No. 1 USC Plays Host To No. 2 Stanford and No. 9 San Jose State
March 8, 2006
THIS WEEK: The top-ranked Women of Troy face their toughest home match so far this season when No. 2 Stanford comes to town for the third face-off between the two teams this year. The Trojans face the Cardinal at 5 p.m. on Thursday (March 9) at McDonald's Swim Stadium. USC has another match against a top-10 team the following day with a 5 p.m. battle against No. 9 San Jose State on Friday (March 10).
RANKINGS: USC (14-0, 3-0 MPSF) remains the nation's top-ranked team for the fourth straight week. Stanford (11-2, 5-0) continues to sit in the No. 3 slot, and San Jose State (6-8, 2-2) is ranked No. 9.
WEEKEND RECAP: The No. 1 Women of Troy grabbed a little more momentum for the 2006 season by steamrolling their undefeated record to a hefty 14-0 with a pair of home-pool victories. Moriah Van Norman pumped in four goals against No. 18 Cal State Northridge to lead the Trojans to a 14-5 win over the Matadors on Friday (March 3). USC's defense stayed stubborn once more the following day, while the Trojan offense took care of business for its 11th game in double digits. USC dropped No. 4 Loyola Marymount 10-4 on Saturday behind a hat trick from Van Norman and four saves from Whitney Morgan.
USC VS. STANFORD: USC is 14-12 all-time against the Cardinal after beating Stanford twice already this season during tournament play. The Trojans beat the Cardinal 9-7 in the semifinals of the Stanford Invitational and then won 6-5 in the championship of the Gaucho Invitational this year. Last season, USC beat Stanford twice during the regular season, but lost at the MPSF Tournament and in the NCAA semifinals. This year, the Cardinal is led in scoring by freshman Lauren Silver with 25 goals, and has goalie Meredith McColl in the cage averaging 8.15 saves and 4.08 goals against per game. USC's two wins stand as Stanford's only losses this season, as the Cardinal come off a 5-2 win over UC Irvine and a 14-5 win over Long Beach State.
USC VS. SAN JOSE STATE: USC is 13-0 all-time against the Spartans after beating them 13-4 in the first game of the Stanford Invitational this season. The Trojans beat San Jose State 13-7 in their one meeting last year. Rachel Rhodes leads the Spartans with 18 goals, and goalie Krissy Hansel averages four saves and an MPSF-best 2.21 goals against per game. SJSU beat Long Beach State 9-5 and lost 9-8 in double overtime to UC Irvine last week.
GOODNIGHT AND GOOD LUCK: USC has been taking care of business in the second half so far this season, having locked away big wins now over Stanford and another over UCLA with stingy late-game defense. The Women of Troy didn't give up more than a single goal in the final frame during all four games at the Stanford Invitational, and utilized a third-quarter shutdown technique in the Gaucho Invitational with just two goals allowed during the third period throughout the tourney. In the fourth frame against UCLA, the Trojans pitched a shutout while tacking up a pair of goals of their own to lock away USC's first tournament championship and snap UCLA's 39-game winning streak. In the next title match, the Trojans silenced the Cardinal in the third on the way to a comeback win for USC's second tournament crown of the year.
PATTY'S DAY: Junior Patty Cardenas didn't waste much time proving herself as an impact player in her first year with the Women of Troy. A newcomer from Golden West College whose transfer was kept on hold for a season, Cardenas turned plenty of heads at the Stanford Invitational when she made UCLA heads spin with a four-goal outburst against the Bruins that helped the Trojans clamp down on the tournament championship. For her efforts at the tourney, Cardenas was named MPSF Player of the Week.
MORGAN ON HER MARK: Redshirt freshman goalie Whitney Morgan saw the first action of her Trojan career at the Stanford Invitational. Morgan capped up for all four games and set a high mark for her USC career with 10 saves against Michigan on Feb. 12. She finished the tournament averaging 6.5 saves per game. The very next weekend at Cal, Morgan matched her career mark with 10 saves against the Bears, and a week after that she had set a new high for herself with 12 saves in the Gaucho Invitational championship match against Stanford. She ranks 10th in the nation with 74 saves, and was recently named MPSF Co-Player of the Week folllowing her 35-save performance at the Gaucho Invitational.
