USC's Postseason Push Takes Trojans To NCAA College Cup
Dec. 4, 2007
THIS WEEK: The Women of Troy set program records weeks ago, but USC still hasn't stopped raising the bar and turning heads. The Trojans -- having captured a record 18 wins, a record 14 shutouts and ventured deeper than ever before in the NCAA Tournament -- are now set up as one of the final four soccer teams left in the race. USC is bound for the NCAA College Cup, hosted by Texas A&M, this weekend. The Trojans (18-3-2) are the only team to have posted four straight shutouts during the postseason, and are now lined up to face conference rival UCLA (20-1-2) in the semifinals at 6 p.m. CT on Friday (Dec. 7) in College Station, Texas. Florida State (17-5-3) and Notre Dame (19-4-2) will face off in the other semifinal match. The NCAA championship game will be held at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday (Dec. 9). Both games will be televised live, broadcast by play-by-play announcer Beth Mowins, color analyst Tony DeCicco and sideline reporter Quint Kessenich. Friday's USC-UCLA semifinal will air live on ESPNU and will be rebroadcast on Saturday at 9 a.m. PT on ESPN2. The title match will air live on ESPN2. Live stats will also be available online through Gametracker at the USC soccer page at www.usctrojans.com.
NCAA NOTES: This is USC's ninth trip to the NCAA Tournament, in which the Trojans are now 9-8 overall after posting four shutout wins so far in this year's tournament -- finally breaking through the NCAA Second Round for the first time in program history, then topping Florida 1-0 in the NCAA Third Round, and then beating West Virginia 1-0 in the NCAA Quarterfinals. The Women of Troy have earned their highest ever seeding in the Tournament -- coming from a regular season that also saw the Trojans in their highest national rankings in program history. USC worked its way to a No. 2 seed thanks to a strong regular-season showing that saw the Trojans face eight teams also bound for the NCAA Tournament. USC went 4-2-2 against those NCAA squads: beating Georgia, Oakland, Portland and California; tying Tennessee and Stanford; and falling to Indiana and top-seeded UCLA. USC's 2007 First Round opponent Creighton was only the second non-West Coast program the Trojans have faced in the NCAA Tournament (USC lost to SMU in 1999), and that out-of-region trend continued with matchups against Missouri, Florida and West Virginia.
USC IN NCAA ACTION (9-8):
1998 1st Round def. Washington 2-1 (OT) 2nd Round lost to San Diego State 1-0 (OT)1999 1st Round bye 2nd Round lost to SMU 1-02000 1st Round def. San Diego 2-1 2nd Round lost to UCLA 3-02001 1st Round lost to Pepperdine 1-02002 1st Round def. San Diego 1-0 (OT) 2nd Round lost to UCLA 1-0 (OT)2003 1st Round lost to Pepperdine 1-02005 1st Round def. Gonzaga 1-0 2nd Round lost to Cal State Fullerton 3-12006 1st Round def. Santa Clara 1-0 2nd Round lost to Stanford 2-02007 1st Round def. Creighton 3-0 2nd Round def. Missouri 1-0 (2OT) 3rd Round def. Florida 1-0 Quarterfinals def. West Virginia 1-0
ROAD TESTED: USC has been racking up the frequent flyer miles this postseason, sandwiching two long, cold road trips around the Trojans' Third Round game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. But the trials and tribulations of travel did nothing to shake the Women of Troy in their run through the best season in USC history. In Columbia, Missouri, for the First and Second Rounds, USC topped Creighton 3-0 and then edged host Missouri in overtime 1-0. Two weeks later, the Trojans were back on the road for the Quarterfinals, heading to West Virginia for a cold night game in front of a packed stadium, where USC tallied a 1-0 win over the Mountaineers to punch a ticket to another exciting road trip to College Station for this year's prestigious College Cup. Undefeated at home this season, USC has registered a 10-3-1 record on the road.
