Trojans look to prove '07 title run was no fluke
If opponents hope to find a complacent USC team this season but instead limp off worse for the wear after playing the defending national champion, blame the White House.As the Women of Troy discovered, winning the first national championship in program history -- and the first women's soccer title for any Pac-10 school -- will get you invited to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. for a ceremony honoring NCAA champions.
Having your fellow classmates and athletes and everyone on campus say, 'Oh, you play soccer; you guys had a great season last year.' ... Football here is usually known as being the national championship team, and it's kind of cool to have it our way.
Junior Marihelen Tomer put home the winner in overtime against the Toreros and is one of a host of attacking talents on a team with potential well beyond last season's modest 1.83 goals per game. Tomer, Megan Ohai and Ashli Sandoval, in particular, appear capable of emerging as prolific point producers, and it's not insignificant that Tomer came up with the goal her team needed while without senior Amy Rodriguez.USC is a significantly more dynamic offensive team and a stronger championship contender with Rodriguez in the lineup, where she soon should be again after returning from a wildly successful year with the U.S. national team that culminated in five starts and a gold medal in the Olympics. But spending the spring and summer without her wasn't necessarily a bad thing for a team still loaded with sophomores and juniors on the upswing of the learning curve. "Amy is such a huge part of our team, and having her gone was a little different," Olsen said. "But now we're used to not having her, and so I think once we get her back, hopefully we'll be able to utilize what she's learned with the national team. We can only get better with her." And for all the offensive fireworks Rodriguez provides and all the potential around her in the attacking half of the field, USC at its core was a defensive success story during its run to the title. Facing two of the nation's highest-octane offenses in the College Cup against UCLA and Florida State, Olsen and her back line allowed just one goal in three hours of soccer. That goal by the Bruins was the only one USC allowed throughout the entire NCAA tournament. All told, despite injuries that left the defense unsettled through the opening month, the Women of Troy allowed just 13 goals in 25 games. "A lot of it has to do with team chemistry," Olsen said. "When you have a relationship with your back four and you have that trust in people and they have trust in you. We get along together really well off the field and on the field. The whole combination of everything, it just came together for us."
Graham Hays is a regular contributor to ESPN.com. E-mail him at Graham.Hays@espn3.com.