SUPER SENIORS: Five Women of Troy are closing out their USC playing careers this season: Alex Lopez, Anna Pardo, Bianca Simonetti, Moriah Van Norman and Lauren Wenger. Lopez and Simonetti both redshirted a season at Troy, but will graduate after the 2006 season. Pardo entered USC as a sophomore from Spain and has been a vital member of USC's gameplan as a staunch defender and powerful scorer with 65 career goals. Van Norman has been USC's go-to player at two meters and sits as the Trojans' top scorer this year and all-time fifth leading scorer with 188 career goals. Wenger was USC's second leading scorer as a junior and boasts 107 career goals.
INTERNATIONAL WATERS: Several members of the 2006 Trojan squad have been spending busy summers well outside the confines of Troy. USC sent four current players to the 2005 World Championships -- three as members of the USA's silver-medalist squad, and one member of Spain's national team. Senior Anna Pardo has played in two world championships with Spain as a mainstay on the Spanish national team, and sophomore Veronika Bartunkova is a member of the Czech Republic's national team. Seniors Moriah Van Norman and Lauren Wenger and junior Erika Figge all helped the U.S. National Team claim silver at this 2005 Worlds. That U.S. threesome as well as junior Brittany Hayes and freshman Kami Craig all continue to train with the U.S. National Team as Team USA works toward a third Olympic medal at the 2008 Games.
VAVIC ON DECK: Head coach Jovan Vavic, one of the top water polo coaches in the country, serves a dual role as the head coach of both the USC men's and women's teams. He has been with the USC women's program since its inception in 1995, and has led his men's and women's teams to national championships twice in the same school year (the men in 1998 and 2003 and the women in 1999 and 2004). In his 11th season at the helm of the men's program, Vavic led the Trojans to the 2005 NCAA championship. His 2006 Women of Troy have an equally good opportunity to grab their third national championship this season. Vavic brings a 250-95 all-time record on the women's side into his the 2006 season -- his 12th as the women's head coach. Vavic pulled a coaching double sweep when he was named 2003 National Coach of the Year and MPSF Coach of the Year for the men and 2004 National Coach of the Year and MPSF Coach of the Year for the women, and he was named 2005 MPSF and National Coach of the Year once again on the men's side following the Trojans' most recent NCAA title. His 2004 women's team became the first team in NCAA Championship history to go undefeated (29-0) during the regular season.
IN THE CARDS: Then ranked No. 2, the Women of Troy started the 2006 season off right by powering its way to the Stanford Invitational championship with a 10-8 win over top-ranked UCLA. The No. 2 Women of Troy clamped down on the Bruins in the fourth quarter, holding UCLA scoreless while punching in two more goals to break an 8-8 tie and nail down the tournament crown. The Trojans were equally effective during group play, as they rolled through all comers to gain momentum for the title match. The Trojans got a powerful start to the Invitational action with a 13-4 win over No. 11 San Jose State in the morning, then notched a 9-7 victory over host Stanford in the afternoon. To close out group play, USC went up against No. 7 Michigan on Sunday morning and took an 8-0 lead in the first quarter to lock away a 16-3 win. Moriah Van Norman and Patty Cardenas each hit high marks during that weekend, as Van Norman punched in four goals against Michigan, and Cardenas matched that output with a four-goal performance against UCLA. The win marks USC's second Stanford Invitational victory. The Trojans last won the tourney crown in 2004 when the Women of Troy went on to win the NCAA Championship.
GET A GAUCHO: The Trojans rolled through the Gaucho Invitational -- which included all 16 of the top-16 teams in the country. Stingy defense and a well-balanced offense were the themes once again for USC, as the Trojans outscored their opponents 47-18 in the tournament. USC opened with a 17-4 win over Brown behind a four-goal game from junior Erika Figge and 10 saves by goalie Whitney Morgan. Next was an 11-4 win over No. 9 San Diego State with a hat trick by freshman Kami Craig to earn USC a place in the semifinals. There, the Trojans faced No. 5 Hawai'i, and posted a 13-5 victory behind another Craig hat trick and eight different scorers for the Trojans. That squared up USC against No. 3 Stanford. The Cardinal caught the Women of Troy off-balance in the first period and took a 3-0 lead, but the Trojans powered back and allowed just two more Stanford goals on the way to a 6-5 win. Morgan tacked up 12 saves in the win, and senior Lauren Wenger led USC with two goals while also doing her fair share on the defensive end in the field. Craig finished the tourney as USC's leading scorer with eight goals, while Figge and Wenger added six each, and senior Moriah Van Norman scored five. Morgan capped up for all four games in the cage and tallied 35 saves in the tournament -- including that career-high 12-save performance against the Cardinal. For her efforts in goal, Morgan was named MPSF Co-Player of the Week -- her first honor and USC's second of the year.