Freshmen and transfers bolster USC

A year ago, the USC women’s soccer team went about as low as it could go, suffering through 13 losses — the most for the program since its 1993 season.

Veteran mainstay · Senior midfielder Samantha Johnson, who scored two goals last season, will welcome 20 new teammates in 2012. – Daily Trojan file photo

But after a slew of injuries in 2011, the Women of Troy are back, looking to rebound and get into the national picture.

At points last season, as the losses mounted, it was difficult to believe that USC won an NCAA championship in 2007, a mere 14 years after the program’s creation.

So coming off an uncharacteristically subpar season at 7-13 overall and 4-7 in the Pac-12, the program needed an infusion of young talent — transfers and freshmen. The initial reviews are promising, as this appears to be not only the most talented incoming class USC coach Ali Khosroshahin has ever recruited, but also a group that has heightened the level of enthusiasm surrounding the program.

USC’s dress rehearsal for the 2012 season came in an exhibition match at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo on Aug. 11. Out of a roster of 34 players, 20 wore cardinal and gold for the first time. Showcasing their talent as new players, all three of USC’s goals involved freshmen. The final result was a 3-0 shutout over the Mustangs.

“We’re a really young team, but I think that’s going to be one of our strengths,” said senior midfielder Samantha Johnson. “We’re going to have a lot of fresh legs and that’s a big advantage.”

Entering her fourth season on the team, Johnson has played in almost every position on the field with the exception of goalie. Now the veteran, Johnson leads both on and off the field. With the defensive backfield fortified by new recruits, Johnson will return to her more customary role this season as an attacking player.

“I’m making sure that we’re paying attention to the little details,” Johnson said. “Things like making sure that we’re sticking to the game plan and keeping everyone motivated during hard practices or hard times.”

Though the team is adding depth, USC has seven of its 11 goal scorers from 2011, including top-scoring junior forward Elizabeth Eddy. In 2011, Eddy scored four goals, including two game winners.

“So far, we have been working on team play a lot,” Eddy said. “We’re working on defending a lot but also on possession, and on just working well together.”

The team officially kicked off its 2012 campaign last Friday against Cal State Fullerton, notching a come-from-behind victory, 3-2.

“As a group we’re getting more and more acclimated,” Khosroshahin said. “With 20 new players, obviously it’s going to take some time for everyone to get on the same page, but this group has definitely embraced their roles, and they’re working very, very hard. They’re eager to get out there and represent USC.”