USC women’s soccer team trying to reverse fortunes against UCLA

On Dec. 7, 2007, the USC women’s soccer team defeated UCLA 2-1 in the NCAA semifinals on its way to the program’s first national championship. That win, however, represents USC’s only victory against the Bruins in the last 11 games of the crosstown series.

The Women of Troy are 3-17-1 all time against UCLA, including a pair of losses to their rivals last season.

“It’s a step the program needs to take,” USC coach Ali Khosroshahin said about beating UCLA.

Doing that will be no easy task again this season, with the Bruins (14-2-1, 5-1) entering Friday night’s nationally televised match ranked No. 3 in the nation.

No. 18 USC (12-5, 4-2) will have to first contend with a trio of dangerous Bruin attackers.

Senior forward Lauren Cheney, who has played 16 games for the United States women’s national team including three games at the 2008 Olympics, is a three-time first-team All-American and has nine goals and six assists on the year.

Sophomore forward Sydney Leroux is tied for second in the Pac-10 with 15 goals on the season and senior forward Kristina Larsen has added eight goals.

“They’ve got a ton of great players,” USC senior goalkeeper Kristin Olsen said.

UCLA has won 14 of their last 15 games, the only blemish being a 2-0 road loss to No. 1 Stanford.

USC sits in fourth place in the Pac-10, two spots behind the Bruins, after a weekend split at home with the Oregon schools.

Khosroshahin was pleased with his team’s improved effort in Sunday’s 1-0 win over the Ducks but still thinks his team can play better.

“We have to play smarter,” Khosroshahin said. “If we don’t play smarter, it’s going be a difficult match.”

USC will rely heavily on Olsen, an All-American between the pipes. Olsen has been named Pac-10 Player of the Week twice this season and leads the Pac-10 with 80 saves, 30 more than her closest competitor.

“She’s a huge player for us,” redshirt senior defender Meagan Holmes said. “Every game she comes up big for us and I can always count on her back there.”

Junior midfielder Alyssa Dávila will be counted on to lead the Women of Troy offense against a stout Bruins back line. Dávila leads USC with nine goals and is tied for the team-high in assists with four.

Looking to change up his team’s fortunes after an upset loss to Oregon State last Friday, Khosroshahin inserted Dávila into the starting lineup against Oregon. The move paid off as she scored what proved to be the game-winning goal less than eight minutes into the match.

The Women of Troy understand the importance of the rivalry with the Bruins, but they say they’re treating it like any other game.

“We’re just going to play our game and not change anything for them,” Holmes said.

“Big rivalry,” Dávila added. “But we’re just looking forward to taking care of business.”

Friday’s game will kick off at 7 p.m. at UCLA’s Drake Stadium, the site of UCLA’s 1-0 win in the NCAA tournament round of 16 that ended USC’s season a year ago.