No. 19 USC Takes On No. 4 UCLA This Sunday

Oct. 10, 2006

THIS WEEK: The Women of Troy have long awaited a win over crosstown rival UCLA, and the No. 19 Trojans have the chance to dish out that upset this week when the No. 4 Bruins come to McAlister Field for a 1 p.m. showdown on Sunday (Oct. 15). USC hasn't lost a game on home turf this season, posting four wins and three ties on the way into this weekend's USC-UCLA clash.

RANKINGS: USC's highest ranking in the national polls this week has the Trojans (7-2-3, 0-0-2 Pac-10) ranked at No. 19 according to Soccer Times, while they sit at No. 21 in the SoccerBuzz poll and have made their first appearance in the SoccerAmerica poll, moving into the No. 24 slot. UCLA (11-2, 2-0) is ranked No. 4 in three national polls.

LAST WEEK: The Women of Troy wound up in two scoreless draws last week on their Pac-10 opening weekend. In Friday's Stanford match, the teams were effective in neutralizing each other's offensive strikes, allowing just a single shot on goal apiece in the game. The first overtime saw the Cardinal gain a dangerous look on goal, but the header went high. USC answered back with a chance on a corner kick, but Stanford cleared out the threat to help hold the teams even for a 0-0-1 start to Pac-10 play. Against Cal on Sunday, USC out-shot the Bears 13-6 during regulation and earned five corner kicks to Cal's one, but Cal's defense was successful in turning away each Trojan strike. Overtime intensity saw the shot count even out at three apiece, although a game-winning goal again stayed out of reach thanks to stubborn defenses on both ends of the field.

SCOUTING UCLA: The Bruins are 11-2-0 overall after a 2-0 start to Pac-10 play, getting a 4-1 win over Cal and a 2-0 win over Stanford last week. UCLA returns nine starters from last year's team that reached the NCAA Championship game and finished 22-2-2 overall after claiming the Pac-10 title with a 7-0-2 record. The Bruins are coached by Jillian Ellis, who is in her eighth season at UCLA. Freshman Lauren Cheney leads UCLA -- and the Pac-10 -- in scoring with 10 goals. USC is 2-14-1 all-time against the Bruins, having lost the past seven games including last year's 3-2 double-overtime loss in Westwood. USC's last win over UCLA was a 5-4 decision in 1998 at home.

LEXUS GAUNTLET UP FOR GRABS: This week's USC-UCLA clash marks the second crosstown showdown between Trojan and Bruin teams in the year-long competition culminating in the 2006-07 Lexus Gauntlet. The Gauntlet challenge incorporates all 18 sports in which USC and UCLA teams face off. This year's competition opened with a Trojan victory in men's water polo in the semifinals of the Northern California Tournament on Sept. 16 and charges on with Sunday's soccer match at UCLA. USC leads the Bruins in the all-time Gauntlet competition after winning the trophy for the third time in 2005-06.

LEADER OF THE PAC: USC leads all conference teams in assists (24 total, 2.0 apg) and on the defensive end in fewest goals allowed (5), goals-against average (0.39) and is tied with in total shutouts with nine. Individually, Rosa Anna Tantillo is the league leader in assists (7) and assists per game (0.58), and Veronica Simonton is the Pac-10's top goalie with an 0.41 goals-against average and with seven solo shutouts.

THE FIRST 15: The Trojans have had some quick starts this season, scoring in the first 15 minutes of action five times. The quickest goal of the year came from the foot of Stacey Strong at the 1:31 mark of USC's eventual 4-0 win over UC Irvine. The momentum of those five early goals has carried USC to wins every time.

