2007 Women's Soccer Preview: USC

Aug. 17, 2007

Courtesy: Darcy Couch, USC Media Relations

Two years ago, Ali Khosroshahin already had his eye on the talent brewing at USC. It's just that as an opposing coach, he was working his hardest to neutralize the Trojans' strengths.

Today, the tables have turned, and Khosroshahin now has that talent pool at his fingertips, and this time he gets to capitalize on it.

As the new head coach of the USC women's soccer team, Khosroshahin is at the helm of a Trojan program brimming with skill and potential for the 2007 season. After six years of coaching 45 minutes away at Cal State Fullerton, he had an idea of USC's potential and is now relishing the chance to try his hand at molding the Women of Troy into a force to reckon with.

After all, he had managed to edge out the Trojans in NCAA action while coaching the Titans. So who's to say Khosroshahin can't use his powers for good as well?

He certainly has the tools.

'First of all, I want to say that I feel extremely privileged to be here at USC and to represent the school,' Khosroshahin said. 'I want to match the support that we get from this university as coaches and athletes with our effort and our passion. I want this team to represent this institution well in our effort on the field and our intelligence in the classroom. '

'We have a really talented group of young women returning and we have a very talented group of new players that will give us much-needed depth at every position.'

Depth is a key component of Khosroshahin's plan of attack. With USC's front line and program record-setting defense (14 shutouts in 2006) still largely intact, the additions to the Trojan roster for 2007 will only increase the versatility on the field. The sizeable 2005 incoming class of freshmen is now an experience-saturated stack of juniors. But the talent pool extends in both directions from that vaunted recruiting class, including a group of incoming freshmen and transfers that Khosroshahin envisions becoming quick impact players.

'I'm really excited for the type of people these new kids are coming in,' Khosroshahin said. 'They are good, honest, hardworking people. We're expecting some very, very good things from this class. (Former head coach) Jim Millinder has done an excellent job of recruiting these athletes and I'm confident with his eye for talent that these ladies will fit in well to this program.'

'Defensively we're still the same group we were last year with the exception of (2006 graduate) Lindsay Parker, who left some big shoes for our incoming players to fill to hopefully maintain the same level of defending that we had last season. I feel we can have the biggest impact offensively this coming year with the addition of the attacking players who will give us more depth and competition at those positions.'

With a little healthy competition and the right mix of team chemistry, Khosroshahin is confident that USC can be on the path to greatness for 2007.

'The sky's the limit' he says. 'The things these returning kids can do with the ball here is pretty remarkable. But it's also about team play. The more disciplined you are, the more responsible you are. And the more responsible you are, the more freedom you have at your job.

'Our goal is to play an entertaining style of soccer that when people come to watch us play, they'll want to come back and see us again.'

The 2007 show starts at home on Aug. 31, where Khosroshahin and his staff will open up their official USC competition at McAlister Field against Weber State. By then, the Trojans' home field should feel quite comfortable to Khosroshahin and his staff -- associate head coach Harold Warren and assistant coach Laura Janke.

'I'm excited to be working with Laura and Harold,' said Khosroshahin, who brings in a career coaching record of 76-40-6 (.648) from his time at Cal State Fullerton.

Warren and Khosroshahin were teammates at Cal State Fullerton after spending several years playing for rival club teams in Southern California. And Janke both played and coached for Khosroshahin at Fullerton.

'This staff is like my family,' he said. 'We have a lot of history together. I feel our coaching staff is really really good. Our goal is to get this team to play the best they can play and whatever happens, happens.'I'm looking forward for the challenge of playing in the Pac-10, at the highest level of college soccer. If you're competing for the Pac-10 championship, you're in the mix for the national championship, and it's our goal to get into the NCAA tournament.'

The Women of Troy have been there before, but have not managed to crack the NCAA Second Round. Last season, USC posted an 11-5-5 overall record, having grabbed an at-large bid into the tournament and dishing up a phenomenal upset of postseason power Santa Clara in the NCAA First Round. Stanford tripped things up for the Trojans in the second round to close out the season, which had been riddled with dominating defense couple by several frustrating draws. USC had four scoreless ties during Pac-10 play in 2006 -- a trend that Khosroshahin and his troops are focused on snapping for 2007.Which brings us to a breakdown of the Trojans' front line -- sparkling with talent and speed and scoring potential that USC plans to make a successful scoring machine.

