For the USC women’s soccer team, Sunday’s inaugural Pac-12 matchup against Washington State represents a clean slate after a rough beginning to the 2011 season.
Despite entering the season ranked No. 25, the Women of Troy have stumbled out of the gate, compiling just a 3-6 overall through its first nine games. Five of those six losses, however, have been by a one-goal margin, giving USC some reason for hope heading into conference play.
“If we can sort ourselves out here and play with a lot more discipline, I think we’ll be all right,” said USC coach Ali Khosroshahin following his team’s frustrating 2-1 loss to Portland on Sunday. “Hopefully with conference play starting, the ball will bounce our way more than it has been so far.”
USC gets a chance to reverse its fortunes against visiting Washington State at McAllister Field, a team the Women of Troy defeated 3-2 at the same venue last season.
“We expect something different every year,” senior Ashley Freyer said. “We’ll take a look at the scouting report before the game and get an idea of how they’re going to come out. We know they’ll be tough. That’s for sure.”
While USC has found difficulty winning close games, the Cougars have excelled in such situations and arrive in Los Angeles fresh off a 2-1 double overtime victory over Gonzaga, capping a 6-2-1 non-conference run to begin their season.
“We can’t be too worried about what other teams are doing,” Khosroshahin said. “I’ve always thought that if we play our best game, it doesn’t matter who we line up against.”
Coupled with facing an impressive opponent, the onset of Pac-12 play produces possible temptation for teams to change their style of play. The Women of Troy, however, insist that won’t be the case come Sunday.
“We try and keep a balance between realizing that these games are the most important we have and treating them like any other match,” senior midfielder Brittany Kerridge said. “It’s more about a renewed sense of focus than playing the games any differently or anything like that. The rough start has forced us to do that.”
Despite the setbacks to begin the year, players say they view the beginning of conference play as a fresh start rather than an extra layer of pressure to perform.
“I think we recognize that this is a huge opportunity to turn around the season,” Kerridge said. “I think rather than being scared, we look at it from the standpoint that we have nothing to lose. We’re just going to go out there and treat it as what it is: a great opportunity to do something special.”
Freyer, however, believes the team just needs to keep plugging away.
“We’ve got our heads down doing the dirty work right now,” Freyer said. “We’re getting done what we need to get done. Hopefully we’ll perform on Sunday.”
USC’s match against Washington State is the first of three straight Pac-12 games the Women of Troy will play at home before venturing back on the road in the first week of October. Sunday’s match begins at 1 p.m.