Sandoval Looking To Lead Trojans

By Davis Burns

Ashli Sandoval is a senior on the USC Trojan women's soccer team. In her previous 4 seasons, she has been the season assists leader, the points leader, but also suffered a season-ending injury.

But after 4 years at USC, she is back for her redshirt senior year, and is looking to be a major player, but from a different angle of the field.

The USC soccer team is looking to have another stellar season, with a lot of help coming from Sandoval. Returning to the team for her fifth and final season, she is hoping to add a lot of firepower to the defensive end of the field. This is a slight change from the position she had played in her previous seasons.

In her debut as a freshman, she started 23 of the 25 games that she played, and became a major name as she led the team in assists with 11, and she helped her team bring home the national championship.

The following year, she continued to be a leader on the team. She not only continued to rack up assists, but also goals. Sandoval ended the season with six goals and nine assists, leading the team in points, and ranking her No. 5 on the USC career assist leaders.

She was able to have so much success because of how much more comfortable she was playing at the collegiate level.

"I became much stronger going into my second year," she said. "My passes and shots were becoming harder and more accurate."

Looking for a strong start going into her junior year, she was only able to play 5 games before suffering a season ending knee injury. In the fifth game, she tore her ACL. Knowing that her season was over, she took a medical redshirt, which she said "was a tough decision."

"I knew that redshirting a year was the smartest choice," she said.

As a redshirt junior, she appeared in 18 games, and started 12. Rather than staying back and looking to set people up, she became a more dominant shooter. She scored six goals last season, three of which were game-winners, and ended the season with the most points on the team (14).

This season, after receiving her third knee surgery, Sandoval has moved backward on the field to play center back. She is hoping to help her team out from a different angle, and be more of a defensive player, rather than the prominent shooter she was in the previous season. The shift from midfield to center back also gives her more of a chance to be the setup player that she once was, before suffering her injury.

USC is filled with a good roster with a lot of depth, but "the only way that we can continue to win games is if we play like a team," according to Sandoval.

With a majority of the teamwork coming from the passing game, Sandoval is going to be a huge factor for the Trojans. Although soccer is a team sport, a lot of the eyes will be on Sandoval, as she is the only returning starter from the 2007 national championship team. Together, they are looking to bring another title home to USC.

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