'I think our depth up front is going to help that situation, because now we have even more choices. If someone is struggling on one day, we have several other great options,' Khosroshahin said.

Amy Rodriguez is the most obvious mainstay in the Trojan forward line. USC's top scorer as a freshman and the No. 3 as a sophomore when she missed the stat of the year while competing for the U.S. National Team, Rodriguez was the top gun in the 2005 incoming class. Fellow junior Nini Loucks and senior Lauren Brown -- both 2006 All-Pac-10 honorable mention recipients -- matched Rodriguez with four goals apiece last season, and both are primed to jam up opposing defenses with their striking abilities. Healthy and fit following knee injuries is redshirt sophomore Marihelen Tomer, who began her path back to greatness last season and continued to work nonstop to increase her minutes on the field. Sophomore Jacquelyn Johnston also returns to the front-line mix for the Women of Troy. And, of course, that's not all...

'In addition to Amy and our returners, some of the attacking players I think will do a lot for us this year are Alyssa Davila and Megan Ohai. All those players could vie for positions and make an impact offensively. We also look forward to having Kate Gong - a walk-on who caught our eye. She showed herself well in the minutes she got in the spring.'

The midfield took the biggest hit to graduation in 2006 with the departure of career standout Rosa Anna Tantillo and fellow midfielder Jocelyn Hein. Still well in the mix as always are a strong batch of now-juniors including team captain Ashley Nick -- a reliable distributor and playmaker -- anchoring the core of the field for the Women of Troy. All-Pac-10 Second Team selection Stacey Strong has manned the midfield well for the Trojans, and will be called upon to again help generate a smooth transition for the coming season.

'In the midfield we still have the returners in Stacey Strong and Ashley Nick. Ashley is our captain and has bought into everything we're doing,' Khosroshahin said. 'I think newcomers Ashli Sandoval, Monique Gaxiola and Shannon Lacy could have an immediate impact, and sophomore Jamie Petrossi is finally healthy (underwent compartment syndrome surgery in the offseason) and ready to go.

'Rosie is a huge loss, as it's always difficult to replace a player of her caliber, but we think Ashley Nick has stepped up her game this spring and can do the things that Rosie did for us.'

Petrossi will be a relatively new factor in the midfield, having played at the forward slots in her freshman season. Similarly, junior Kelley Finch will transition to more of a defensive role in the back line after spending the majority of the previous two seasons in the midfield.

Finch's move to the back only furthers USC's experience on defense, as the shutout-savvy Trojan trenches are also highlighted by senior Laura McKee and juniors Meagan Holmes and Janessa Currier. 2005 All-America honorable mention Holmes has long had a knack for interrupting even the best-laid plans of attack against the Trojan defense, and Currier's reliability and skill in the back garnered her regional honors in 2006. The 2007 team also welcomes back to action redshirt junior Kat Stolpa, who suffered her second torn ACL just before the 2006 season. A strong defender, Stolpa will be working back into the mix alongside a healing redshirt freshman Briana Ovbude (ankle) and some of the new blood on the roster.

'We have everyone back and we have two incoming freshmen -- Kasey Johnson and Karter Haug -- who we brought in to help solidify the back line with the loss of Parker. Janessa and Meagan will be anchoring the back line; Bri and Kat are coming back from their injuries, and the addition of Amy Massey from St. Mary's will also bring in some more experience for the back line. Kelley will probably play more in the back and can play midfield as well. She was a solid player for us in the spring.'

At the last line of defense, as always, stands the Trojan goalkeeping corps. USC boasts a pair of young and talented keepers who stand strong as a potent tagteam of ability to carry on USC's impressive defensive stats. Sophomore Kristin Olsen and redshirt sophomore Brittany Massro both showed their athletic potential in 2006 and will share control of the net for the 2007 Women of Troy.

'Our goalkeeping crew is extremely talented and competitive with one another,' Khosroshahin said. 'We have a tremendous opportunity for two young goalkeepers to do very well for us.'

It's a theme that permeates throughout the Trojan roster. By design, Khosroshahin has generated a roster long on talent with an emphasis on growing experience. Hard work will pay dividends, and Khosroshahin is expecting to cash in on a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

'It's all about getting into the tournament. Once you're there, you reassess, reevaluate and set new goals. I'm looking forward to working toward that with this extremely talented group of players.'

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