WHERE IN THE WORLD IS Amy Rodriguez?: She's back! Sophomore forward Amy Rodriguez missed the first several nonconference matches this year while playing in Russia as a member of the U.S. Under-20 National Team at the FIFA Under-20 Women's World Championship. There, she scored two goals for Team USA -- first with the winning penalty kick against Congo during group play and then in the 90th minute of a 4-1 win over Germany in the quarterfinals. The United States finished fourth in the tournament, and Rodriguez is now back in town full-time for USC. It's been a busy stretch for Rodriguez, who also earned her fifth cap with the U.S. National Team this year while in Portugal at the 2006 Algarve Cup, and helped the under-20 team qualify for worlds earlier this summer. Rodriguez was recently named to the 22-player Soccer America Preseason Women's All-American Team. Her debut return to the USC roster was a strong one, as the sophomore dished out an assist on the game-winning goal and then scored a solo shot of her own in USC's 2-0 win over North Texas on Sept. 10 in Nebraska. She now has two goals and two assist in seven games this year.

SIMONTON SHUTS IT DOWN: After last season's NCAA First Round 1-0 win over Gonzaga, goalkeeper Veronica Simonton locked down a place of her own in the USC history books, standing tall as the single-season shutouts leader with 11 in 2005. In the Trojans' 2-0 win over Harvard on Sept. 3, she catapulted herself into the lead of all USC goalkeepers past and present after notching her 16th career shutout. The effort put her at No. 1 in the USC history books. She's since shared two more shutout victories for USC, and pocketed five more solo shutouts to hold onto seven this season and 21 in her career.

MCKEE MAKES A POINT (OR TWO): Junior defender Laura McKee tallied the first point of her career with an assist on USC's opening goal against UC Irvine on Aug. 27. She later doubled that effort with a second assist on the Trojans' fourth goal in their 4-1 victory.

DEFENDERS DO IT BEST: USC's defense has made history this season by pinning up six straight shutout victories and hold onto a Pac-10-high nine shutouts this year. But the Trojan back line has not just been responsible for stanch defense; two USC defenders also were responsible for tacking up the Trojans' 2-0 win over Eastern Washington. Sophomores Janessa Currier and Meagan Holmes both punched in goals in the victory to secure USC's fourth straight shutout win.

FIRST THING'S FIRST: It took a year, but sophomores Kelley Finch, Janessa Currier and Ashley Nick all registered their first career goals this season. Being as the trio spend the bulk of their time behind the front lines -- Finch and Nick in the midfield and Currier as a defender -- the goal-scoring breakthrough for the group is certainly noteworthy. All three scored off corner kicks this season. Finch scored against Drake on Sept. 8; Currier knocked in the game-winner against Eastern Washington on Sept. 15; and Nick tallied a header against UNLV on Sept. 17.

CHECK YOUR LOUCKS: Just over halfway through the season, sophomore forward Nini Loucks has already bettered her freshman scoring marks. The speedy striker has recorded game-winning goals against Harvard and North Texas, and has drilled a team-high four goals on the year. She finished her freshman campaign with three goals and one game-winner.

TANTILLO KEEPS CLIMBING: Senior midfielder Rosa Anna Tantillo has been a presence in USC's history books ever since being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year. Now in her final year at USC, she continues to rack up points and climb the all-time ladders. With two goals and an assist over the weekend, Tantillo leaped to rank No. 3 all-time in career assists (currently has 21) and hold the fifth-best total for career goals with 23. Her first goal vs. UNLV on Sept. 17 marked the senior's 12th career game-winning goal to rank her No. 2 all-time. And on the points chart, Tantillo's team-high 15 points has ballooned her career total to 71 to hold her at No. 4 in career points. She ranks No. 14 nationally in assists per game (0.70 apg).

PETROSSI ON THE PROWL: True freshman Jamie Petrossi is listed as a forward/midfielder, but she has been a full force on the front lines in her first season at Troy. Petrossi helped fill the temporary void left by last year's freshman sensation Amy Rodriguez while the sophomore spent time with the U.S. Under-20 National Team. Petrossi has been exactly the impact player the Trojans expected. Her speed and skill on the wings has helped open up the attack for USC, and the freshman has peppered the opposing goal with 10 shots so far, so her first career goal can't be far off. She's had a role in three of USC's goals, notching the first point of her USC career with an assist in USC's 2-0 win over Harvard on Sept. 3, and then tallying two assists in a 3-0 win over Drake on Sept. 8.

