Top Teams Clash As No. 2 USC Visits No. 1 UCLA

Oct. 23, 2007

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THIS WEEK: The No. 2 Women of Troy (11-1-2, 3-0-1 Pac-10) hold their highest ranking in program history as they turn to face crosstown rival UCLA this week. The Bruins are ranked No. 1 in the nation, making this year's Pac-10 clash between the two programs a mighty one, especially considering the past three USC-UCLA matchups have gone into overtime. USC carries a 10-game unbeaten streak into the match against UCLA, which holds an identical overall record and also is undefeated in Pac-10 action (11-1-2, 4-0). The Trojans will head to UCLA's home field for a 7:30 p.m. showdown on Friday (Oct. 26).

RANKINGS: Unbeaten in the past 10 games, USC again has risen in the national rankings to set a new program high mark as the Trojans top out at a No. 2 rank according to SoccerBuzz. The Women of Troy are also slotted at an all-time best No. 5 by Soccer America, and are up to No. 5 in SoccerTimes and No. 9 in the NSCAA/adidas poll. UCLA weighs in at No. 1 in all four polls this week.

LAST WEEK: The Women of Troy remained unbeaten in Pac-10 action after a successful road trip to the Bay Area, where USC picked up its third straight shutout with a 3-0 win over No. 14 Cal and then came back to tie No. 1 Stanford 1-1 through two overtimes. That effort generated USC's 10 goal of Pac-10 play, eclipsing the eight-goal mark that USC was stuck with in 2006 after four conference scoreless ties. Cal and Stanford had been two of those scoreless efforts, so the Trojans were focused on finishing in the weekend's trip. Against the Bears, USC got the game-winning goal from Marihelen Tomer in the 29th minute. In the second half, USC struck twice, first on a long shot launched by Karter Haug for the freshman's first career goal, and then on a Lauren Brown score after an Ashli Sandoval corner kick to boost USC ahead 3-0. Starting goalkeeper Kristin Olsen was spelled by Brittany Massro in the 70th minute, and Massro ended up faced with a Cal penalty kick. She made an impressive save on the shot, knocking the ball to the right to help preserve USC's ninth shutout of the year. Against Stanford, USC was scored on just before halftime to go into a 1-0 hole, but the Trojans upped their pressure and rode that momentum until breaking through with a driving header from Amy Rodriguez off a cross from Brown in the 84th minute. The 1-1 tie would hold through two overtimes to keep the teams at a tie for the match. With the goal and two assists over the weekend, senior Lauren Brown moves up in the all-time rankings at USC, sitting at No. 10 in career assists (11), and No. 12 in points (35) and goals (12). Junior Amy Rodriguez lifted her marks to No. 8 in goals (18) in points (49).

LEXUS GAUNTLET UP FOR GRABS: This week's USC-UCLA clash marks the third crosstown showdown between Trojan and Bruin teams in the year-long competition culminating in the 2007-08 Lexus Gauntlet. The Gauntlet challenge incorporates all 18 sports in which USC and UCLA teams face off. This year's competition opened with a UCLA victory in women's volleyball, with USC men's water polo beating the Bruins in the semifinals of the Southern California Tournament on Oct. 14. The Gauntlet challenge charges on with Saturday's soccer match at UCLA, where USC can take the lead with a win. UCLA currently leads 5-2.5. The Trojans and the Bruins have traded the trophy each of the past six years, as the all-time series is tied 3-3 after UCLA won the trophy last season.

SCOUTING UCLA: Top-ranked UCLA is 11-1-2 overall and 4-0 in Pac-10 play after beating Stanford and Cal both 2-0 last week. Lauren Cheney leads the Bruins with 16 goals. Head coach Jillian Ellis is in her ninth season at UCLA, which went 21-4 overall and reached the NCAA Semifinals after going 8-1 in Pac-10 play last season. USC is 2-15-1 all-time against the Bruins, with USC's last win over UCLA coming in 2998 in a 5-4 decision. The Trojans got stuck with their eighth straight loss to the Bruins last year in a 2-1 loss -- USC's third straight loss in overtime to UCLA.

PEPPERING THE PAC: USC run to an 11-1-2 record has seen has seen several Trojans highlight the Pac-10 rankings. Standing tallest in the Pac-10 stats is goalie Kristin Olsen, who has risen in the ranks, holding the top shutouts marks (6; 0.43 pg), the No. 1 count for goals-against average (0.43) and also is No. 1 in save percentage (.842). Also scattered among the conference's best are a number of USC freshmen. Alyssa Dávila and Megan Ohai are No. 4 in game-winning goals (3). Ohai also ranks No. 5 in goals (6) and points (15), No. 7 in goals per game (0.43), and No. 9 in points per game (1.07). Ashli Sandoval has moved up to No. 5 in assists (5) and No. 6 in assists per game (0.36). On the goals chart, No. 5 Ohai is joined by teammates Lauren Brown and Amy Rodriguez at No. 7 with five apiece. As a team, USC has the conference's top defense in goals allowed (6, 0.43 pg) and in shutouts (9). Offensively, USC ranks No. 2 behind UCLA in points (87, 6.21 pg), goals (30, 2.14 pg) and in assists (27, 1.93 pg).

