No. 4 USC Hits Final Regular Season Stretch
Nov. 6, 2007
THIS WEEK: The No. 4 Women of Troy (13-2-2, 5-1-1 Pac-10) can assure themselves at least a second-place finish in the competitive Pac-10 if USC closes out the final weekend of conference play with two wins in Washington. The Trojans first face seventh-place Washington (5-11-1, 2-4-1) for a night match in Seattle at 7 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 9). USC will then head to Pullman to play fifth-place Washington State (10-4-3, 3-3-1) at 12 p.m. on Sunday (Nov. 11). This weekend will wrap up the Pac-10 race and sets up the postseason push for the Women of Troy, who are already three wins away from tying the all-time program record set with 16 wins in 1997.
RANKINGS: USC remains a top-10 team this week, topping out at a No. 4 rank according to SoccerBuzz. The Women of Troy are also slotted at No. 6 by SoccerTimes, No. 8 by Soccer America, and are up to No. 9 in the NSCAA/adidas poll. Neither Washington nor Washington State are ranked.
LAST WEEK: The Women of Troy wrapped up an unbeaten season at home -- the first such accomplishment since 1995 -- by posting a Pac-10 sweep at McAlister Field last weekend. USC opened with a powerful comeback to top Arizona 3-1 on Friday. The Trojans fell behind on a counterattack strike from the Wildcats in the 59th minute, but equalized just over a minute later when Ashley Nick wrapped a free kick over the Arizona wall and in. In the 66th minute, freshman Alyssa Dávila buried her fourth game-winning goal on a crossing ball assisted by Janessa Currier and Ashli Sandoval. And in the 75th minute, USC padded its lead further with a third strike, this one coming off a centering pass from Sandoval and finished with a solid header from Amy Rodriguez. That series marked Sandoval's team-leading seventh assist of the year and pulled Rodriguez even with freshman Megan Ohai on the points chart with six goals and three assists apiece for 15 total points on the year. Sophomore goalkeeper Kristin Olsen notched five saves in the win to tie her career high. On Sunday against Arizona State, the Trojans came out strong and punched in a crucial early goal. Marihelen Tomer took a ball sent up by Rodriguez, moved through several defenders and slotted a crosscage score for a 1-0 lead at the 8:00 mark. The game stayed physical the rest of the way, and the Women of Troy held on for the win -- their 10th shutout of the year and seventh home victory of the year, which extends USC's overall undefeated run at home to 10 games.
POSTSEASON POSITIONING: In a season in which the Trojans have seen their highest national rankings in program history, hopes are high for USC's push to the postseason. With 13 wins heading into the final weekend of the regular season, the Trojans are four wins away from setting a new record at Troy for total wins. In order to do so, USC would need to crack another barrier that has stood in its way so far -- the NCAA Second Round. The Women of Troy have yet to move past that round of the NCAA Tournament, but a helpful seeding in the coming 2007 NCAA Tournament may well help pave a good path to that breakthrough. USC's RPI was last listed as No. 4 in the nation (11/5/07), with quality wins coming against ranked opponents Portland, Georgia and California and ties with No. 2 Stanford and No. 16 Tennessee. USC's two losses this season were an early overtime loss on the road against Indiana and a loss at top-ranked UCLA. The NCAA Selection Show is set for Nov. 12 at 5 p.m. on ESPNews
SCOUTING WASHINGTON: Washington holds a 5-11-1 overall record and a 2-4-1 mark in conference play after losing 4-0 to Stanford and falling 2-1 to Cal last week. Shuree Hyatt leads the Huskies with six goals this season. Head coach Lesle Gallimore is in her 14th season at Washington, which went 7-12-1 overall and 2-6-1 in Pac-10 play last season. USC is 6-6-1 all-time against the Huskies after a 2-0 win last season. USC has won the past two matches against UW.
SCOUTING WSU: Washington State enters the week 10-4-3 overall and 3-3-1 in Pac-10 play after falling 2-1 to Cal and losing 2-1 in overtime to Stanford last week. KIersten Dallstream and Brooke Bemis leads the Cougars in scoring with nine goals apiece. Head coach Matt Potter is in his fifth season at WSU, which went 9-7-4 overall and 4-3-2 in Pac-10 play last season. USC is 8-3-1 all-time against the Cougars after a scoreless tie against WSU last season at home.
SCATTER STRATEGY: While other teams lead heavily on one or two specific players game-in and game-out for their scoring production, the USC offensive onslaught is overwhelmingly widespread. Ten different players have scored for the Women of Troy this year as they have racked up 34 goals so far in the season. Megan Ohai and Amy Rodriguez are matched with a team-high six goals apiece, Lauren Brown and Alyssa Dávila have five each, and Janessa Currier, Ashley Nick and Marihelen Tomer each have punched in three goals in USC's diverse attack.
PEPPERING THE PAC: USC run to an 13-2-2 record and second-place standing in Pac-10 play has seen several Trojans ride high in the Pac-10 rankings. Standing tallest in the Pac-10 stats is goalie Kristin Olsen, who has risen in the ranks, tied with the most shutouts (7) and second in shutouts per game (0.41),goals-against average (0.53) and save percentage (.830). Also scattered among the conference's best are a number of USC freshmen. Alyssa Dávila moved up to the second-best mark in game-winning goals (4) just ahead of Megan Ohai and redshirt sophomore Marihelen Tomer (3). Ohai and junior Amy Rodriguez also rank No. 8 in goals (6), No. 9 in points (15) and No. 10 in goals per game (0.35). Ashli Sandoval stands at No. 3 in assists (7) and No. 4 in assists per game (0.41) for her first season at USC. As a team, USC has the conference's top defense in goals allowed (9, 0.53 pg) and in shutouts (10). Offensively, USC is No. 1 in shots (16.25 pg) and ranks No. 2 in most other categories: points (98, 5.76 pg), goals (34, 2.00 pg) and in assists (30, 1.76 pg).
FRESH START: The USC freshman class wasted no time making an impact at Troy. 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 42 points, led by Ohai's 15 and 11 for Dávila, who also holds four game-winning goals to lead the Trojans. 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 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 Holmes' absence was junior forward-turned-defender Nini Loucks, who brought her speed to the defensive ranks until also being knocked out of the lineup by a ACL tear suffered against Oregon on Oct. 12.
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, was 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 scored 14 goals and notched five Pac-10 wins and a 1-1 tie (USC went 3-2-4 in conference play last season) as they enter the final week of conference play. USC has outscored its opponents 34-9 so far this season, in comparison to a 29-13 edge in 2006.
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 seven 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.
ON PACE: Junior forward Amy Rodriguez has made a home in the USC record books for career points (51), goals (19), 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.
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.
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.