No. 21 USC Back In Rankings For Final Pac-10 Home Stand

Nov. 1, 2005

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THIS WEEK: The Trojans are back home this week for their final pair of Pac-10 games. USC hosts Arizona State at 2 p.m. on Friday (Nov. 4) and No. 23 Arizona at 1 p.m. on Sunday (Nov. 6). The three teams are currently locked in a tie for third place in the Pac-10 standings with 13 points at 4-2-1.

RANKINGS: USC (10-5-2, 4-4-1 Pac-10) popped back into the national rankings this week, taking its highest rank at No. 21 by Soccer America, and is also ranked No. 23 by Soccer Times and No. 28 by SoccerBuzz. Arizona State (9-6-3, 4-2-1) in unranked this week, and Arizona's (9-5-3, 4-2-1) highest national ranking is at No. 23 in a pair of polls.

LAST WEEK RECAP: The Trojans split games on the road last week. On Friday (Oct. 28), USC won its fourth straight game with a thrilling 1-0 road win over then-No. 17 Stanford. With scoreless play threatening to extend the game into overtime, USC finally broke through with another late-game goal. This one came in the 87th minute of play after Amy Rodriguez served up a strong cross to Nini Loucks, who trapped it down and drilled in her first game-winner for the Trojans and the latest score of the season for USC. That 1-0 victory marked USC's ninth shutout overall this season, and the eighth complete shutout for goalkeeper Veronica Simonton. It was also the fourth straight game where the Women of Troy had scored in the final six minutes of play. Two days later at California, USC broke from its late-game scoring theme and knocked in a goal in the 17th minute of play -- the first time all season that the Bears had surrendered a first-half goal. Rosa Anna Tantillo and Rodriguez teamed up for USC's opening score, with Tantillo registering her ninth season assist and Rodriguez tallying her seventh goal -- both team highs. Although USC held onto that lead well into the second half, Cal managed a pair of goals within four minutes of each other to snatch back the lead. The foul discrepancy in the game (17-9) was a frustrating factor for the Trojans, who also had a powerful late shot attempt from Tantillo slam off the post in the final two minutes of play.

LATE-GAME HEROICS: Stanford was the fourth straight team to befall USC's scrappy second-half pressure. Against the Cardinal, the Women of Troy took it down to the wire for their latest score of the season. At the 87:38 mark, Nini Loucks put away her first game-winning goal after a swift trap and strike to the back of the net off a cross from Amy Rodriguez. USC has now scored during the final 10 minutes of six games this season -- all victories -- and twice during the 87th minute (vs. Washington State and Stanford).

TOP HEAVIES: USC's freshman/junior tandem of Amy Rodriguez and Rosa Anna Tantillo have combined for a load of points for the Women of Troy and are ranked No. 6 and No. 10, respectively, in the conference for points per game. With goal and an assist over the weekend, Rodriguez remains the team leader in goals (7) and points (21). Junior captain Tantillo is right in stride, boasting a team-high nine assists (one over the weekend) along with four goals and 17 points. Fiery freshman Rodriguez has managed to dish up either a goal or an assist in the past four games and 12 out of USC's 16 games this season. Against then-No. 9 California, the duo teamed up for the USC's opening goal, with Tantillo serving up the assist on Rodriguez's goal in the 17th minute of play to boost Rodriguez's team-best points total up to 21 on the season and keep Tantillo as the undisputed assists leader with her ninth of the year. Freshmen Stacey Strong and Nini Loucks are next in the Trojans' points production with 10 points each.

OFFENSE ON: The Women of Troy had their 10-game scoring streak snapped on the road with a 0-0 tie against Oregon State on Oct. 14, but their production at home has been strong. Since failing to score in their home opener against Florida State, the Trojans have scored 15 goals in their past five home victories. Overall, 13 different Trojans have hit the back of the net this season, and nine have now done it at least twice. USC is No. 1 in the conference with 2.06 assists per game and is second with 1.94 goals per game.

DEFENSES UP: Before coming up against the potent Penn State offense on Sept. 11, the Trojan defense -- with sophomore goalkeeper Veronica Simonton in the cage -- tacked up three straight shutout wins. The last time the Trojans had achieved such a string of victories was in 2001 with three straight 1-0 decisions during Pac-10 play. Against UCLA on Oct. 7, Simonton faced a whopping 24 Bruin shots, and came away with a career-high 11 saves in the tough 3-2 double-overtime loss. Simonton and her defense have now combined for eight shutouts this season and have allowed just one goal in the past three games.

COMEBACK KID: It had been a while since the Trojans have staked a come-from-behind effort like they did against Oregon on Oct. 16. On Sept. 24, 2004, USC fell behind to St. Mary's and fought back to win in the 67th minute -- thanks to a game-winner from Rosa Anna Tantillo. Over a year later, it was Tantillo again who staked the Trojans to a turnaround. On Oct. 16, after the Ducks put the Women of Troy in a 1-0 hole, Tantillo managed a tying score in the first half and then tacked up her second goal of the the game-winning goal in the 87th minute of play. A week later, Tantillo punched in her 10th career game-winner by breaking a 1-1 tie with Washington to win in the 84th minute of play on Oct. 23.

