No. 1 USC Hits Home Turf, Hosts Santa Clara & Alabama

Sept. 2, 2008

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THIS WEEK: The Women of Troy get going on their home stand this season, taking an 11-match unbeaten streak on home turf into their 2008 home opener. Top-ranked USC (2-1-0) will take on No. 12 Santa Clara (2-1-0) for a 3 p.m. match on Friday (Sept. 5) at McAlister Field. Then, the Trojans will host Alabama (1-0-1) at 1 p.m. on Sunday (Sept. 7).

RANKINGS: Top-ranked in the 2008 preseason polls, USC remains ranked No. 1 this week according to NSCAA and Soccer America. Santa Clara ranks highest at No. 12 by Soccer America, and Alabama is unranked.

LAST WEEK: The Women of Troy faced its second ranked opponent of the season, taking a road trip to Portland for two games over Labor Day weekend. USC first visited Portland State, where the Trojans broke out of a scoreless first half with two goals. Nini Loucks put away her fourth career game-winner off an assist from Ashli Sandoval, and then Sandoval came through with an insurance goal later on a Kelley Finch assist. Brittany Massro earned her first solo shutout at goalkeeper with the win. Two days later, USC clashed with No. 6-ranked Portland for a heated overtime battle. The Pilots managed a score in the 97th minute, ending the overtime game as a 1-0 Portland win for the Trojans’ first shutout loss in 13 games. Massro and Kristin Olsen shared time at goalkeeper in the loss.

SCOUTING SANTA CLARA: The No. 12 Broncos are 2-1-0 overall after beating No. 10 West Virginia 2-1 in double overtime and falling 2-0 to No. 5 Notre Dame last weekend. Kendra Perry is Santa Clara’s top scorer so far this season with two goals. Jerry Smith is in his 20th season as head coach at Santa Clara. USC is 3-1 all-time against Santa Clara, having won the past three meetings in shutouts. The latest was a USC upset of the Broncos, as the Trojans ended a long stretch of deep NCAA runs by Santa Clara with a 1-0 overtime win in the 2006 NCAA First Round. Santa Clara win in the series was a 2-1 decision in 2000.

SCOUTING ALABAMA: The Crimson Tide opened the season 1-0-1, tying Memphis 1-1 and beating Jacksonville State 3-0 last week. Victoria Frederick leads Alabama in scoring with two goals so far. Todd Bramble is in his first season as head coach at Alabama. This will be the first-ever meeting between the Crimson Tide and USC.

TAKE TWO: 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 is now two wins away from the century mark, holding a career coaching record of 98-44-8 after USC’s split in Portland.

BACK AT IT: USC’s season opener marked a return to action for two tough and talented Trojans who were sidelined by knee injuries in 2007. Meagan Holmes and Nini Loucks both got starting nods against San Diego. Holmes, who is playing as a redshirt junior, went the full 94 minutes on the back line, while Loucks wreaked havoc up front for 38 minutes. Loucks’ 2007 injury came too late in the season to redshirt, making her a senior this year. Holmes has played every minute of the Trojans’ first three games, and Loucks recently tallied her fourth career game-winning goal with a score at Portland State for USC.

ALL GROWN UP: Back in 2005, USC welcomed a class of 11 freshmen to the fields of Troy. Three injury redshirts and two departures later, that class — considered the No. 1 incoming class in the nation — stands at six. Entering their fourth season at Troy are seniors Janessa Currier, Kelley Finch, Nini Loucks, Ashley Nick, Amy Rodriguez and Stacey Strong. The three 2005 newcomers sidelined by injury are Brittany Massro and Marihelen Tomer (redshirted 2005) and Meagan Holmes (redshirted 2007). All told, that initial 2005 freshman class has scored 62 goals and had 37 assists as a group since setting foot at Troy.

GOLDEN A-ROD: Already a 2007 NCAA champion, senior Amy Rodriguez captured an Olympic gold medal in Beijing as a member of the United States Olympic Team. A first-time Olympian, Rodriguez was an unwavering spark on the front lines throughout the Games. In the final against Brazil, it was Rodriguez who set up the game-winning goal from Carli Lloyd, slipping a pass back to Lloyd for the assist on the golden strike. Rodriguez started all five wins with the United States and averaged 84 minutes a game, finishing with one goal and two assists. Rodriguez is USC’s first-ever women’s soccer Olympian and the first USC soccer player to medal in the Games. Her gold-medal win in Beijing helped to bring USC a grand total of 21 medals in Beijing — 10 of which were gold.

LOOKING FRESH: In addition to returning 10 starters from the 2007 lineup, the Trojans have nine new faces on the roster for 2008. In the season opener at San Diego, three new freshmen saw time on the field. Carly Butcher, Ashley Freyer and Brittany Kerridge all got in as subs for their Trojan debuts on August 22. Kerridge was the first of the group to get a start, having started in the midfield at Portland State and Portland.

ROAD TESTED: USC opened 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. To date, USC’s lone loss of the year is a 1-0 overtime loss at No. 6 Portland.

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.

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.

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.

GOALKEEPERS: 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.

DEFENDERS: 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.

MIDFIELDERS: 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.

FORWARDS: 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.

 

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