Season Outlook: USC Lacrosse Seeks Third-Year Charms in 2015|
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Feb. 7, 2015
They say the third time's a charm.
For the USC women's lacrosse team, third-year success is well within reach. The Women of Troy have shown steady improvement since the program's inaugural season in 2013 and are poised to have their most successful season yet. In her third season at the helm, head coach Lindsey Munday has stood fast on her belief that improvement is a work that is constantly in progress.
"We're going into the year trying to be better than last year," said Munday. "That's a daily commitment for us. We want to be better than we were the day before."
The Trojans return 11 starters to the field in 2015 and bring in four newcomers that are part of Inside Lacrosse's No. 5-ranked recruiting class. Most importantly, the bulk of USC's veteran players comprise the squad's sophomore and junior classes. The maturation process for those 26 student-athletes is evidenced in the leadership that now runs deep through the Trojan lineup.
"We're really proud of this team," said Munday. "We feel like we're already a lot better than we were on that first day of practices this spring, and certainly much improved from the fall. The players have really bought in to what we're trying to do here and everyone is a year older. There is some great leadership within these junior and senior classes, which we can see translating into good things on the field, so we're excited to see where that takes us."
USC loses just one player to graduation and brings back plenty of firepower on the offensive end of the field. Junior attacker Caroline de Lyra (Brightwaters, N.Y./Bay Shore HS) led the Trojans with 49 points in 2014 and had 28 goals to go with a team-high 21 assists. De Lyra was an All-MPSF first-team selection and a second-team IWLCA All-West Region honoree. Junior midfielder Amanda Johansen (Glen Head, N.Y./North Shore HS) led the Trojans in draw controls (55) for a second straight year and added 20 goals in 2014. She was also a solid defender with 23 ground balls as a sophomore. Johansen garnered the same postseason laurels on the All-MPSF and IWLCA regional teams as de Lyra.
A year ago, five Women of Troy crossed the 20-goal plateau including de Lyra and Johansen. A pair of sophomores return to the field for USC, which will have the services of attacker Michaela Michael (Hillsborough, Calif./Menlo School). Michael received conference Rookie of the Week honors in 2014 and finished the season with 25 goals and 45 draw controls in her freshman campaign. Sophomore attacker Annie Ruland (Milton, Ga./Milton HS) had 29 goals. The Trojans do however lose midfielder Alex Moore who scored 35 goals a year ago.
The Trojan offense should also get a boost from the return of attacker Caroline Cordrey (Summit, N.J./Summit HS) who appeared in just five games in 2014 due to a leg injury. In short order, Cordrey had 12 goals after a 2013 season in which she scored 43 times to rank second on the team. Other perhaps unproven but intriguing options on the attack include a trio of sophomores. Shannon Nugent (Medford, N.J./Shawnee HS) who had four goals as a freshman, Gabby McMahon (Bardonia, N.Y./Immaculate Heart Academy) who played in all 18 games to produce nine goals last year, and Cynthia Del Core (Bay Shore, N.Y./Bay Shore HS) who had two goals as a freshman.
In the midfield, USC brings back an experienced core of juniors and seniors including Kaitlyn Couture (Coronado, Calif./Coronado HS) who had 16 ground balls and 13 caused turnovers in 2014. Juniors Haleigh Dalmass (Moorestown, N.J./Moorestown HS) and Kelsey Dreyer (Gilette, N.J./Watchung Hills Regional HS) each return to the lineup after having appeared in all 18 games last year. Dalmass had 10 goals for the Trojans while Dreyer had eight to go with 12 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers. Senior captain Kaila Sommi (Belle Mead, N.J./Montgomery HS) is also ready to contribute in her final season.
USC's depth in the midfield is far deeper this season and could see further contributions from sophomore Kylie Drexel (Davis, Calif./Davis HS) who appeared in 14 games as a freshman and scored four goals. The Trojans also bring in a pair of frosh midfielders including Lydia Sutton (Minnetonka, Minn./The Blake School) and Kelly Brown (Vienna, Va./George C. Marshall HS) and stretch the position with experience in the junior class from Eggy Plastaras (Fort Salonga, N.Y./Kings Park HS) and Jacky Hennegan (Bremerton, Wash./Central Kitsap HS) and in sophomore Drew Jackson (Tyrone, Ga./Woodward Academy).
"This is a young team," said Munday, "but we return a lot of experience on both ends of the field and it's the senior and junior classes that have stepped up and that are showing ownership of the leadership piece we need. The competition has been amped up this preseason and people are fighting for spots. It's a good problem to have as a coach."
