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Home Away From Home

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By Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

LAX team.jpg
In late December 2010, USC announced that it would be launching a women's lacrosse program.  The decision turned heads all across the country. The sport, which grew in popularity on the East Coast, has rapidly spread westward in recent years as kids have begun picking up lacrosse sticks and learning the rules of an entirely new game.

The addition of lacrosse was an exciting move by the university which could now attract a completely different group of athletes, however, the concentration of successful youth and prep programs on the East Coast provided a difficult road block when it came to recruiting. When USC snagged Lindsey Munday, a New Jersey native and one of the most accomplished women's lacrosse players in the world as their head coach, the migration process began. 

"USC had everything I wanted in a school but lacrosse. When I found out they were adding a program and the coaches were announced I was sold. Our coaches are the best you could possibly get. It was an easy choice," says freshman Amanda Johansen of Glen Head, N.Y., who was named the MPSF Rookie of the Year.

Johansen, along with fourteen of her teammates, left behind the frozen winters of the Northeast to break ground on the inaugural season of USC women's lacrosse, including 13 girls from New York and New Jersey alone. The 3,000 miles that separate each of them from their homes is enough to stir up a little homesickness, but the girls say having each other has made it better, oftentimes, even more fun. 

"That first adjustment was a little tough but once you get acclimated here it's not too bad. Our whole team is a family and we support each other a ton, it feels like home away from home. It's been fun to explore here. We got a ZipCar on the weekends in the fall and traveled all around Los Angeles. It's been really great to experience this city for the first time together," says freshman Caroline Cordrey, a native of Summit, N.J.

Whether it's the warm sand of nearby Santa Monica, or the glamorous streets of Beverly Hills, the team has immersed itself in the culture of Southern California. The nearly perfect weather and the non-existent winters have not-surprisingly eased the adjustment as well. But, according to some members of the team, there are still things about home they miss. 

"I really missed the brisk, fall season of New York. And I definitely miss the food like good pizza and bagels," reports Ceilidh Meagher of Pawling, N.Y.

"I especially miss coffee at Dunkin' Donuts. I miss my dog too. And of course I miss my family," adds Johansen. 

The scheduling of this first season made the separation from families much more bearable. The Trojans played two games in New York and New Jersey in early March and returned to the Northeast again a few weeks later to play in Rhode Island. According to Cordrey, the visiting team always had the bigger fan section. 

"It was awesome getting to play back home. My whole family was there, all the girls' families were there and it was really a great opportunity for our team. We had a lot to prove. We are mostly freshmen and nobody expected a new program to do very much in their first season. It's been cool to show that we are competing and we are good," says Johansen. 

There are only two upperclassmen (both juniors) on the entire team of 25 girls. The future is bright for a program which has gone 8-9 in their opening season. The Trojans finished with a 5-3 conference record and earned a spot in the MPSF semifinals this weekend. 
 
"As far as goals we set for ourselves, we reached our first goal of getting to the MPSF tournament in our first season. I think we surprised a lot of people because we were originally expected to finish second to last in our league. It's really exciting because we have so much time to play and progress together as a group," explains Caroline de Lyra, a freshman, and one of the Trojan's best offensive weapons this season. 

These freshmen have had the opportunity of a lifetime in creating the foundation of the women's lacrosse program at USC. Across the board, the team agrees that the principles of competitive practice, being fundamentally sound, having a good knowledge of the game, and fostering a family-like community on the team are what their program will be known for. Regardless of the outcome of the weekend ahead, the Trojans believe this season has absolutely been a success. 

"It's really awesome knowing we've made it this far our freshman year and then thinking ahead to our junior and senior years and really how good we have the potential to be," says Johansen. "We amounted to something bigger than most people thought we would be which makes us determined to do even better in years to come and to eventually win that national championship."

With the momentum from back-to-back wins against Fresno State and San Diego State, the Trojans now head to the MPSF Tournament to keep their season alive. The semifinal kicks off this afternoon in Eugene, Ore., home of last year's MPSF champions. The Women of Troy take on top-seeded Denver at 4:30 P.M.

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