No. 18 Spartans head to California for Under Armour Invitational
No. 18 UNCG (3-0-0) vs. Southern Cal (1-1-1), Sept. 3, 8 p.m. Eastern, Fullerton, Calif., Under Armour Invitational
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- The 18th-ranked UNCG's women's soccer team will try to extend the best start in school history Friday when it faces Southern Cal at the Under Armour Invitational in Fullerton, Calif.
- UNCG is 3-0 for the first time in school history after opening the season with wins over East Carolina, No. 10 Wake Forest and Utah. The Spartans jumped into the Soccer America Top 25 this week at No. 18, good for their first national ranking since being No. 13 in the Soccer Buzz preseason poll in 1998. The Spartans are receiving votes in the NSCAA and Soccer Times polls this week.
- The hot start has earned a pair of UNCG student-athletes some weekly accolades. Forward Lauren Hein was named one of CollegeSoccer360.com's Primetime Performers of the Week, while keeper Kelsey Kearney took the first Southern Conference Player of the Week award of the 2010 campaign on Tuesday.
- The Spartans will be meeting USC for the first time in school history.
- 2007 NCAA champion USC was ranked No. 19 in the preseason NSCAA and Soccer Times polls and No. 20 in the preseason Soccer America poll. The Trojans dropped out of all three after losing their first contest of the season, 1-0 to San Diego. USC is receiving votes in both the NSCAA and Soccer Times polls this week.
- UNCG has made the trip out to California just once in its history, when it was in the Stanford/Nike Invitational in Pala Alto, Calif., in 2008. There, the Spartans knocked off then-No. 15 Santa Clara 1-0 and fell to the host Cardinal 2-0. This season's trip will be just the third to the West Coast in UNCG's history – the Spartans also played in Oregon State's OSU Nike Classic in Corvallis, Ore., in 2004.
- In their history, the Spartans have played just five games against California teams, posting a 2-3 record against California (lost 4-0 in 1999), Fresno State (won 2-1 in 2004), Santa Clara (won 1-0 in 2008) and Stanford (lost 2-0 in 2008 and 1-0 in 2009).
- Despite its storied history – a program record of 286-155-20, eight NCAA tournament appearances and 12 regular-season conference titles – UNCG has never opened a season with four straight wins. Most of that has to do with the brutal nonconference slate the Spartans play each year. In 23 seasons of UNCG women's soccer (including 2010), the Spartans have played at least one team from one of the six major conferences (ACC, Big East, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-10, SEC) within the first four games in 21 of those seasons.
- Breaking that last note down further, in its first four games of the season, UNCG has faced 43 teams from the power-six conferences – out of a possible 91 (including 2010). The Spartans are 16-26-1 in those contests, more than holding their own against the biggest schools in America.
- In its last contest, UNCG topped Utah 1-0 on Sunday at the Georgia Nike Invitational in Athens, Ga. Reigning Southern Conference Co-Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year Tabitha Padgett provided the only goal the Spartans would need, tallying her second of the season in the 66th minute. Kearney made the lead stand, stopping four shots for her second shutout of the season.
- Padgett leads UNCG with four points on the season, while Hein and freshman Kory Spotts are tied for second with three points each (one goal, one assist each). Kearney has played all 270 minutes in goal, posting a goals against average of 0.33.
- Kearney's shutout against Utah was the 21st of her career, moving her into a tie for second on UNCG's career list with Kathryn Clewley (1998-2001). Kearney, a junior, now trails school-record holder Jennifer Stillman by four. Kearney is also UNCG's career leader in GAA, as she holds a mark of 0.62 in 41 matches played.
- USC came into the season ranked in all three major women's soccer polls, but stumbled out of the gate, losing 1-0 to San Diego at home to open the season. The Trojans have rebounded nicely, topping TCU 1-0 and earning a 1-1 draw with Texas on Sunday. The Longhorns were unranked at the time, but entered the Soccer Times poll at No. 24 this week.
- The Trojans' draw with Texas was earned the hard way, as they played a man down for 23 minutes after Allie Harrison's red card in the 41st minute. Texas would later have a player sent off, as well, making it a 10-on-10 affair from the 64th minute on. The Longhorns drew first blood on an 18th-minute strike, but USC's Ashli Sandoval converted a Megan Ohai corner kick in the 87th minute to cap a dramatic comeback. Freshman keeper Shelby Church had an outstanding day in the net, stopping six shots, including a Texas penalty kick that came on the Trojans' red card.
- Sandoval is the Women of Troy's leading scorer, as she has both of USC's goals on the season. Ohai is the only other Trojan with a point scored. Church has logged all 290 minutes in goal thus far, and has turned in a solid 0.62 GAA with 14 saves.
- The Trojans are a young team, and have started at least five of their nine freshmen in each of their three games so far, including six against TCU.
- UNCG will wrap up the Under Armour Invitational against tournament host Cal State Fullerton on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Eastern time.
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