After piling up nine consecutive victories, the No. 9 USC women’s soccer team will face its toughest test yet when they head north this weekend to take on No. 1 Stanford and No. 21 Cal.
The showdowns in the Bay Area, with No. 3 UCLA also set to take on the Golden Bears and the Cardinal, could go a long way in deciding the eventual Pac-10 champion.
The Women of Troy (10-3, 2-0) have recorded shutouts in six of their last seven games and have ridden strong defensive play and timely saves from senior goalkeeper Kristin Olsen to a tie atop the conference standings.
“I think we’re getting comfortable with each other,” Olsen said. “At the beginning of the season we had a lot of people injured and a lot of people switching in and out of the positions. Now we have a good comfortable back four and we’re able to produce more opportunities for our forwards.”
Olsen and the back four will have their hands full on Friday at 7 p.m. in Palo Alto, Calif., with the Cardinal’s dynamic attacking trio of forwards.
Senior forward Kelley O’Hara, a three-time All Pac-10 player, leads the conference with 15 goals on the season, including a hat trick in the Cardinal’s 5-1 romp over Oregon last Sunday.
Junior Christen Press is second in the Pac-10 with 12 goals and leads the conference with 10 assists while sophomore Lindsay Taylor, last year’s Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, has posted four goals and seven assists.
Stanford boasts the nation’s most prolific offense, averaging 3.7 goals per game, and hasn’t been shut out all season.
“I think it’s actually good for us,” junior midfielder Alyssa Dávila said of the test against Stanford. “We have nothing to lose so we can just go up there and play like we can.”
USC will then take on Cal (8-3-1, 2-0) on Sunday at 1 p.m. in Berkeley.
The Golden Bears got back on track last weekend with victories over Oregon and Oregon State, following a turbulent couple of weeks for the Cal women’s soccer program.
After Cal lost 1-0 to Sacramento State at home on Oct. 2, the Golden Bears’ second consecutive loss to an unranked opponent, a reportedly frustrated Neil McGuire resigned as head coach indefinitely.
His sudden announcement left Cal without its coach for their game two days later against Santa Clara, a contest they drew 1-1.
McGuire returned to the team the next day, citing personal reasons and apologizing for his conduct.
“I put myself ahead of our team,” McGuire said in a statement. “I need to be a better coach and mentor and will work towards this goal.”
Last weekend’s two wins seem to have stabilized the situation and Cal looks to be a major player in the conference championship race.
The Golden Bears are led by Alex Morgan, a junior forward that tops the team in both goals (10) and assists (4).
Facing two ranked teams and riding a nine game winning streak, the hype surrounding the USC women’s soccer team is as intense as it’s been all season.
“I don’t care about rankings…the streak, the record — to me that stuff is irrelevant,” USC coach Ali Khosroshahin said. “It’s just about improving. If we improve, the result will take care of itself.”