USC lacrosse team ready for first game
The wait is over. On Feb. 9, the Women of Troy will take the field at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for USC’s first varsity women’s lacrosse game.
USC announced it would make women’s lacrosse its 21st intercollegiate sport on Nov. 18, 2010. More than two years later, the dream has become a reality. To lead the program, the Trojans hired Lindsey Munday, one of the most accomplished players in the history of collegiate lacrosse.
Munday starred on the field for Northwestern University (NWU), where the Wildcats won their first two NCAA titles thanks in large part to her contributions. NWU has since gone on to win seven of the last eight national titles. Fittingly, Munday and the Trojans will christen the USC program with a season opener against Northwestern and Munday’s former coach and mentor, Kelly Amonte Hiller.
“Everyone is excited to finally get this off the ground,” Munday said. “Especially the players we had last season. They’ve been training for a year and a half without a real game to play, so I think everyone’s reallyanxious and excited to get the ball rolling.”
The Trojans will field a squad of 26 players in their first year, 17 of whom are true freshmen, handpicked by Munday and her staff of highly touted assistants
Devon Wills, a star goalie from Dartmouth University, will coordinate the defensive side of the field. She brings a lofty list of credentials, not the least of which includes a selection to the 2013 U.S. women’s national team. Hilary Bowen, an offensive standout for NWU, will coordinate the Trojan attack. Bowen has four NCAA titles and two NCAA finals Most Valuable Player honors to her credit.
With two NCAA titles as a player, three more as an assistant coach and twice finishing as a semifinalist for the prestigious Tewaaraton Trophy (given to the sport’s top college lacrosse player), Munday’s list of accomplishments is unrivaled. USC’s first lacrosse coach also serves as the team captain for Team USA as one of 18 members of this year’s national team.
“It is so special to have our first game be against Northwestern,” Munday said. “I think for myself and for Hilary [Bowen], it’s extra special to play against the Wildcats. Kelly [Amonte Hiller] has taught us everything and has been such a great mentor for me.
“For our players, I think it will be great, too, to open up against the team that’s won seven of the last eight national championships and to really see where we’re at,” she added. “It will certainly give us a great test, right off the bat.”
The Trojans will call McAlister Field their home during the regular season. Thanks to a donation from Hobart and Soni McAlister in 1998, USC has had a place to host fall home women’s soccer games for more than 15 years. Now the team will share the space as tenants of the field. Before the Trojans play host to the University of Massachusetts at McAlister, their game against NWU will take place at the Coliseum.
“The Coliseum has hosted so many great games and so many historic sporting moments,” Munday said. “It’s really special for the our team to be able to play in such a great venue. I think it truly adds to the excitement surrounding the first game and the opening of our first season.”
While USC’s lacrosse players will be new as a program, the squad itself will exhibit youth as a feature. The university’s lineup does not include a single senior member and has just two junior players. Seven sophomores will mix it up with a truly young team. The Trojans don’t lack for experience, however, as the preseason has already yielded pleasant results.
“We are really coming together as a team,” Munday said. “Bringing in 17 freshmen, we expected to have to do a lot of teaching. There are also a lot of connections that need to be made across the field both offensive and defensively, but they’re really coming together and working together more and more every day.
“Most of all,” she explained, “they’re all pushing each other to get better and improve and really battling with each other, which is the most important factor in our improvement.”
The Trojans will need to grow quickly as the regular-season schedule will test their mettle every week. The plan to start off with two perennial NCAA powers was no mistake as USC looks to use the experience to prepare it for the rest of the first-year journey.
“Our out-of-conference schedule is really tough,” Munday said. “To open up with Northwestern and UMass, which are two phenomenal teams, our goal was to prepare us for our own conference.
“Competing in the MPSF [Mountain Pacific Sports Federation] is most important,” she added. “If our nonleague games can make us better and show us things that we need to work on, I think we will be far more prepared for when we start playing our conference games.”
As first-year members of the federation, the Trojans were selected to finish seventh in a poll of the league’s coaches. USC opens up with three nonconference opponents, but it will kick off the conference schedule with a game against Saint Mary’s College on Feb. 24 at McAlister. After a pair of games on the East Coast, USC will head to Northern California for two games against MPSF foes, the University of California, Davis, and Stanford University.
While the team is young, the staff knows that it can rely on the contributions of several key players as the season gets under way.
“We have some great players,” Munday said. “On the offensive side of the ball, even though she is a freshman, we expect Caroline de Lyra to be a leader out there. Her fellow freshmen Amanda Johansen and Caroline Cordrey will also make an immediate impact on the success of our team.
“Defensively, one of our captains, Courtney Tarleton, will be a key to our defense. In the midfield, [captains] Kaila Sommi and Ceilidh Meagher will be players we’re going to look to, to really set the pace of the game and do all of the little things on the field.”
With so much excitement around the program and the highly anticipated start to the season, Munday takes each day in stride and has very specific goals for her team.
“Our biggest goal is to improve,” Munday said. “We want to improve every single day and to get our players to mature throughout the season. Not one person has played a collegiate lacrosse game before, so we need the Trojans to play older than they are but also to improve and have the faith that we are on the right course.
“We have really lofty goals for this program, and we just need to push each other and get better every single day.”