In its first three games this season, the USC women’s soccer team (2-1, 0-0) has seen six of its eight goals scored by freshmen. The statistic not only bodes well for the team as it enters a difficult stretch, but also for future seasons.
“A lot of the credit has to be given to the freshmen,” senior forward/midfielder Samantha Johnson said. “They’ve all just come in wanting to learn everything, and we as veterans are learning from them, too. We have great teamwork going on.”
Off to their best start since the 2008 season, USC has a busy weekend ahead, as it hosts No. 4 Duke and San Diego at the USC Fútbol Classic on McAlister Field.
Coming off their 4-1 loss last weekend against Minnesota, USC seeks to rebound against the Blue Devils on Friday at 4 p.m. The game will be televised on the Pac-12 networks, as the Women of Troy will appear on the station for the second time in four games.
“Right now, a key thing for us is focus,” USC coach Ali Khosroshahin said. “With a team like Duke, it is important to keep the eye on the ball and not have any mental lapses.”
Duke boasts a 2-1 record heading into the match after suffering a 3-2 overtime loss to No. 20 Florida last weekend. The Women of Troy and Blue Devils have faced off only once before in 1999, where USC bested Duke 2-0.
The schedule does not ease up Sunday when USC squares off against San Diego at 2 p.m.
The Toreros drew their record to 2-2 after two wins last week, beating No. 12 Texas A&M 1-0 and Minnesota 3-2 — a team that beat USC by three goals.
“In order to succeed this weekend, ball possession will be incredibly important,” Khosroshahin said. “We have to take care of the ball in key game moments. That’s something that the team has been working on a lot.”
USC has seven newcomers in the starting lineup — six of whom are full-time starters.
Towering at 5-foot-9 and 6-foot-1, respectively, freshman forward Jamie Fink and freshman defender Erin Owen have been stout defenders, supporting senior defender Kristina Noriega in the back line.
“[Fink] and [Owens] are doing very well,” said Khosroshahin. “They’re eager and have been working hard.”
Key players have also emerged on offense.
In her first season at USC, junior midfielder Jordan Marada has been a valuable asset. Coincidentally, the transfer from Saint Mary’s scored her first goal for USC against her former school during USC’s 4-1 home opening win.
“In terms of attack, [Marada] has been a standout so far,” Khosroshahin said.
Despite the uptick in competition and the need for continued development from its newcomers, USC is not altering its mindset.
“We look at every game as a big game,” Johnson said. “We take care of our bodies, come in with a good mindset so that we’re refreshed and ready to take on the competition when the weekend comes.”