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College soccer

Women's College Cup

Opportunisitic goals, stellar defense lead Southern Cal past Florida State 2-0 for national crown.

Kristin Olsen
Southern California goalkeeper Becky Olsen, named Women's College Cup "Most Outsanding Player," makes one of her two saves while Florida State striker Mami Yamaguchi (11) lurks.
-- University of Southern California web site photo --

COLLEGE STATION, Texas (Sunday, December 9, 2007) -- The first time was a charm for Southern California. The ninth-ranked Women of Troy, who had not advanced beyond the second round of the NCAA Division I tournament in eight previous visits, used resourceful goals by sophomore striker Marihelen Tomer and junior defender Janessa Currier to blank No. 14 Florida State 2-0 in the Women's College Cup title match before 8,255 this afternoon at Texas A&M's Aggie Soccer Stadium.

With two saves, USC goalkeeper Kristin Olsen recorded her fifth clean sheet in six tournament matches as the Women of Troy (20-3-2) outscored tournament opponents 10-1. The performance by USC, which did not concede a goal in 16 of its 2007 outings, was even more impressive given Florida State (18-6-3) led Division I with 81 goals, an average of 3.0 per match.

"We were fortunate to finish a couple of opportunities today," USC coach Ali Khosroshahin said. FSU is "an excellent team, with an excellent coach, an excellent program. I hope it was an entertaining game. I was too busy yelling and screaming to notice if it was or if it wasn't."

An FSU defensive miscue allowed Southern California to go ahead 1-0 with 24:45 elapsed. USC junior defender Stacey Strong sent a long cross from the right sideline to the far post. Seminoles freshman midfielder Marissa Kazbour mis-kicked her attempted clearance and had the ball loop backward over the outstretched arm of leaping freshman goalkeeper Erin McNulty off the top of the crossbar. Tomer was perfectly positioned to head the rebound high into the center of the net over the head of jumping sophomore defender Becky Edwards from point-blank range.

"I just saw the rebound come off the post and I just said, 'I'm going to hit it on the head.' " Tomer said of her fifth goal of the season. "We talk about using our heads in the box and if you use your head, you're going to score goals. So that was my first instinct, to just hit it as hard as I could with my head. It wasn't very hard, but it went in."

Tomer nearly doubled the lead less than a minute later when she sent a 15-yard blast off the crossbar after freshman defender Ashli Sandoval's left-side cross squirted through a crowd in the box.

FSU confusion in back also allowed the Women of Troy to polish off the match with a late tally. Sandoval's left-side corner kick was headed onto the near post by Currier for what should have been an easy save, but McNulty became tangled with her defender Rachel Lim, guarding the post. The rebound dribbled to Currier for an easy conversion high into the net for a 2-0 advantage with 14:58 remaining.

The defensive errors left the Seminoles to rue what might have been. "I think it was just little miscommunications, maybe," Edwards said. "On the first goal, the ball comes off the crossbar and the girl gets lucky and heads it in. I think we were in good shape. On the second goal, we weren't as precise in defending."

The few remaining Seminole hopes for a late comeback were erased in the 83rd minute when senior defender Libby Gianeskis was sent off with a red card. Sandoval had slipped behind the Seminole defense and had a breakaway down the middle before Gianeskis took her down from behind 30 yards from net.

Though FSU entered having scored nearly twice as many goals as the Women of Troy (81-45), it was USC what attacked more persistently, outshooting the Seminoles 18-11. While McNulty made four saves, Olsen needed only the pair for her shutout.

The Women of Troy did an excellent job of shutting down the Seminoles' potent attacking duo of junior Mami Yamaguchi (24 goals) and freshman Sanna Talonen (18), the tournament leader with eight goals. Each had a goal and an assist in Friday's 3-2 semifinal decision over Notre Dame, but neither managed a shot on goal today, with Yamaguchi limited to three total shots and Talonen one.

"They had really skilled players up top," said Olsen, who was named the tournament's "Most Outstanding Player." "We mainly talked to our backs and made sure we didn't give them any space to turn and shoot, not giving them any chances, giving them half-chances and I think that helped a lot. I think we prevented a lot of shots on goal."

FSU's best attempt came in the 47th minute when Lim stepped just inside the box and drilled a shot that Olsen just managed to tip over the crossbar.

"Our kids fought, created good opportunities at different times of the game. And when we did that, their back line was pretty solid and the goalkeeper was quite good as well," said FSU coach Mark Krikorian, who had led his side to the final four in each of his three years in Tallahassee, but came up empty in his first championship game. "This is a funny game. You can appreciate some days are yours and some days are not yours, and I think maybe today was not our day. A lot of that goes to the quality of USC, the organization of the team, their individual talent as well, and outstanding coaching. We're disappointed the result wasn't in our favor, but we understand that's how this game goes."

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