Despite losing three All-Americans to graduation last year, the USC women’s soccer team entered this season ranked eighth in the country and were expected to reload with young talent.
Four games into the season, however, the Women of Troy have a record of 1-3 and have dropped out of the national rankings.
Using a starting lineup featuring six freshmen and sophomores, USC has struggled to find the chemistry and intricate passing game that defined its successes in the past two seasons.
USC coach Ali Khosroshahin, while disappointed with the early season results, understands the growing pains associated with having a young team.
“You have to give each player the opportunity to grow into it,” Khosroshahin said. “You have to stand up and take responsibility when things don’t go well, and I think they’re doing that. I definitely see improvement every time they step on the field.”
The Women of Troy showed flashes of their potential last weekend in their 4-0 rout of Cal State Fullerton. USC struggled again two days later, however, losing 1-0 to Ohio State on a late penalty-kick goal.
“I think with any group that’s young and inexperienced, there’s gonna be mistakes,” USC senior goalkeeper Kristin Olsen said. “I think it would be a little more frustrating if we were older, but because we’re so young we’re trying to figure it out. But it’s getting better and that’s what counts.”
USC’s young players will have a chance to continue to improve this weekend when the Women of Troy take on Gonzaga and Michigan at McAlister Field.
The Zags come into their Friday match against USC with a 3-1 record. Redshirt Midfielder senior Lori Conrad leads the team with three goals while junior midfielder Sheridan Jones has three assists. Gonzaga did lose to USC’s Pac-10 rival Washington State 3-0 last week.
Michigan is 3-3 on the season and will face Cal State Fullerton Friday before they take on the Women of Troy on Sunday. The Wolverines scored a combined eight goals in wins last week against Central Michigan and Eastern Michigan. Midfielder Jackie Carron leads the team with two goals and three assists.
USC could get a boost this weekend in the form of All-American defender, redshirt senior Meagan Holmes, who may return this weekend from an ankle injury suffered earlier this season. Junior Ashli Sandoval, who led USC in points last season, has filled in for Holmes in defense and will be allowed to return to her normal position in the midfield if Holmes is able to play.
“We’d love to have Ashli in the midfield,” Khosroshahin said. “But we need other players to step into those roles and perform.”
USC’s game against Gonzaga kicks off at 3 p.m. on Friday, while Sunday’s contest against Michigan is set for a noon start time.