USC's Club Team Emerges as Contender in WCLA
by J. Jude Hazard | LaxMagazine.com
Goalie Madison Aguirre, a grad student at USC, has backstopped the Trojans' club team to an 8-1 start -- already tied for their most wins in a season.
Lacrosse is booming these days in sunny Southern California, and USC Club (8-1) is riding a wave of momentum right into the WCLA Division I postseason picture.
The Trojans were busy in February. After an opening-day loss to UC Santa Barbara on Jan. 26 that was the team’s first significant work together since fall ball, USC ran off eight straight wins in February and is ranked No. 13 in the first coaches poll of the season.
“After that first game, I was pretty disheartened,” junior midfielder Madison Boutilier said. “We let that game go, keeping in mind what we did wrong, what we needed to become and took the rest of the season in stride.”
This is Boutilier's first full season with the club team. She tried out for the team her freshman and sophomore years, but scheduling conflicts forced her to focus on school and drop lacrosse. Boutilier spent a semester last year practicing with the varsity squad, but couldn't make the time commitment to play.
This year, the timing worked out.
"I really missed winning," she said. "I really missed going out and defeating another team with people you love to play with."
The eight wins match the most the program has ever won in a single season -- with two months left to play in the regular season.
"I'm ready to make USC Club lacrosse history with my team, and I think this is the year that we're going to do that," Trojans fifth-year goalie Madison Aguirre said. "We decided in the summer that we were going to be a playoff team."
USC typically frontloads its schedule to work around the school's spring break. It works out great when the team is doing well, but Aguirre said it has been deflating in past years when the team has nearly played itself out of playoff contention by March 1.
The Trojans were 6-5 in February last season and finished 7-8. Aguirre said last year's team wasn't ready to even consider a run at nationals.
In the offseason, USC worked to improve its chemistry and benefited greatly from traveling to Oahu in October to play in the Hawaii Invitational, according to Trojans coach Gabe Valenzuela.
"It's a high-risk, high-reward schedule," he said. "Everybody is just really excited about the possibility of playoffs and beyond. That is going to be the great motivator that we haven't had in past seasons."
The club team's success comes as the university has inaugurated its Division I varsity women's program. Those Trojans opened against Northwestern -- coach Lindsey Munday's alma mater -- on Feb. 9 and stand at 2-2 this season. Combined with USC Club's "B" team, more than 100 women are playing organized lacrosse on the USC campus.
"That's brought in a lot of players who are passionate about lacrosse to USC. Lacrosse is growing in California," Boutilier said. "When I was looking at schools, even if I wasn't going to play for the varsity lacrosse team, I was looking for schools that have varsity teams."
USC Club's six remaining opponents are a combined 13-23. Aguirre expects the team to make a deep run into the Western Women's Lacrosse League playoffs and beyond.
"It's just really special to see girls that are so close working toward a common goal," Aguirre said. "I'm beyond ecstatic right now."