USC Is Utah-Bound To Open NCAA Tournament

Nov. 11, 2008

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THIS WEEK: USC is bound for its fourth straight NCAA Tournament this week after securing a No. 4 seed into this year's postseason action. The defending national champs open their 2008 tournament campaign in Provo, Utah, as the Trojans (15-4-1) pay a visit to the BYU campus for the 2008 NCAA First and Second Rounds. USC will face Boston University (15-5-1) in a first-round clash at 4 p.m. MT on Thursday (Nov. 13). An at-large team into this year's tourney, fourth-seeded USC also will be joined by host BYU (17-5-0) and Virginia Tech (10-8-4), who face off in the other first-round match in Provo. The NCAA Second Round game will be held at 12 p.m. MT on Saturday (Nov. 15) between Thursday's winners.

RANKINGS: Ranked No. 1 in the national preseason polls as the defending national champion, USC now ranks highest at No. 8 according to the final NSCAA poll, and is No. 9 according Soccer America, No. 10 in SoccerBuzz. BYU ranks highest at No. 20 according to Soccer America. Virginia Tech ranks highest at No. 25 according to NSCAA and Soccer America. This week's SoccerTimes poll has not yet been released.

NCAA NOTES: This is USC's 10th trip to the NCAA Tournament, in which the Trojans are now 10-8 overall after last year's run to the NCAA Championship. USC's 2007 national championship was the first-ever in program history, as the Trojans became the first Pac-10 school to win a women's soccer NCAA title. Before claiming the 2007 NCAA crown, USC had yet to break through the NCAA Second Round. This season, USC has been ranked in the nation's top 10 throughout the year. The Trojans have come up against eight other teams now bound for the postseason, going 4-3-1 against those tournament teams: beating Georgia, San Diego, California and Washington; falling to top seeds Stanford and UCLA and No. 2 seed Portland; and tying Washington State.

THIS TIME LAST YEAR: In 2007, USC earned its highest ever seeding in the Tournament -- coming off 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 in which USC took a 14-3-2 overall record into the 2007 NCAA Tournament before emerging with five more shutouts, a program-record 20-3-2 overall record and the 2007 national championship.

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 Semifinals def. UCLA 2-1 Championship def. Florida State 2-0

LAST WEEK: USC rounded out the regular season with a pair of Pac-10 road wins last weekend, notching 1-0 victories over Oregon and Oregon State. Amy Rodriguez delivered in the 43rd minute at Oregon off a pass from Kelley Finch, while USC goalkeeper Kristin Olsen gathered in five saves to back up a stingy Trojan defense. At OSU, the Trojans stayed equally tough on defense. After Megan Ohai put away an early goal assisted in the 13th minute by Ashley Nick and Ashli Sandoval, Olsen and her back line pitched another shutout the rest of the way in a cold game in Corvallis.

SCOUTING BOSTON UNIV.: The Terriers went 15-5-1 during the regular season and earned an automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament as the America East Conference champion. Boston Univ. beat Maine 1-0 and Stony Brook 2-1 during the conference tournament. Marisha Schumacher-Hodge leads the Terriers in scoring with five goals. Nancy Feldman is in her 14th season as head coach at Boston. This is Boston University's fourth straight appearance in the NCAA Tournament and seventh overall. The Terriers lost to Wake Forest 2-1 last year in the NCAA First Round. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and Boston University.

SCOUTING BYU: The Cougars are ranked No. 20 in the nation and hold a 17-5-0 overall record after claiming an automatic bid as the Mountain West Conference champion. BYU beat UNLV 4-0 and Utah 1-0 in the conference tournament. Katie Larkin leads the Cougars in scoring with 10 goals. Jennifer Rockwood is in her 14th season as head coach of the Cougars. This is BYU's 11th appearance in the NCAA Tournament in the last 12 years, having missed the postseason last year. USC is 3-2-2 all-time against BYU, last facing the Cougars in a 2004 tie at McAlister Field. USC's last trip to Provo was in 2003, when BYU got a 2-1 win over the Trojans.

SCOUTING VIRGINIA TECH: The Hokies rank No. 25 in the nation and hold a 10-8-4 overall record after a 4-4-2 finish in the ACC and are making their first-ever trip to the NCAA's 64-team women's soccer tournament. Virginia Tech tied Florida State 0-0 and Virginia 1-1 before falling 3-0 to North Carolina in the ACC Tournament championship game. Emily Jukich leads the Hokies with 15 goals this season. Kelly Cagle is in her seventh season as head coach at Virginia Tech. This would be USC's first-ever meeting against Virginia Tech.

