Lacrosse opens MPSF title defense with easy victory

The No. 4 women’s lacrosse team left McAlister Field victorious this past Saturday afternoon with a 20-2 triumph over the Saint Mary’s Gaels in its 2017 season opener. USC began the defense of its MPSF title and improved to 5-0 all-time against Saint Mary’s with an offensive barrage that included goals from 12 different Trojans.

For head coach Lindsey Munday, the Trojans’ first win is the first step towards another successful season.

“It’s exciting to start the season,” Munday said. “The first game, there’s usually some jitters, but I think they are really coming into their own. We’re just going to take everything one game at a time and taking every day to keep getting better individually and collectively as a team.”

Offensively, USC started the scoring off early as 2016 leading scorer and senior attacker Michaela Michael won the opening faceoff and later scored the game’s first goal. Before seven minutes had gone by, the senior attacker was leading all scorers with three goals, eventually adding an assist later in the half. Eventually, Saint Mary’s lack of interior defense and defensive penalties allowed USC to open the floodgates for eight goals before the first timeout.

Early Gael scoring threats were thwarted by a USC defense that has rebounded well after losing 2016 MPSF Player of the Year Courtney Tarleton, the team’s best defender, to graduation. With eight minutes left in the first half, Saint Mary’s first shot on net was saved immediately by senior goalie Gussie Johns.

USC added 13 goals before the Gaels eventually got on the board. With 4:31 minutes left in the half, Jocelyn Lubert fired a penalty shot past Johns that resulted in a 13-1 count in favor of USC. After 30 minutes, the Trojans added another goal to its commanding 14-1 lead as eight different Trojans netted goals.

Michael appreciated getting her teammates playing time throughout the game, especially in the first game of the year.

“It was nice to get everyone involved,” Michael said. “It’s weird coming back for the first game, it feels like forever since we had one. It’s definitely nice to get those early jitters out and get that first win. We definitely got reps with different groups, so it was nice to flow through the entire roster.”

The second half was more of the same for USC as junior Alexis Kardias, sophomore Allie Gershman, freshman Sarah Larkin (2), sophomore Gabbi Klein and freshman Kaeli Huff each scored goals. The Trojans’ scoring surge was quelled by Saint Mary’s backup goalie Cassidy Hoffman who registered a save and allowed six goals in relief of first-half goalie Sydney Pinello.

The Gaels slipped another goal by the USC defense by way of Jill Dunlap, who weaved through defenders to make the score 20-2 with 2:30 minutes left in the game. Though game conditions were overcast and gray, by the time the horn sounded, USC pulled off its first win of the year.

The Trojans’ face-off victories (16 draw controls), shots on net (29 shots) and turnover margin (13 caused turnovers) all contributed to the win. Because of Saint Mary’s 19 turnovers, Johns and backup goalie Hannah Upshaw fielded just seven Gael shots, four of which were saved.

After their 18th consecutive victory at home, the Women of Troy (1-0) will play host to the No. 9 Northwestern Wildcats (2-0) — Munday’s alma mater — next Saturday at McAlister Field.

Munday isn’t scared for the matchup, but rather excited.

“We’ve played them each year so far, it’s awesome,” Munday said. “They are a phenomenal team, and our girls get excited to play such a quality opponent.”