FRESH START: The USC freshman class has wasted no time making an impact. Coach Ali Khosroshahin gave the starting nod to five freshmen for USC's first two games, and all five had a foot in Trojan goals during those opening wins. Megan Ohai topped them all with three goals in two games, including a historic back-to-back game-winner effort. She became the first USC player since 1998 to score three goals in USC's first two games of the year, and is the first-ever Trojan to notch back-to-back game-winning goals to open the season. Her first career goal was assisted by fellow freshman Karter Haug, and the remaining freshman starters also tallied assists in the wins. Alyssa Dávila served up an assist in the 5-1 win over Weber State as well, and Kasey Johnson set up Ohai's third goal of the weekend in the 2-0 win over UC Santa Barbara. Both Trojan goals in the UCSB win were arranged by Ashli Sandoval, who notched assists with her first two corner kicks against the Gauchos. All told, USC freshmen have accumulated a combined 38 points, led by Ohai's 15 and nine for Dávila. Both freshmen hold three game-winning goals apiece to lead the Trojans, and on Sept. 21, Sandoval got in on the game-winning fun by becoming the third USC freshman to get a game-winner with her first career goal at Oakland. Haug also recently tallied her first career goal with a score against Cal on Oct. 19.

GETTING DEFENSIVE: The Trojan back line has seen some adjustments this season. Offseason surgeries have taken senior Laura McKee and junior Kat Stolpa off the field for much of the year, and a torn ACL (Sept. 14) to junior Meagan Holmes has robbed USC of another experienced member of the stubborn Trojan defense. Even freshman Kasey Johnson was unavailable for the match against Tennessee due to a concussion sustained in the previous game, but still, USC has powered on. Junior transfer Amy Massey stepped in for her first start and went the distance in Holmes' right back slot. Junior Kelley Finch filled in for Johnson and also was instrumental in USC's impressive shutout of then-No. 15 Tennessee. Freshman Karter Haug and junior Janessa Currier have been the mainstays on defense for USC, playing every minute of USC's first seven games this season. Illness sidelined Haug for part of the Michigan game, leaving Currier as the lone full-time member of the USC back line. Joining the back line in recent games has been junior forward-turned-defender Nini Loucks, who brought her speed to the defensive ranks until also being knocked out of the lineup by a knee injury suffered against Oregon on Oct. 12.

NATION'S BEST: For their big efforts in USC's winning weekend against Long Beach State and Portland, junior Amy Rodriguez and freshman Megan Ohai were named to national teams of the week. Rodriguez ¬-- who had a goal and an assist over that weekend -- earned a place on the Soccer America Team of the Week, and Ohai -- who tallied a goal and two assists -- was named to the SoccerBuzz Elite Team of the Week.

ON PACE: Junior forward Amy Rodriguez has made a home in the USC record books for career points (49), goals (18), assists (13) and game-winners (7), and she remains on the rise this season after tallying her fifth goal against Stanford on Oct. 21. Senior forward Lauren Brown recently joined Rodriguez in the history books with her 12th career goal against Cal on Oct. 19 and two assists over that weekend. She now holds 11 assists and three game-winners for a career count of 35 points.

BREAKING THE CYCLE: After averaging two goals a game during nonconference action in 2006, USC got bogged down in four scoreless ties and only eight total goals scored during Pac-10 play. This season's focus, consequently, is to build momentum on the way into conference action for a strong ride through the Pac-10 and a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, where USC has yet to move past a Second Round match. So far, so good, as the Women of Troy have already notched three Pac-10 wins and a 1-1 tie (USC went 3-2-4 in conference play last season) and have scored 10 goals in their first four Pac-10 matches.

SHUTDOWN STREET: Sophomore goalkeeper Kristin Olsen had a hand in two of USC's program-record 14 shutouts last season, but as the starting keeper for all of the Trojans' games this year Olsen has now notched six solo shutouts and three shared. Her first career win came after playing the full 90 against Weber State, and her first solo shutout came on Sept. 2 vs. UC Santa Barbara. Olsen and Brittany Massro shared USC's fifth straight shutout -- a 3-0 win over Long Beach State on Sept. 28 -- with one save apiece, and Massro came up big with a penalty-kick save against Cal to lock away USC's ninth shutout of the year.

2006 RECAP: The Women of Troy posted an 11-5-5 overall record with a repeat trip to the NCAA Second Round. To get there, USC managed a huge upset of perennial power Santa Clara with a 1-0 win over the host Broncos in the First Round. The Second Round saw the Trojans up against fellow Pac-10 team Stanford, and the Cardinal pulled out the win to cap off USC's NCAA run. USC set new program records in 2006, notching 14 shutouts, including a stretch of six straight shutout wins. USC allowed an all-time low mark of 13 goals against. Pac-10 play was marked with a series of ties, however, which left the Trojans with a fifth-place finish after four scoreless draws for a 3-2-4 record. Season honors went to senior midfielder Rosa Anna Tantillo, who earned All-Pac-10 First Team for the third straight year. Meagan Holmes and Stacey Strong were named to the Second Team, and Lauren Brown and Nini Loucks received honorable mention. Regionally, Tantillo and Janessa Currier earned nods to the SoccerBuzz All-West Region Second Team. All honorees except for Tantillo return for 2007.

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