The USC women’s lacrosse team will start its 2020 season this weekend with a trip to the East Coast to face Hofstra. The defending Pac-12 champions were voted the preseason No. 16 by the Intercollegiate Women’s Lacrosse Coaches Association and ranked No. 10 by Nike/U.S. Lacrosse. The Trojans were also voted first in the Pac-12 preseason poll.
USC is coming off a 16-4 season during which it finished 9-1 in Pac-12 play and lost in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. A majority of the Trojans’ offensive firepower from last season will be back this year, with nine of their top 10 goal-scorers — who accounted for all but 31 of the team’s 272 goals last season — returning.
Highlighting that group are junior midfielder Kelsey Huff and senior attack Izzy McMahon. The pair led USC in scoring last season and combined for 78 goals, good for the No. 32 overall offense in the nation.
Still, USC head coach Lindsey Munday isn’t sure that her scorers have been getting enough attention.
“We’ve been a defensive-minded team,” Munday said in an interview with US Lacrosse Magazine last week. “But hopefully the midfield and offense is where people will notice us this year.”
Earlier this offseason, junior midfielder Kerrigan Miller was featured by Nike on the NCAA preview cover of Women’s Lacrosse Magazine. Miller scored only 22 goals on the season but finished with numerous career highs in ground balls (52) and forced turnovers (41). Kerrigan will likely be in the conversation for the Tewaaraton award this Spring, which is given to the most valuable player in women’s college lacrosse. Kerrigan was a nominee a season ago.
USC’s midfield will also be bolstered by Huff and her sister, senior midfielder Kaeli Huff. According to Munday, the Trojans will have one of the most balanced midfield units in the NCAA.
“Our midfield has been strong with Kerrigan, Kelsey and Kaeli [Huff],” Munday said in an interview with US Lacrosse. “The midfield has been pretty strong for us, both on the defensive end and then on the offensive side.”
Coming off a Pac-12 Championship, Munday’s Trojans are looking to stay motivated as they try to repeat last season’s success.
For McMahon, it’s not hard to stay motivated with so much potential on the team.
“I think we are all pretty motivated,” McMahon said. “This year we have 12 seniors, a lot of returners and a good new incoming class, so the motivation part comes easy for us just because we’re coming off of being Pac-12 champs — and also, it’s our last year to do what we gotta do.”
Despite all the experience and talent in this year’s group, McMahon believes the team’s strength will lie in something more intangible than strength or speed: chemistry.
“I honestly think it’s our team chemistry,” McMahon said. “Last year we came off a great year and we came up short, and I think with the way we ended — even though it wasn’t what we wanted — it helped us build our camaraderie.”
Munday drew parallels between her team and the 2016 Trojan squad that made it to the NCAA quarterfinals, losing only one game all season.
“This is probably the closest team that we’ve had in the past three years — at least,” Munday said. “It kind of reminds me of the 2016 seniors that we had. They have really high hopes and high goals.”
As USC prepares to open the season against Hofstra at 2 p.m. Saturday, McMahon believes her team just needs to keep the focus on themselves.
“Just play USC lacrosse,” she said. “Obviously, we are going somewhere that’s a little bit colder [in] the East Coast, [but] that’s where [a lot of us] are from and we are excited to see our families — but our main focus is just us.”
Melissa Pelowski contributed to this report.