After a rocky 2004 season, the IU women's soccer team will begin anew this weekend in California. With 23 of 24 letter winners returning from last year's team, the Hoosiers kick off the season against Loyola Marymount University Friday evening and face No. 18 USC Sunday afternoon.\nLast season, the Hoosiers jumped out to an 8-1 record. But the team was comprised of mostly underclassmen (11 sophomores, 8 freshmen) and struggled against tough teams on the road, just missing the NCAA tournament. \nIU head coach Mick Lyon has seen a much more experienced team so far this season in two exhibition victories.\n"We have been semi-tested by some exhibition so far," Lyon said. "Things looked good in those games. I am pretty pleased right now with how things look. We had a great spring and summer, and I think we are playing well as a team right now." \nThe preseason competition has shown Lyon the key areas that will be crucial to the team's success this season.\n"We have to start turning chances into goals," he said. "We always seem to create a lot of chances, but don't produce enough goals. Defensively, we have to come back with the same type of performance as last year's (school record of 18 goals allowed). We need to have a defense as stingy as Scrooge. The third factor is we are going to be dangerous on set plays. We have developed and recruited players that can serve free kicks with deadly accuracy. We are definitely going to score some goals on set plays this year."\nThe Hoosiers hope all three factors come into play this weekend as some tough competition awaits them in California. Loyola Marymount returns nine starters from last year's team that finished \n10-7-3. \n"We are excited about playing such a strong program in Loyola Marymount," Lyon said. "They are very physical and will challenge us at every position. One thing we do have to our advantage against LMU is they have not had an exhibition match this year. We have already had a chance to highlight both our weaknesses and strengths in our two preseason matches, and now have worked to improve on both. I am feeling confident that we can perform at our highest level of competition this Friday."\nUSC is ranked No. 18 in the nation by Soccer Buzz Magazine and second in the Pacific 10 Conference. The Trojans combine a talented group of upperclassmen with the nation's top-rated freshman class. \n"We are going to stretch our team with some valuable experience against them this weekend, and hopefully we will have some good results." Lyon said. "USC is young, and I am hoping we can take advantage of their inexperience, but they have some of the top young talent in the country, so it will not be easy."\nLeading the Hoosiers' offense this season will be junior forward Megan Pipkens. Pipkens played and started all 19 contests last season. She led the team with seven assists and finished tied for second on the team with four goals and 15 points.\n"We will be better this season than we have ever been," Pipkens said. "We have struggled with capitalizing on our opportunities in the past, but I think we have really improved on that this year. We have enough talent to go farther than ever before. Starting a new season, it is anyone's game, we just have to go out there strong and take it."\nAnother leader for the Hoosiers will be senior midfielder Kristen Zmijewski. Zmijewski, the 2005 captain, is optimistic about her team's chances this season.\n"So far through preseason we look great," Zmijewski said. "Considering our exhibition games and all our returning players we look pretty good. We have all pretty much been playing together for a whole year. We play well as a team, scoring and playing good defense. I think we just need to come out strong and hard against teams so that we can get ahead of team mentally and physically"
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