Riding a season-high seven- game winning streak, the No. 14 USC women’s soccer team begins Pac-10 play this weekend at McAlister Field against No. 20 Arizona State and unranked Arizona.
The Women of Troy (8-3) have outscored their opponents 15 to three during their unbeaten run, feeding off of an improved offensive attack and a young defensive line that has matured with every game.
“After being on the road for so long, the team has grown a lot,” USC coach Ali Khosroshahin said. “We’ve talked to the kids about how much they’ve learned and how much they’ve grown.”
Senior goalkeeper Kristin Olsen’s play has been one of the biggest reasons for the Women of Troy’s recent success. Olsen has posted four shutouts in her last five games and has earned the Pac-10 Player of the Week award twice this season.
“I think every coach in the country would love to have a goalkeeper like Olsen that is good with her feet, can jump from post to post and basically cover any angle on goal,” Khosroshahin said.
“It’s always like ‘Yes, I’m glad she’s on my team,’” added junior midfielder Alyssa Dávila.
Olsen’s success is more impressive when considering that the Women of Troy have featured six different starting defensive lineups in their 11 games, including three different units in their past three contests.
“She keeps us organized,” said redshirt senior defender Meagan Holmes. “I don’t think there’s been one weekend where we’ve had the same backline.”
The return of Holmes, who played her first game last Friday since she suffered a knee injury on Aug. 28, should help solidify a young backline as USC begins conference play.
The Women of Troy will first welcome Arizona State (7-1-2) on Friday at 3 p.m. The Sun Devils are on a streak of their own, having gone unbeaten for seven games since a 1-0 loss to Kansas on Aug. 30.
Arizona State is led by junior forward Karin Volpe, who tops the team with four goals. Volpe had two goals and two assists for the Sun Devils in their last outing, a 4-0 victory over Northern Arizona.
Senior defender Liz Harkin, a three-year starter and an All Pac-10 first team performer a year ago, is the leader of a defense that has allowed only seven goals on the season.
Arizona (3-7-1) will take on UCLA today before facing off against the Women of Troy Sunday at 1 p.m. The Wildcats have struggled in the non-conference portion of their schedule, getting outscored 22-11 by their opponents.
Sophomore forward Renae Cuellar has been a bright spot for Arizona, scoring six goals on the season to lead the team. The Wildcats were picked to finish seventh in the conference in the preseason Pac-10 poll.
USC is 10-3 all time against Arizona State and 11-3-1 overall against Arizona.