USC Bests UCLA In NCAA Semifinals|
Dec. 7, 2007
COLLEGE STATION, TEXAS - The USC women's soccer team may have conceded its first goal of the 2007 NCAA Tournament, but it was the Trojans who had the last word in their NCAA Semifinal match against crosstown rival UCLA. The Women of Troy punched in two second-half goals within seven minutes of each other - both off the feet of junior Amy Rodriguez - to clinch a 2-1 win over the top-seeded Bruins and earn USC a ticket to the NCAA Championship game. Second-seeded USC will face No. 3 seed Florida State at 1 p.m. CT on Sunday (Dec. 9) in the national championship game at Aggie Stadium.
USC's record-breaking season seems to know no bounds. The Trojans have more than surpassed their previous record win total of 16, as they now hold a 19-3-2 overall record entering the title match. And that NCAA Second Round barrier that had pinned in the Women of Troy during previous NCAA runs? Blasted three road trips ago. Now with 45 goals scored this season, the Trojans hold the third best scoring tally in program history. In his first season at USC, head coach Ali Khosroshahin has become just the second first-year coach in the history of the NCAA Division Women's Soccer Tournament to take a team to the NCAA final. Notre Dame's Randy Waldrum did it in 1999, but was unable to capture the championship in a face-off with North Carolina.
The Trojans had posted four straight shutouts in the 2007 NCAA Tournament, pulling even with the program record of 14 shutouts. On Friday against the Bruins, USC was scored on for the first time in the tournament, but the 1-0 deficit at halftime did nothing to shake the Women of Troy. A 447-minute scoreless streak by the USC defense may have been snapped, and the Trojans trailed their crosstown rivals going into the lockerroom, but USC made a powerful push in the second half.
UCLA had managed a goal in the 38th minute when Lauren Cheney made a move at the top of the box and slotted a perfect shot to the high right corner to give the Bruins a 1-0 lead. The Trojans adjusted in the second half, and neutralized the UCLA attack. After managing just three first-half shots, the Women of Troy pushed harder in the second. Early in the half, Ashli Sandoval lined up for a free kick after Megan Ohai was fouled outside the box. Sandoval slotted a powerful shot on goal that UCLA goalkeeper was able to just touch over the crossbar to keep UCLA's advantage. USC was unable to finish off the ensuing corner, but did not stop pressuring the Bruin back line. In the 68th minute, USC was able to break through. Sandoval slipped a pass up to Amy Rodriguez, and Rodriguez blew through two defenders to take on Henderson one-on-one. The Trojan junior got a foot on the ball and punched a shot past the Bruin keeper, tallying the tying score for the Trojans with 22.29 left in regulation.
Less than seven minutes later, the Trojans were deep in Bruin territory once more. This time, Sandoval was lined up on the right for a corner kick. She drove the ball across the goal, where freshman Kasey Johnson was able to get a head on it and set up a ball for Rodriguez to finish near the left post. Rodriguez blazed a left-footed strike to the back of the net, lifting USC to a 2-1 lead with 16:05 remaining on the clock.
The Trojans worked hard to control the game the rest of the way. UCLA threatened in the final 10 minutes, getting close to pulling even with 8:50 left when Lauren Cheney pushed a pass up to Kara Lang. Lang bore down on the ball for a one-on-one chance against USC's keeper Olsen, and Olsen smothered the ball for a big stop that helped the Trojans put the finishing touches on a win over the Bruins.
USC 2, UCLA 1
SAVES: Kristin Olsen (USC) 8, Val Henderson (UCLA) 4.
SHOTS: USC 8, UCLA 19
CORNER KICKS: USC 5, UCLA 4.