FIRST ROUND VS. CREIGHTON: USC dominated possession in its NCAA First Round match against Creighton, notching a 3-0 win to punch a ticket to the NCAA Second Round. After a first half of peppering the Creighton goal with 21 shots, USC finally broke through with what proved to be the game-winner in the first minute of the second half. Ashli Sandoval lined up for a corner kick on the right side, launching a ball into the box. Megan Ohai redirected it for Amy Rodriguez on the left side, and Rodriguez slotted the ball to the right side of the net to lock down a 1-0 lead for USC. That goal notched Rodriguez's eighth of the season and 21st of her USC career. She also moved up on the USC all-time charts to now rank No. 5 all-time in career game-winning goals with eight. Freshman midfielder Sandoval also ran her assists tally up to nine with her initial assist, and Ohai now holds four assists on the season. With the seal finally broken, USC kept pushing and got an insurance goal in the 54th minute when Marihelen Tomer broke loose and made a move on the left side, taking a slicing shot to the right that went bar-in for a 2-0 USC advantage. In the 74th minute, Haug played a long ball into the box, where senior Lauren Brown collected it, turned and drilled a shot that deflected off a Creighton defender and into the left side of the goal to make it 3-0 USC.
SECOND ROUND VS. MISSOURI: USC's Second Round match with No. 23 Missouri was a tough one, but USC emerged victorious by breaking a scoreless tie with a goal in the second sudden-death overtime for USC's 12th shutout of the year and 16th win of the season. Junior midfielder Ashley Nick delivered the winning strike for the Trojans, driving a diving header off a long flip throw-in from Megan Ohai in the 105th minute of play to get USC the history-making victory. Regulation play was largely even. Missouri generated five shots in the first half to USC's three, but the Trojans picked up their pressure in the second half. The Tigers had several breaks on goal that were either snuffed by goalie Kristin Olsen or knocked clear by the USC back line. In the 75th minute, Missouri's Alysha Bonnick had Olsen pulled out high and got past her, but her shot on an open net went wide to keep the game scoreless. The Women of Troy came out ready for overtime. Janessa Currier, Amy Rodriguez, Ohai and Marihelen Tomer all took stabs at the cage but couldn't break through. In the second overtime, Currier blocked an early Tiger shot attempt to keep USC on track. Four minutes later, the Trojans got deep in Missouri territory once more, gaining a throw-in from the right sideline. Ohai stepped back to take the throw, launching a the ball off a flip into the box. The ball just passed over Kasey Johnson on the near post, and Nick was in position to finish it off. Nick drove a header straight in for the game-winning goal - the first of her USC career - extending the Trojans' season and tallying a record-tying win total for Ali Khosroshahin's 2007 USC squad.
THIRD ROUND VS. FLORIDA: It was another career first that helped get the Trojans a 1-0 win over Florida in the Third Round, as freshman Kasey Johnson nailed the winning header for the first goal of her USC career. Playing in the historic Los Angeles Coliseum, USC took on No. 3 seed Florida and played a strong game, following up a scoreless first half with a goal in the 48th minute when Ashley Nick launched a free kick into the box for Johnson. The USC defense took care of things the rest of the way, while the Trojans continued to create opportunities in the match. With four saves from goalkeeper Kristin Olsen, USC grabbed its third straight shutout of the NCAA Tournament and notched the team's 13th overall to put the Trojans one shutout away from tying yet another program record. USC's 1-0 win over the Gators secured the most wins in program history, as the Trojans improved to 17-3-2 overall on the year as they move into this week's NCAA Quarterfinals.
QUARTERFINAL VS. WEST VIRGINIA: USC posted its fourth shutout of the NCAA Tournament, topping fourth-seeded host West Virginia 1-0 in Morgantown, W.V., to tie a program record shutout total of 14. Freshman Kasey Johnson delivered the winning blow for the second straight game, scoring on a sharp header in the second half to tally goal number two for the freshman and push USC to the 1-0 win on a cold night versus the host Mountaineers. The USC defense held the Mountaineers to just nine shots in the game with Olsen nabbing five saves, while the USC offense took 20 shots in the match. In the 63rd minute, Tomer was fouled about 24 yards out, setting up Ashley Nick for a free kick. Nick sent in a low ball that made its way to the left side of the box, where Janessa Currier put a centering touch on it, pulling Butler out of position and opening up the right side of the cage for Johnson. Johnson drove her header to the back post, getting the freshman her second career goal and pushing the Trojans ahead 1-0.