BROWNIE IS BACK: A facial fracture suffered early in the 2005 season put the skids on a quick and powerful start for forward Lauren Brown. She had scored three goals on just six shots for the Trojans before being sidelined for the majority of the season after her injury on Sept. 11, 2005. Now, Brown is back on the attack, and she already has garnered three goals and three assists for USC this season, including a pair of game-winning goals against UC Irvine and San Diego.

INJURY REPORT: USC has lost two players to season-stopping injuries suffered during preseason practices. Junior defender Kat Stolpa tore her ACL in her left knee. She had endured the same injury to her right knee at the close of her freshman season. Incoming freshman defender Briana Ovbude will redshirt her first season after dislocating her ankle.

2005 RECAP: The Trojans posted a 13-6-2 overall record in 2005 and made a strong statement in the Pacific-10 with a third-place finish on a 6-2-1 record. A program record 12 shutouts along with an all-time low of 20 goals against and only two tight Pac-10 losses propelled USC into NCAA action, where the Trojans picked up a first-round win over Gonzaga before falling in the second round to Cal State Fullerton.

2006 PREVIEW: This season's Women of Troy boasts a roster brimming with 16 returning players, including nine starters. Last year's bumper crop of newcomers now have a big year under their belts and return to Troy as 10 older, wiser and sturdier sophomores. Four seniors and four juniors are in line to guide the Trojans, who have four freshmen added to the roster for 2006. Headlining the charge is returning All-American and Pac-10 Freshman of the Year Amy Rodriguez, who starred on the front lines as a freshman, knocking in a team-leading nine goals and earning 25 points. Rodriguez is just one of several Women of Troy who earned 2005 accolades and are back for more. Now a senior, Rosa Anna Tantillo has been hauling in awards and racking up points for USC for years ever since being named Pac-10 Freshman of the Year herself in 2002. The standout midfielder dished up a whopping 11 assists last season and finished second on the team with 19 points to claim both regional and all-conference honors. Three other Trojans also garnered All-Pac-10 recognition along with Rodriguez and Tantillo, showcasing the versatility and depth coming back to the pitch this year. Meagan Holmes, Nini Loucks and Stacey Strong each hold down a different part of the soccer field, and all three were named to the Pac-10 All-Freshman Team last year. Defender Holmes also racked up All-American honorable mention and was a First Team Freshman All-American. Midfielder Strong received Freshman All-American honorable mention on the national level, and forward Loucks plugged herself onto the All-Pac-10 honorable mention list following a stellar first season at Troy. USC has four seniors on the roster this year. In addition to Tantillo, the Trojan veterans are midfielder Jocelyn Hein, forward Tracy Lansing and team captain, defender Lindsay Parker.

PAC-10 PICK-'EM: In a tight vote by Pac-10 coaches, USC was picked No. 4 in the Pac-10 Preseason Poll. The Trojans received one less vote than No. 3 Stanford in the coaches' poll. Defending conference champion and NCAA finalist UCLA was tabbed the No. 1 team, and California -- last season's second-place finisher in the Pac-10 -- was selected No. 2. USC, which finished out 2005 with a 6-2-1 Pac-10 record to place third in the conference, received one first-place pick and ended with 62 overall points in this season's poll. Stanford was the Pac-10's fourth-place team in 2005, but garnered 63 points to take the edge over the Women of Troy in the 2006 poll. Coming in at No. 5 is Arizona (49 pts) followed by a tie at No. 6 between Oregon State and Washington State (34). In the final three slots are No. 8 Arizona State (23), No. 9 Washington (21) and No. 10 Oregon (17).

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