McAlister Field is a welcome venue this weekend for the road-weary USC women’s soccer team.
After successful consecutive road trips, the Women of Troy will host the Trojan Invitational, which invites three teams—No. 25 Auburn (4-1), Northern Arizona (0-2-2) and Cal State Fullerton (2-2)—to Los Angeles. Continuing their string of nonconference play, the Women of Troy will butt heads with another nationally ranked team, Auburn, Friday at 3:30 p.m. After a one-day respite, the tournament will conclude with a 1:30 p.m. matchup against Northern Arizona (0-2-2) on Sunday.
Despite the recent encouraging road trips, a theme evident in this week’s practices was the need to shoot purposefully and aim for corners. Offensively challenged so far in the early going, the Women of Troy have yet to score more than one goal in any game, and imprecise shooting has foiled many of their scoring chances.
To help the team visualize its shooting targets, coach Ali Khosroshahin stacked three hula hoops vertically on each side of the net during practice, ensuring that all four corners of the net were highlighted for oncoming attackers.
“We need to keep taking care of the ball,” Khosroshahin said. “We were better than we were all year [in that regard] this last weekend. However, the final third part of the field still needs work.”
The fact that the Women of Troy are finally approaching full health bodes well for the rest of the season, especially since they have weathered injuries to key contributors, most notably leading scorer Ashli Sandoval. Unfortunately, as the team continues to welcome back more players from the injured reserve, it lost junior defender Chelsea Buehning for the season to an ACL injury, for which she underwent surgery this past Wednesday.
Although the Women of Troy have yet to earn a top-25 ranking since the first weekend of the season, they are not overly concerned. Instead, they are using this opening deluge of nonconference games to prepare for a challenging conference schedule — a point at which one game can define a season.
“I think it’s good to play all of these games before we start our Pac-10 schedule because it gives us time to work on things,” Butcher said. “We want to get that No. 1 seed in the Pac-10 [postseason] tournament.”
Khosroshahin was more non-committal in his response—adhering to his philosophy of just focusing on his team.
“That’s just the way it’s done,” he said.
Combined with their usually stalwart defensive effort, the Women of Troy plan to put up some crooked numbers this weekend on the McAlister Field scoreboard. If their dormant offense erupts, they will begin to draw the attention of more national poll voters and even the attention of those Pac-10 teams that are discounting the unranked Women of Troy as a serious threat.