SCOUTING UCLA: Ranked No. 1 in the nation and a top seed in the NCAA Tournament, Pac-10 champ UCLA is now 20-1-2 after beating second-seeded Portland 3-2 in overtime in the Quarterfinals. This is the Bruins' 12th NCAA appearance and sixth trip to the College Cup. UCLA reached the NCAA semifinals in 2006. Lauren Cheney leads the Bruins in scoring with 22 goals, and Danesha Adams has scored 15. Head coach Jillian Ellis is in her ninth season at UCLA. USC is 2-16-1 all-time against its crosstown rival. UCLA beat the Trojans 2-0 in Pac-10 play this season. USC's last win over the Bruins was a 5-4 victory in 1998. The teams tied 1-1 in 2000.
YOU CAN GO HOME AGAIN: The USC soccer team returned to its old stomping grounds for the NCAA Third Round after five full seasons away from the Los Angeles Coliseum. The Coliseum is home to the USC football team, which also shared the venue with USC soccer until 2002 when McAlister Field became the fulltime home to Trojan soccer. The last USC women's soccer game to be played at the Coliseum was Sept. 9, 2001 in a nonconference match against Nebraska. USC has hosted three NCAA First Round matches at the Coliseum in the past -- a 2-1 overtime win over Washington in 1998, a 1-0 overtime loss to SMU and a 2-1 win over San Diego in 2000. With their 2007 victory over Florida, USC has now accumulated a 27-5-3 all-time record in games at the Coliseum, including a 3-1 record in NCAA matches at the venue.
SCATTER STRATEGY: While other teams lean heavily on one or two specific players game-in and game-out for their scoring production, the USC offensive onslaught is overwhelmingly widespread. Eleven different players have now scored for the Women of Troy this year as they have accumulated 43 goals so far -- the third-best total all-time at USC and most since 1999 when USC tallied 44 goals. Amy Rodriguez is in the lead with eight goals, followed by Megan Ohai and Lauren Brown with six each, Alyssa Dávila with five and, Janessa Currier, Marihelen Tomer and Ashley Nick with four goals apiece in USC's diverse attack. Freshman Kasey Johnson now has two big-time game-winners to her name with back-to-back goals in the last two round of NCAA action to stand even with Ashli Sandoval with two goals on the year, and Karter Haug and Meagan Holmes have also scored for the Trojans.
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 53 points, led by Ohai's 17 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 tallied her first career goal with a score against Cal on Oct. 19, and Kasey Johnson joined the club as well with her game-winning header against Florida on Nov. 24 in the NCAA Third Round.
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 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 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. When Loucks went out, junior Stacey Strong moved back from midfield to bring an extra dose of speed to the outside back slot, and Strong has been a key member of USC's shutout-savvy defensive line ever since.
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. So far, so good, as the Women of Troy scored 17 goals and notched six wins, two losses and a 1-1 tie during Pac-10 play (USC went 3-2-4 in conference play last season) to claim second place in the Pac-10 at 6-2-1. USC has outscored its opponents 43-12 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 11 solo shutouts and three shared after Friday's shutout in West Virginia -- which tied that program record of 14 for the Trojans. Olsen's 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 (55), goals (21), assists (13) and game-winners (8), and she remains on the rise this season after tallying her eighth goal of the year against Creighton. Senior forward Lauren Brown also has joined Rodriguez in the history books, holding 13 career goals and 11 assists for 37 career points along with three game-winners.
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.
PEPPERING THE PAC: USC's run to an 14-3-2 regular-season record and second-place finish in Pac-10 play saw several Trojans ride high in the Pac-10 rankings. All told, four Pac-10 teams have earned a place in the 2007 NCAA Tournament. Standing tall in the Pac-10 stats is goalie Kristin Olsen, who ranks No. 2 in shutouts (7), No. 3 in shutouts per game (0.37) and save percentage (.812) and goals-against average (0.44) and is No. 5 in saves (52). Also scattered among the conference's best are a number of USC freshmen. Ashli Sandoval holds the conference No. 2 mark in assists (8) and is No. 3 in assists per game (0.42). Alyssa Dávila holds the second-best mark in game-winning goals (4) ahead of Megan Ohai and redshirt sophomore Marihelen Tomer (3). Ohai also ranks No. 10 in goals with 6 just behind junior Amy Rodriguez with 7. Rodriguez ranks No. 10 in goals per game (0.37).
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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