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. Now in 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 (both redshirted 2005) and Meagan Holmes (redshirted 2007). All told, that initial 2005 freshman class has scored 80 goals and had 57 assists as a group since setting foot at Troy. That group has combined for 20 goals and 23 assists during this season.

CROWDED HOUSE: The Coliseum crowd of 7,804 at this year's USC-UCLA crosstown showdown not only stands as the second-largest crowd at any NCAA regular-season women's soccer game, it also marked the largest attendance ever at a USC-UCLA women's soccer match -- beating the crowd that saw USC's 2-1 victory over UCLA in College Station, Texas, last year at the 2007 NCAA semifinal -- and obliterated the previous USC record for attendance at a soccer game. A total of 1,469 fans attended USC's NCAA Third Round match last season in the Coliseum, and 1,199 had packed McAlister in 2006 for that Trojan-Bruin bash. The regular-season NCAA attendance record sits at 8,204.

TAKE TWO: The first-ever soccer head coach to win an NCAA championship in his first season with his team, Ali Khosroshahin has set up his Trojans for year two of high intensity and high standards. With USC's program-record-tying 7-1 win over Alabama on Sept. 7, Khosroshahin earned his 100th career victory as a head coach. His 96-43-8 (.680) overall record entering 2008 already ranks him among the top 30 winningest active coaches with at least five years head coaching experience in NCAA Division I women's soccer.

OFFENSIVE ONSLAUGHT: Entering the NCAA Tournament, the USC offense ranks No. 15 in the nation with an average of 2.4 goals per game. Ten different players have scored so far as the Trojans have outscored opponents 48-16. Seven-goal efforts against Alabama and Cal State Bakersfield tied the program record for single-game scoring, matching outings previously posted in 1993 and 1995. Now with 48 goals scored so far this season, the Trojans have passed up scoring totals from all but two seasons (13 total) in USC's 16-year history. With two goals on the road last weekend, USC bettered last year's count of 47 tallied during the 2007 NCAA title-winning run. USC scored 54 goals in 1996, with the program record standing at 61 goals in 1997 -- which also had been the last time any Trojan had tallied a hat trick in a game until Amy Rodriguez hit three against Cal State Bakersfield on Oct. 2.

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 played every minute of the Trojans' first four games and remained a starter on the back line until an injury to her other knee sidelined her for four games. Loucks tallied her fourth career game-winning goal with a score at Portland State, had her first two-goal game in USC's win over Alabama, and scored her fourth goal of the year against SMU.

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 -- nine of which were gold. Since her return to action at Troy on Sept. 5, USC picked up its scoring pace markedly as a team, with Rodriguez adding eight goals and three assists thanks to the first hat trick of her career on Oct. 2, when she became the first Trojan since 1997 to score three goals in a game.

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. All three scored their first career goals as Women of Troy on the same weekend, with Freyer scoring against Santa Clara and Butcher and Kerridge scoring against Alabama. Butcher and Freyer combined for some important heroics in USC's comeback at Georgia, as Butcher got USC back in it with two second-half goals and Freyer knocked in the game-winner in double overtime. The three onfield regulars have combined for 10 goals and five assists so far this season.

HOME RUN: After going 8-0-1 at home in 2007, USC carried an 11-match unbeaten streak into its 2008 campaign. This year, USC has hosted 11 games -- nine at McAlister Field and two at the Los Angeles Coliseum. A 3-0 win at home vs. LMU bumped that streak up to 15 straight, setting a new program record for USC's home unbeaten streak, which was capped off at 19 straight after the 2-1 loss to UCLA at the Coliseum.

SPEAKING OF STREAKS: USC's program record of 19 straight unbeaten home games isn't the only significant streak set by the Women of Troy this season. With its 3-2 overtime win over Washington on Oct. 10, USC set a new record win streak, topping the previous best set in 1998 by tallying the Trojans' ninth consecutive win. A tie with WSU on Oct. 12 leveled last year's 10-game unbeaten run, and a 2-0 win over Arizona made it an 11-match unbeaten stretch before ASU interrupted things with a 1-0 defeat of the Trojans on Oct. 19.

WATCH THIS: A trio of Trojans are lined up as possible recipients of collegiate soccer's highest honor. The Missouri Athletic Club has named 47 athletes to the Hermann Trophy Watch List for 2008. Amy Rodriguez is joined by fellow senior Ashley Nick and junior Kristin Olsen as candidates for the award. Aside from USC, only two other schools are represented by three players on the Watch List. Olsen also has been named a Preseason All-American by Soccer America. She is joined as a First Team Preseason All-American selection by Rodriguez. All three Trojans already have been named NSCAA All-Americans while at Troy, and the trio combines as powerful representatives from their respective positions on the field. It is the first Hermann Trophy Watch List honor for all three Women of Troy.

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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