February 6, 2013

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USC to Start Lacrosse Era Against Northwestern

from press release

LOS ANGELES — The wait is finally over. On Saturday, one of the oldest sports in North America will receive its place among the history books of the University of Southern California when the Women of Troy take the field at the historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum for the first-ever 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 one of the most accomplished players in the history of collegiate lacrosse: Lindsey Munday.

Munday starred on the field for Northwestern where the Wildcats won their first two NCAA titles behind her contributions. NU 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," said Munday. "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 really, really, anxious and excited to get the ball rolling."

The Trojans will field a squad of 26 players in their first year; 17 of which are true freshmen, handpicked by Munday and her staff of highly touted assistants. Devon Wills — a star goalie from Dartmouth — will coordinate the defensive side of the field and carries 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 Northwestern — will coordinate the Trojan attack. Bowen herself has a mantle to be envious of with four NCAA titles and two NCAA finals MVP honors to boast of.

Munday's list of accomplishments is unrivaled with two NCAA titles as a player, three more as an assistant coach, and twice finishing as a semifinalist for the prestigious Tewaaraton Trophy. USC's first lacrosse coach also serves as the team captain for Team USA as one of 18 members of the 2013 national team. For Munday, the Trojans' first game will be particularly special as she opens her career as a head coach against her long-time mentor Amonte Hiller.

"It is so special to have our first game be against Northwestern," said Munday. "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. It will certainly give us a great test, right off the bat."

The Trojans will call McAlister Field home during the regular season. Thanks to a generous donation from Hobart and Soni McAlister in 1998, USC has had a place to host fall home women's soccer games for over a decade and a half. Now, the lacrosse team will share the space as tenants of the venerable home field. Before the Trojans play host to Massachusetts at McAlister, their game against Northwestern will take place at the Coliseum.

"The Coliseum has hosted so many great games and so many historic sporting moments," said Munday. "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 the Trojans will be young as a program, the squad itself will also exhibit youth as a feature. USC'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," said Munday. "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, 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, and grow quickly as the regular-season schedule will test their mettle each and 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," said Munday. "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 is most important. If our non-league games can get 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 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation, the Trojans were selected to finish in seventh in a poll of the league's coaches. USC opens up with three non-conference opponents, but will kick off the MPSF schedule with a bout against Saint Mary's College on Feb. 24, at McAlister Field. After a pair of games on the East Coast, USC will head to Northern California for two against MPSF foes UC Davis and Stanford.

A tough stretch through which the Trojans host Temple and fellow first-year program Marquette before heading back east for two more against Bryant and Brown will test USC's legs through the belly of the schedule. From there, the Women of Troy finish the regular-season on the West Coast with home games against Denver, California, and Fresno State. USC's trip to Eugene, Ore., on April 4 will be the first-ever live broadcast game for the Trojans as the Pac-12 Networks will air the game against the Ducks. USC will close the regular season with a matchup at San Diego State on April 27. The top four teams in the final league standings will head to Eugene for the MPSF championships and a shot at the automatic berth into the NCAA tournament.

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," said Munday. "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, Kaila Sommi and Ceilidh Meagher — also captains — 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," said Munday. "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 so we just need to push each other and get better every single day."


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