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College soccer: EWU, Zags host mighty Trojans

EWU’s Whitney Brannan was the Big Sky Conference player of the week award winner.
EWU’s Whitney Brannan was the Big Sky Conference player of the week award winner.

The mighty University of Southern California Trojans in Cheney?

It might sound like a major gaffe on the part of some befuddled travel agent, but that’s exactly where USC’s nationally ranked women’s soccer team will be on Sunday when it faces Eastern Washington University in a nonconference match that starts at noon.

The Trojans (5-1-2), who are ranked No. 22 in the latest National Soccer Coaches Association of America poll, will make their first stop in Cheney as part of a two-game road trip that includes a 4 p.m. match at Gonzaga on Friday.

According to USC coach Ali Khosroshahin, the Trojans added the match against EWU as part of a home-and-home series with GU. The Bulldogs traveled to Los Angeles last fall and lost to the Trojans 2-0 at McAlister Field.

“We had promised a return game to Gonzaga,” said Khosroshahin, who took over the USC program in 2007 and became the first coach in NCAA history to lead his team to a national championship in his first year at the school. “Because of the timing and our schedule, we wanted to get another game while we were up there in the Pacific Northwest, and Eastern Washington was the other team that was available.

“We’re really looking forward to making the trip.”

Eastern, 0-7-1and loser of seven straight after Tuesday night’s 1-0 setback to Idaho at Albi Stadium, is 0-1 against USC, having suffered a 2-0 setback in L.A. in 2006.

But having the Trojans at home is a whole different deal – and a massive challenge, according to Eastern coach George Hageage.

“What an incredible opportunity for us to host one of the top teams in the nation,” Hageage said. “Any team in the Top 25, especially one out of the Pac-10 Conference and, in soccer, one out of California, is going to be extremely tough.

“In the Big Sky (Conference), we’ll have players here or there that are of similar quality, but there won’t be an entire team that is quite put together like a USC. I am certainly excited for our squad to see what the top of the top looks like.”

Pamela Parks, an associate athletic director at EWU, checked with other longtime university officials on whether any USC team has been to Eastern’s campus.

“None of them could remember something like this before,” Parks said. “So this is a very special occasion for our soccer team.”

The University of Idaho, 7-2-0 after Tuesday night’s 1-0 win over EWU at Albi, is slotted in the No. 10 spot in the NSCAA’s latest West Region rankings.

It is the first time in school history that the Vandals have been ranked regionally.

“I think it gives a lot of credit to the girls, but it’s just one part of the stepping stones to our goal to do well in the WAC,” Idaho coach Peter Showler said of the ranking. “To be recognized by other coaches is always nice, but the girls should see it as a challenge to now maintain and better it.”

WSU earns break

Washington State, after playing matches on consecutive days for the first time since 1999 and beating host Hawaii and Pepperdine in last weekend’s Outriggers Hotels and Resorts Soccer Classic, doesn’t play again until Oct. 1, when it takes on Gonzaga in Pullman.

“With all the traveling we have done over the last month, it will be nice to get back home,” Cougars coach Matt Potter, said after watching his team capture the Outriggers title with a 1-0 win over Pepperdine on Saturday night. “We had to go deep in our bench this weekend and, hopefully, we can build on our performance of the last two nights.”

Corner kicks

WSU senior goalkeeper Meghan Berlingo recorded her 11th career shutout in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Pepperdine and is tied for third on the Cougars’ all-time list. … Despite finishing 0-2 in last weekend’s Lakeside Classic in Evanston, Ill., Gonzaga’s men placed two players – centerbacks James Partee and Christian Seon – on the all-tournament team. Bulldogs senior forward Nick Love did not play in Sunday’s 1-0 loss to Northern Illinois after suffering a hamstring injury in Friday’s 2-0 loss to host Northwestern. … Five West Coast Conference teams – Portland (first), San Diego (fourth), Loyola Marymount (fifth), Pepperdine (seventh) and Saint Mary’s (eighth) – are among the top 10 in the latest NSCAA’s West Region rankings. The combined record of those West Coast Conference teams is 31-8-5.

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