Crunch Time

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

After a three-game losing skid, USC women's lacrosse was resurrected on Easter Sunday with an upset over No. 13 Stanford in the Coliseum. 

The Trojans' 11-10 victory over the Cardinal is their first win over a ranked opponent in program history, and they did it in thrilling fashion. USC took the lead with 11:18 to play, but the defense had to hold off the aggressive Stanford attack, including a huge save by goalie Liz Shaeffer with 59 seconds left to play. 

The winning effort was led offensively by the Trojan freshmen as both attacker Annie Ruland and midfielder Alex Moore scored hat tricks, while midfielder Michaela Michael added two goals and forced a turnover. The stunning upset guarantees USC at least the fifth seed heading into the MPSF Tournament as they finished 6-3 in conference play. 

More importantly, the upset marks a turnaround for the Women of Troy who were atop the conference before two rough, one-goal losses to Colorado and No. 20 Denver followed by a home loss to Oregon.

"It definitely stinks to lose like that especially by one and then one in overtime," said defender Courtney Tarleton. "But, especially for the Denver game it just shows you how close we are to a top 20 team. We can compete with anyone so you can definitely look at it positively."

While the program is making waves on the national scene, there is still a lot of room for improvement. The young squad competes with top programs, but struggles to close them out.

"We definitely need to act older than we are. We can't make any of these young mistakes that people expect us to make," added Johansen. "When we have the ball at the end of games, we need to know what to do in the right situations. We need to know when to shoot, when to hold the ball, all that stuff. It's really hard to do but we need to be really mature about it and act like we're not freshmen or sophomores. We need to act like upperclassmen."

From the beginning, head coach Lindsey Munday has emphasized the mentality of taking things slowly and focusing on getting better every day. Despite the looming pressure of the MPSF Tournament, Munday tries to keep it simple with her young team.

The Trojans finally put this mentality into practice on Sunday in the Coliseum when they stunned No. 13 Stanford proving that they can not only compete with top 20 teams but can also put forth the necessary effort to close out these tight games. The Coliseum isn't the only famous stadium the Trojans will play a game in this season as their next contest will take place at historic Wrigley Field on April 26 against the Northwestern Wildcats. 

"It's really special to play in the Coliseum and certainly at Wrigley so we want to take in the moment when we can during walk-thru practices and at the right times," said the head coach. "But certainly, come game time, it's a game and it kind of doesn't matter where we play, but obviously, they're really special stadiums, so we really want to enjoy them when we can."

After the Women of Troy hit the big stage against Northwestern this weekend, they will gear up for the MPSF Tournament where they will be either a third, fourth or fifth seed depending on this week's final action. Last season, they entered the tournament as a fourth seed but ultimately fell to Denver in the semifinals. Now, it's crunch time as the Trojans enter the tournament with the quality victory they needed to give them the confidence to face top 20 teams like Denver and Stanford in postseason play. 

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