After three stellar performances to start the 2013 campaign, the USC women’s soccer team is ready to embark on its longest road trip of the season. The Women of Troy (3-0) will play twice in this weekend’s Minnesota Gold Classic in Minneapolis, beginning with a matchup against undefeated Mississippi on Friday at 2:30 p.m. On Sunday, the squad will take on LSU at 9 a.m.
No. 17 USC is coming off a resounding 4-1 victory over Cal State Northridge last weekend in its home opener. The contest was a solid demonstration of the balance and unselfishness USC has shown on both sides of the ball throughout the young season. These qualities, which the team hopes to continue to develop in Minnesota, have paid dividends for the Women of Troy. The team is now ranked for the second consecutive week, after failing to crack the national rankings all of last season.
Though the Women of Troy have been impressive in their early season games, they have yet to leave Southern California, only traveling as far as San Diego.
But sophomore Jamie Fink, who already has two goals under her belt this year, thinks her team is prepared to face the challenge of long-distance travel.
“The team has prepared really well,” Fink said. “We are constantly working hard and giving 100 percent effort in all practices.”
Fink also believes this type of road trip can prepare her team for the constant road battles they will have to fight during the Pac-12 season.
“Every team we play will prepare us for the Pac-12 season,” Fink said. “Both Ole Miss and LSU are very good, physical teams. They both have good records and we know this will be one of our toughest weekends so far.”
Freshman forward Kayla Mills echoed her teammate’s sentiments.
“We’ve worked really hard,” Mills said. “It’s really important that we hold ourselves to a standard and meet that standard every game.”
The squad’s first matchup of the weekend has the makings of an offensive shootout. USC’s explosive attack, led by reigning Pac-12 Player of the Week Elizabeth Eddy, has put up four goals in each of its first three games. The senior forward has a team-high four goals on the season, including one last week against Cal State Northridge. Not far behind are freshman phenoms Tanya Samarzich and Mills, who, combined, made five goals in their first three collegiate matches.
The Ole Miss (4-0) offense has been formidable as well, recording at least five goals in two separate games while racking up 16 goals in its four matches. The Rebels’ Mandy McCalla has put away five goals so far in the young season.
The Rebels’ defense has played excellently so far, as goalkeeper Kelly McCormick has only let up two goals while recording five saves and three shutouts.
The USC defense, led by junior goalkeeper Caroline Stanley, has been up to the task in allowing four goals, but has yet to record a shutout and will have to work hard to keep the Rebels in check.
In LSU, the Women of Troy face an opponent that cannot be overlooked. The Tigers (2-1-1) have faced a rough early schedule, tying TCU 0-0 and losing valiantly to No. 6 BYU 4-2.
They’ve outscored their other opponents 7-0, with the offense typically getting off to a quick start — eight of LSU’s nine goals this season have been scored in the first half.
Goalkeeper Megan Kinneman has allowed only four goals in four appearances this season, with BYU being the only team to find the back of the net against the Tigers. It will take continued offensive firepower from the Women of Troy’s dynamic frontline to break through the Tigers’ defense.
“The main focus is just to play our game and to never be satisfied with what we’ve done, because we can always improve,” Fink said. “The team is looking forward to this weekend and we are ready to battle and play hard.”