amy Rodriguez missed the first several nonconference matches this year while playing in Russia as a member of the U.S. Under-20 National Team at the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Championship. There, she scored two goals for Team USA -- 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. The United States finished fourth in the tournament, and Rodriguez is now back in town full-time for USC. It's been a busy stretch for Rodriguez, who also earned her fifth cap with the U.S. National Team this year while in Portugal at the 2006 Algarve Cup, and helped the under-20 team qualify for worlds earlier this summer. Rodriguez was recently named to the 22-player Soccer America Preseason Women's All-American Team. Her debut return to the USC roster was a strong one, as the sophomore dished out an assist on the game-winning goal and then scored a solo shot of her own in USC's 2-0 win over North Texas on Sept. 10 in Nebraska. She has two goals and two assists in her 10 games on the field for the Trojans.

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. In the Trojans' 2-0 win over Harvard on Sept. 3, she catapulted herself into the lead of all USC goalkeepers past and present after notching her 16th career shutout. The effort put her at No. 1 in the USC history books. She's since shared three more shutout victories for USC, and pocketed six more solo shutouts to hold onto eight this season and 22 in her career.

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.

DEFENDERS DO IT BEST: USC's defense made history this season by pinning up six straight shutout victories and holds onto a Pac-10-high nine shutouts this year. But the Trojan back line has not just been responsible for stanch defense; two USC defenders also were responsible for tacking up the Trojans' 2-0 win over Eastern Washington. Sophomores Janessa Currier and Meagan Holmes both punched in goals in the victory to secure USC's fourth straight shutout win.

FIRST THING'S FIRST: It took a year, but sophomores Kelley Finch, Janessa Currier and Ashley Nick all registered their first career goals this season. Being as the trio spend the bulk of their time behind the front lines -- Finch and Nick in the midfield and Currier as a defender -- the goal-scoring breakthrough for the group is certainly noteworthy. All three scored off corner kicks this season. Finch scored against Drake on Sept. 8; Currier knocked in the game-winner against Eastern Washington on Sept. 15; and Nick tallied a header against UNLV on Sept. 17.

CHECK YOUR LOUCKS: Just over halfway through the season, sophomore forward Nini Loucks hadalready bettered her freshman scoring marks. The speedy striker has recorded game-winning goals against Harvard and North Texas, and has drilled a team-high four goals on the year. She finished her freshman campaign with three goals and one game-winner.

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. With another assist against UCLA, Tantillo improved her tally and remains at No. 3 all-time in career assists (currently has 22) and holds the fifth-best total for career goals with 23. Her first goal vs. UNLV on Sept. 17 marked the senior's 12th career game-winning goal to rank her No. 2 all-time. And on the points chart, Tantillo's team-high 16 points has ballooned her career total to 72 to hold her at No. 4 in career points. She ranks No. 20 nationally in assists per game (0.53 apg).

PETROSSI ON THE PROWL: True freshman Jamie Petrossi is listed as a forward/midfielder, but she has been a full force on the front lines in her first season at Troy. Petrossi helped fill the temporary void left by last year's freshman standout Amy Rodriguez while the sophomore spent time with the U.S. Under-20 National Team. 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 peppered the opposing goal with 12 shots so far, so her first career goal can't be far off. She's had a role in three of USC's goals, notching the first point of her USC career with an assist in USC's 2-0 win over Harvard on Sept. 3, and then tallying two assists in a 3-0 win over Drake on Sept. 8.

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.

PAC-10 PICK-'EM: In a tight vote by Pac-10 coaches, USC was picked 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).

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