TANTILLO TERRITORY: Junior midfielder Rosa Anna Tantillo continues to climb the USC charts. Her 14th career assist against California on Oct. 30 helped bump the team captain to 17 points on the season and 54 career points to hold her at No. 6 all-time at USC. Even more impressive is Tantillo's game-winning goal tally, which ballooned to 10 career game-winners with her score against Washington on Oct. 23 to lock Tantillo at No. 3 in the Trojan history books. And with her assist against California on Oct. 30, Tantillo -- USC's 2004 scoring leader -- improved her single-season assist total to nine to beat out current assistant coach Isabelle Harvey's assist mark set her junior season onfield for the Women of Troy. The single-season mark locks Tantillo in the all-time top 10 with the fifth best total. At this pace, Tantillo is on track to launch herself past Harvey's other single-season assist marks of 12 and 11 set during her career on the field for the Women of Troy. Now with 14 career assists, Tantillo still has some catching up to do to reach Harvey's historic top mark of 39 career assists.

GONE IN 16 SECONDS: Tracy Lansing's goal against Georgia on Sept. 16 marked a new school record for the fastest goal scored in a game. Just 16 seconds into play, Lansing finished off a pass from Amy Rodriguez, who received an early feed from Stacey Strong, eclipsing the previous fastest mark of 36 seconds set in 2003. In USC history, the Trojans have scored in the opening minute of play four times (2005, 2003, 1998, 1997).

ARIZONA STATE NOTES: The Sun Devils (9-6-3, 4-2-1) beat Arizona 2-1 in their only game last week to pull into a three-way tie with the Wildcats and the Trojans at No. 3 in the Pac-10 standings. USC is 7-2 all-time against Arizona State. The Sun Devils won last year's meeting 1-0 to end a six-year Trojan winning streak. Arizona State returns eight starters and 16 letterwinners from last year's team that went 8-9-2 overall and 4-3-2 in Pac-10 play to finish tied for fourth. Ray Leone is in his fifth year as head coach at Arizona State. Elizabeth Bogus is the team's leading scorer with 11 goals on the season.

ARIZONA NOTES: The Wildcats (9-5-3, 4-2-1) lost to Arizona State 2-1 in their only game last week to pull into a three-way tie with the Sun Devils and the Trojans at No. 3 in the Pac-10 standings. USC is 8-3 all-time against Arizona, with the Wildcats winning the past two meetings, including last year's 3-0 decision. Arizona returns nine starters and 15 letterwinners from last year's team that went 15-6 overall and 6-3 in Pac-10 play to finish tied for first in the conferece before reaching the NCAA first round. Dan Tobias is in his third year as head coach at Arizona. Mallory Miller leads the Pac-10 in scoring with 17 goals on the season.

GALLEGOS GETS GOING: After being sidelined for the start of the 2005 season, senior transfer Leah Gallegos has jumped right back into her position as an impact player in the front lines. Gallegos set numerous records at Flordia State before tearing her ACL and then choosing to come back home to Los Angeles for her senior season. She got her first start and first goal of the season against Long Beach State on Sept. 27. Since then, Gallegos was in the starting lineup for three straight games and made a distinct impression on opposing defenses last weekend with another goal and assist against Washington State and Washington, respectively.

LECHE LIGHTS IT UP: Jocelyn Leche took another step up in the USC history books with a Sept. 18 game-winning goal on her perfect corner kick score against Oakland. The goal marked her third career game-winning score -- good enough to lift her to the ninth-best total on the USC career leaderboard.

STRONG MOVES: With her goal just 78 seconds into the game against UCLA on Oct. 7, freshman midfielder Stacey Strong moved up to tie with fellow freshman Amy Rodriguez as the team scoring leaders with four goals apiece. That goal was Strong's fourth in the past five games, and Strong continued her effective play on Sunday (Oct. 16) with her second assist of the season against Oregon. Strong has served up either a goal or an assist in six of the past eight games.

STARTING FRESH: Six freshmen have stepped in with starting roles in their first seasons as Women of Troy. Five -- Meagan Holmes, Nini Loucks, Ashley Nick, Amy Rodriguez and Stacey Strong -- got starting nods in the season opener.

2005 SEASON PREVIEW: The 2005 Women of Troy are a dynamic blend of veteran players and new talent. The Trojans' 12 newcomers were heralded as the top recruiting class in the nation, joining a core of veteran talent including junior leading scorer Rosa Anna Tantillo, senior defenders Hillary Schwarzbach and Jocelyn Leche and sophomore goalkeeper Veronica Simonton. New to the USC coaching staff is four-time All-American Isabelle Harvey, who completed her Trojan playing career in 2000. Headlining the group of incoming talent are a pair of freshmen with U.S. national team experience -- forward Amy Rodriguez and defender Meagan Holmes -- and Florida State transfer Leah Gallegos. The returning talent and fresh faces have already commanded the respect of the powers that be, as the Women of Troy have racked up a No. 18 national ranking and the No. 2 pick in the Pacific-10 Conference coaches poll.

McALISTER FIELD: Beginning with the 1998 season, the USC women's soccer team no longer had to share a practice field with the football team, as the Women of Troy received a field all their own. USC played part-time on McAlister and the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum until 2002, when the team began playing all its home games at the new facility. USC boasts an 25-10-5 (.688) record at McAlister Field.• • •LAST SEASON: In 2004, the Women of Troy missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time in seven years after finishing tied for 8th in the Pac-10 with a 3-6-0 record. USC won five straight games in September and October, but lost its last four conference games to finish at a 9-9-1 overall mark.

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