The No. 19 USC women’s lacrosse team defeated No. 5 Duke 11-5 Saturday night in the U.S. Lacrosse Orange County Winter Invitational in Costa Mesa.
The Women of Troy (2-0) claimed a spot in the Top 25 national rankings heading into the contest, but they were still underdogs against one of the ACC’s finest.
It is safe to say that this USC squad turned some heads with such a convincing win over a top-10 team.
Though the Trojans have only played two games, it is obvious that this defense is elite.
When they did not have the ball, USC’s defensive personnel made life difficult for the Blue Devils (2-2). Senior Courtney Tarleton scooped up three ground balls and caused a turnover, while Nina Kelty also came up with a strong performance at the back.
Head coach Lindsey Munday knew Duke would ask questions of this defense, so she ensured that the unit would be organized against the Blue Devils.
After the 21-2 win over Stetson in the season opener, Munday said, “Obviously momentum is great, but we know it’s really a new week. We have a lot to prepare for a great Duke team.”
She stressed the importance of defensive organization, particularly in transition. USC’s defense was clearly up to the challenge Saturday night at LeBard Stadium. USC forced 14 Duke turnovers and held the Blue Devils to a meager five goals — the fewest goals they had scored since April 2014.
With Duke predictably revolving much of the game plan around slowing down junior attacker Michaela Michael, fellow junior attacker Kylie Drexel exploded. Drexel logged four goals and an assist in the win, helping her side to a 6-3 halftime advantage. The Women of Troy extended the lead in the second half and started to run away with the game.
Prior to the game, junior attacker Michaela Michael said, “We’re going to have to work really, really hard off-ball to get opportunities.”
Michael’s work off the ball continues to be problematic for opposing defenses, as her intelligent movement demands attention and frees up space for teammates.
Duke will inevitably improve this season, but their lackluster offensive day was no fluke. This USC defense is looking like the real deal, particularly after dominating a team widely considered one of the best in the land.
USC fell to Duke 17-9 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season in the first ever meeting between these two schools on the women’s lacrosse field. This time around, the Women of Troy frustrated the Blue Devils with lockdown defense and offensive efficiency.
The team now prepares for its next fixture — a home game against Michigan on March 4.