Lacrosse prepares for conference tournament

Junior attacker Hope Anhut moves past a Cal defender at McAlister Field March 23. (Josh Dunst/Daily Trojan)

The USC women’s lacrosse team will play in the Pac-12 Tournament this weekend as it heads back to Eugene, Ore. for a chance at the conference championship. The odds seem to be in the Trojans’ favor after they secured their first-ever Pac-12 regular-season title last weekend against Arizona State.

It is the third regular-season league championship for USC, which won Mountain Pacific Sports Federation crowns in 2016 and 2017. The win over ASU brought the Trojans up to 5-0 all-time against Arizona State and helped them secure the top seed in the second annual Pac-12 Women’s Lacrosse Tournament. USC will meet the winner between fifth-seeded Arizona State and fourth-seeded California in the first semifinal game Friday at Papé Field.

USC has played both teams twice this season, winning each by a huge margin. Should the Trojans win their semifinal matchup against either team, they will advance to the championship game set for Sunday.

USC’s main focus leading up to the tournament is properly executing details and continuing to improve communication among players to ensure precision and effectiveness against either ASU or Cal. In its most recent match against the Sun Devils, USC was taken out of its rhythm in the early going, unable to score until nearly 10 minutes into the game. With the pressure amping up, USC quickly racked up 3 goals in two minutes, aided by two free-position goals.

The win allowed the Trojans to finish off their regular season with a victory and also gave the graduating players a memorable final match at McAlister Field.

“With it most likely being the final game we would get to play at McAlister Field this year, as a senior, I really wanted to play my best and be able to know I gave it my all,” senior defender Jackie Gilbert said.

Gilbert has been one of the team’s top contributors defensively and was recently named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week for her stellar performance at the ASU game. This is Gilbert’s second Pac-12 honor this season and also the second of her career. She is one of six Trojans to earn the title this season.

“I would love for us to be able to play our best and be able to go out on top but we need to take it game by game first,” Gilbert said.   

Stanford has been a strong competitor this season and will likely face USC in Sunday’s final match. In its most recent match against Stanford, Cal was defeated 17-6, ending the Bears’ regular season with a tough loss.

Last year, the Trojans fell to the Cardinal during the semifinals and were eliminated from the tournament. Stanford went on to sweep the field against Colorado and ultimately won the inaugural tournament in Boulder.

USC has already competed against Stanford twice this year, with both matches ending in a Trojan victory.  

As they look to secure a spot in the national championship, the Trojans must bring their A-game to Eugene Friday at 4:30 p.m.