MOSCOW, Idaho – A month into the season, the Washington State soccer team was off to a record start and had already equaled its win total from a year ago when the Cougars advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
The success from last fall – when the Cougars shocked No. 8 Central Florida and No. 20 Tennessee before falling to No. 16 Florida in the Big Dance – carried over to this season for a WSU team hungry to build on its success. The result was the first 10-0 start in program history.
“Our success last fall and then our great spring carried us into the beginning of this year, and we got (rolling),” Washington State coach Todd Shulenberger said. “Winning is contagious.”
Now the Cougars (10-2, 3-2 Pac-12) find themselves in a position they haven’t been in all season – trying to bounce back from a disappointing weekend after suffering losses at No. 20 Colorado and Utah last week.
The Cougars – who were the last unbeaten and untied team in the country prior to last week’s road setbacks – must bounce back quickly if they’re going to be ready for a Saturday showdown with No. 2 USC at 7 p.m. at the Lower Soccer Field.
The Trojans are one of five Pac-12 teams ranked in the Top 25 in the United Soccer Coaches poll. Stanford sits at No. 1, UCLA is No. 10, Colorado is No. 16 and the Cougars fell to No. 19. WSU was as high as No. 7 this season.
“This conference is a beast,” Shulenberger said. “It doesn’t matter who you’re playing, home or away, you have to be sharp every game. Unfortunately, we weren’t the sharpest this weekend, so we gotta get back to what we do best here.”
Much of Washington State’s success this season has come via the feet of senior defender Maddy Haro and junior forward Morgan Weaver.
Haro is tops in the Pac-12 and second in the nation with 10 assists on the season. Weaver is the beneficiary of many of those assists, with seven goals on the season, tied for third in the conference.
“The things they do,” Shulenberger said. “Maddy is one of the top assist-getters in the country. She is involved with everything we do offensively with set pieces or (running) a play.
“And then Morgan is Morgan. She’s scoring goals in critical matches for us now.”
But the Cougars are more than a two-trick pony. Washington State’s depth has been critical to its success. Shulenberger said the Cougars use a rotation of as many as 18 players, and competition for starting spots is making everyone better.
Ten Cougars have scored the team’s 24 goals on the season. Six have winning goals.
“If we’re healthy, we’re two or three deep in a lot of spots,” Shulenberger said.
The Cougars took a hit to their roster when they lost all-conference goalie Ella Dederick to a lower-body injury in a Sept. 6 game against Idaho.
In stepped junior Rachel Thompson, who tallied an assist and a save in her first action as a Cougar. Since then, Thompson has a .793 save percentage.
Thompson has started eight consecutive games, but Shulenberger said there is daily competition in practice for the spot.
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