Defensively, the Trojans have several bright spots to look to including the return of junior captain Courtney Tarleton (Ridgewood, N.J./Ridgewood HS) who was a second-team All-MPSF and second-team All-IWLCA West Region selection in 2014. Tarleton had 33 ground balls and 23 caused turnovers as a sophomore and set a single-game USC mark with eight ground balls against Northwestern on April 26. Tarleton's backfield running mate sophomore Nina Kelty (Palo Alto, Calif./Palo Alto HS) comes back after a freshman season in which she tallied 21 ground balls and 10 caused turnovers to go with a selection to the All-MPSF second team.
Anchors on the defense include junior goalie Liz Shaeffer (El Dorado Hills, Calif./Oak Ridge HS) who had 47 ground balls a year ago to lead the MPSF. Senior defender Elizabeth Eddy (Newport Beach, Calif./Newport Harbor HS) brings back a wealth of experience including 17 starts a year ago, which yielded 17 ground balls and seven caused turnovers. The Trojans also welcome in the services of goalie Gussie Johns (Washington, D.C./St. Stephen's and St. Agnes School) who was rated as the top goalie among high school prospects.
"We return a lot on the defensive end," said Munday. "Tarleton, Couture, Eddy, and Kelty, who all saw significant time last year. We're excited to see the defense continuing to gel together as much as they can."
Despite the growing depth and experience on the squad, the Trojans have a lot to be excited about with their incoming freshman class. The foursome of Brown, Johns, Sutton, and Alexis Kardias (Westfield, N.J./Westfield HS) was ranked the nation's No. 5-rated class by Inside Lacrosse. Johns is the country's No. 6-ranked prospect and regarded as the best goalie while Sutton is the eighth-ranked recruit. Sutton is coming off an appearance in the FIL World Championship final where she and Team Canada went head-to-head with Team USA.
"It's been nice to bring in just four players," said Munday, who previously signed classes of 17 and 12 players in 2013 and 2014. "It's been a seamless transition in terms of concepts we've put in. Most of the team is already familiar with what we're trying to do so it helps make that process much easier. Sutton--we expect her to come in in the midfield and do some nice things for us. Gussie is definitely competing, which is great. That's all we can ask. All four of our freshmen have brought that fresh excitement to the program."
USC opens the season today (Feb. 7) with a home match against seven-time NCAA champion and No. 5-ranked Northwestern at the LA Memorial Coliseum. This spring, the Trojans will appear in three Pac-12 Networks broadcast games, including the season's final home match against Denver on April 12. The Women of Troy will also play before live television audiences in road games at Oregon (April 3) and at Stanford (April 19). All of USC's home games (except for the Denver game) will be streamed live on the USC Pac-12 Networks web portal. Stream links can be found on the team's USCTrojans.com web schedule.
The Women of Troy were picked to finish third by the MPSF coaches. It is the same prediction the preseason coaches poll had for the Trojans in 2014. Last year, USC indeed finished third, but in a three-way tie for third place. The Trojans went on to face Oregon in the MPSF Tournament quarterfinals where they were narrowly edged, 7-6. In 2014, USC suffered six losses by three goals or fewer. In fact, five of those losses were by two or fewer.
"Last year, looking back on it, we did lose a number of close games," said Munday, "but that's where we're most excited about the leadership that we have this season. In those close contests, there were some leadership pieces and some team camaraderie pieces that we were missing, and I think we'll be far better in those situations this time around."
USC's schedule is as tough as they come. The Trojans will face five teams that were in the NCAA tournament last season. Northwestern was a national semifinalist a year ago and has appeared in the last 10 consecutive NCAA semifinals. Boston College (Mar. 30) was an NCAA quarterfinalist in 2014. Stony Brook (Feb. 20) and Denver (April 12) each advanced to the second round, and Stanford (April 19) made a first-round exit. In addition, Marist has NCAA tournament experience, as does Dartmouth, which was the 2006 runner-up.
"Out of conference, we want to challenge ourselves," said Munday. "I think we want to play the best because it will give you a measure of where you're at regardless of the result. Obviously, we want to compete in conference, and if we play really strong teams out of conference, that's going to help us do that. It's definitely not an easy start to a season, but for us, it's a great test. It'll tell us where we're at, one way or another."
No mater what the result, Munday has maintained her mantra that improvement is the key to success. Only time will tell, but improvement may be just a stepping stone in what could be a very successful season for the Trojans.
"Really, we're excited to just go out there and compete," said Munday. "We're just focused on ourselves and doing better than we did last year. It comes down to us wanting to go out there and just play in the moment on each play. It's going to challenge us, but it's only going to make us stronger."
For more information on the USC women's lacrosse team, please visit USCTrojans.com. Fans of the Women of Troy can follow the team on Twitter @USCTrojansLax and on Instagram (USCTrojansLax).