No. 1 USC Opens Season at No. 25 San Diego

Aug. 19, 2008

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THIS WEEK: The Women of Troy kick off 2008 where they left off 2007 — as the nation’s top-ranked team. No. 1 USC opens season as the defending national champions, and will play its season opener on the road, visiting No. 25 San Diego for a 7:30 p.m. clash on Friday (Aug. 22).

What a difference a year makes. Ranked as high as No. 14 and as low as No. 28 in last season’s preseason polls, the defending national champions have secured the No. 1 slot in the 2008 preseason rankings released to date. USC ranks No. 1 according to NSCAA and TopDrawer. San Diego ranks No. 25 in NSCAA’s preseason poll.

LAST SEASON: Last season was historic. A 20-3-2 overall record was the best in program history and notched USC its first-ever NCAA women’s soccer championship. To get there, the Trojans placed second at 6-2-1 in the Pac-10 behind defending champ UCLA. In the postseason, USC finally broke through the NCAA Second Round for the first time in history with a road win at Missouri, and kept winning, eventually turning the tables on the Bruins with a 2-1 win in the NCAA semifinals to set another historic date with Florida State in the championship game. There, the Trojans tallied their 15th shutout of the year – another program record – and fifth of the NCAA tournament, notching a 2-0 win over the Seminoles to claim the crown in College Station, Texas. USC allowed a program-low 13 goals while scoring its third highest scoring tally of 47 goals. Amy Rodriguez was named the College Cup Offensive MVP. Kristin Olsen snagged Defensive MVP honors. And Janessa Currier, Kasey Johnson and Marihelen Tomer were named to the All-Tournament Team. Olsen and Ashley Nick also became just the fifth and sixth Women of Troy to earn NSCAA All-American honors. All of them return for 2008.

This Friday’s match will be the season opener for the Toreros as well. San Diego had a record-setting 15-3-3 season in 2007, tying a program record second place finish in the WCC with a 5-1-1 record while holding a program-record No. 9 national ranking and posting a program-best 11 match unbeaten streak during the season. Amy Epsten returns as USD’s leading all-time scorer after scoring 14 last year as a junior. Ada Greenwood is in his sixth season as head coach. USC is 5-2-1 all-time against the Toreros, last posting its third straight victory over USD with a 2-0 home win in 2006.

MOVING TARGETS: Fresh off a historic season in which the Women of Troy became the first Pac-10 team to win an NCAA women’s soccer championship, USC knows that underdog status is a thing of the past. Only one starter is gone from the 2007 roster. NSCAA All-Americans Ashley Nick and Kristin Olsen are back for more. Newly crowned 2008 U.S. Olympian Amy Rodriguez headlines a premier senior class. And two previously injured members of that blue-chip 2005 freshman class – Meagan Holmes and Nini Loucks – are healed and ready for action. Familiar faces and feet pepper the 2008 Trojan roster, so sneaking up on opponents may not be in the cards. But considering the foundation built in just one season under head coach Ali Khosroshahin, the Women of Troy are focused and prepared for opponents to take aim at them in 2008. Nine new faces have been added to the USC roster already loaded with talent, giving the Trojans an injection of mobility and flexibility to a lineup that overpowered all comers in 2007.

The first-ever soccer head coach to win an NCAA championship in his first season with his team, Ali Khosroshahin sets up his Trojans for year two of high intensity and high standards. Khosroshahin holds a career coaching record of 96-43-8 (.680) as he enters his eighth season as a head coach.

LAST LINE: The save-savvy goalkeeping unit provides USC’s last line of defense in a very defensively adept squad. Some teams opt to carry three keepers on the roster, but for the Trojans the tagteam crew is a pair of juniors, Brittany Massro and Kristin Olsen. Healed up from an injury that forced her to redshirt her freshman year (she entered USC as a member of this year’s senior class), Massro serves as a determined and talented option in goal. Olsen, who was a finalist for the Honda Award last season and set a new career high with eight saves in USC’s semifinal win over UCLA, also returns to the field with extra experience garnered during competition with the U.S. Under-20 National Team. The pair combined for a program record 15 shutouts last season — 12 of which were solo efforts from Olsen.

BACK FOUR: Not only is the USC defense – arguably the most reliable element of the Trojan gameplan – intact from last season, it is even deeper than before. Anchored by senior Janessa Currier in the center, the Trojan back line returns senior Stacey Strong and sophomores Karter Haug and Kasey Johnson. And 2005 SoccerTimes All-American Meagan Holmes, who redshirted last year after tearing her ACL early in the year. And seniors Kelley Finch and Amy Massey. Oh, and there are five newcomers penned in to see time on the defensive front — Taylor Hilgert, Kendall Stevens, Brittany Davis-Roberti, Alex Sitta and Claire Schloemer — as the new faces added to the defense.

MIDDLE GROUND: Truth be told, USC’s midfield is stacked. Under the guidance of senior captain and NSCAA All-American Ashley Nick, the Trojans have an experienced core comprising, well, the core of the USC gameplan. Nationally recognized for her outstanding freshman year, USC’s 2007 assists leader Ashli Sandoval steps back in for her second season in the midfield. Sophomore Alyssa Dávila and junior Jamie Petrossi add an extra dose of experience from a strong 2007 season, and Shannon Lacy and Kate Gong also return. In 2008, the world will also be introduced to USC’s newest members of the midfield corps — freshmen Brittany Kerridge, Carly Butcher and Chelsea Buehning.

FRONT LINES: Once she kicks her jet lag to the curb, 2008 Olympic medalist Amy Rodriguez is a certain trouble-maker for the Trojan offense as a senior sparkplug and proven goal scorer. Joining Rodriguez on the game-winning goal charts at Troy is redshirt junior Marihelen Tomer, and fast on her heels is sophomore striker Megan Ohai. Those are just the players you saw last year. In the mix for ’08 is a healthy senior Nini Loucks and a fresh face in freshman Ashley Freyer. Defenses, beware.

ROAD TESTED: USC opens 2008 with three road games, though the returning Trojans are now well versed in paying visits to opposing fields. In 2007, playing on the road was hardly cause for concern, as USC spurred on from the regular season to win five NCAA games nowhere even close to the Pacific Time Zone. The Trojans only losses in 2007 were road games at Indiana, UCLA and Washington State.

HOME RUN: After going 8-0-1 at home in 2007, USC now holds an 11-match unbeaten streak as it enters its 2008 campaign. This year, USC hosts 11 games — nine at McAlister Field and two at the Los Angeles Coliseum. 

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