No. 6 USC Visits No. 12 Northwestern, No. 7 Notre Dame|
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April 13, 2016
LOS ANGELES -- The No. 6-ranked USC lacrosse team (13-0, 7-0 MPSF) puts its undefeated record on the line with a trip to the Midwest to face No. 12 Northwestern (6-6) and No. 7 Notre Dame (10-4). The Women of Troy and the Wildcats will meet for the fourth time when they clash at Lakeside Field in Evanston, Ill., on Friday (April 15) at 7 p.m. CT (5 p.m. PT). The Trojans then have two days before a bout with the Fighting Irish at Arlotta Stadium in South Bend, Ind., on Monday (April 18) at 4 p.m. ET (1 p.m. PT). Both games will be broadcast and streamed: USC-Northwestern will appear on the BTN+ via the BT2Go app and USC-Notre Dame will be on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.com.
USC, on a program-best 13-game winning streak, is just one win short of matching the program's best single-season total of 14 set in 2015. The Women of Troy have already clinched a spot in the MPSF tournament and will face their third and fourth ranked teams this year when they take the field against the Cats and the Irish.
The Trojans currently lead the nation in scoring (15.46 gpg) and scoring defense (4.92 gaa). Junior attacker and Tewaaraton Award candidate Michaela Michael is making a strong bid to repeat as the MPSF Player of the Year as the conference's leader in goals (3.77 gpg), points (5.46 ppg), and draw controls (5.08 dcpg).
LAST TIME OUT: USC extended its school-record winning streak to 12 games on a pair of hard-fought road games at Colorado and Denver. The Trojans used a goal from junior attacker Cynthia Del Core in the final 16 seconds of the game to break an eight-all tie to secure the victory in Boulder, Colo. The Buffaloes led by a goal on three different occasions and neither team led by more than a single goal before the outcome was decided. USC then faced off with the tough-nosed defense of the Pioneers and managed to lead by just three goals, 4-1, at halftime. Denver pulled within a goal late in the second half before USC pulled away for the 9-6 win. Junior attacker Michaela Michael scored a hat trick, the 23rd such game of her career, with three goals from the eight-meter arc.
SCOUTING NO. 12 NORTHWESTERN (6-6) is on a two-game home win streak, with victories over Michigan and No. 5 Notre Dame. Northwestern is 5-1 at home, the sole loss at the hands of No. 4 North Carolina in overtime. The Wildcats are led by senior midfielder Kaleigh Craig, who has scored a team high 35 points (27g, 8a). Redshirt junior attacker Christina Esposito is not far behind with 33 (20g, 13a), sophomore midfielder Selena Lasota has 28 (26g, 2a) and sophomore attacker Shelby Fredericks has 26 (16g, 10a). Fredericks leads the team in draw controls with 74, 46 more than Lasota, who is second on the team with 28. Freshman goalie Mallory Weisse has started all 12 games and has 88 saves on the season. As a team, the Wildcats have taken 241 shots on goal this season while holding opponents to 211. Northwestern and USC will meet for the fourth time. The Wildcats lead, 3-0, all-time.
SCOUTING NO. 7 NOTRE DAME (10-4) has dropped three of its last four games and is coming off back-to-back road losses to No. 3 North Carolina and to No. 16 Northwestern. The Irish have wins over ranked teams in Stanford, Boston College, Virginia, and Syracuse this season. Junior attacker Courtney Fortunado leads the Irish with 69 points (44g, 29a). Senior attacker Rachel Sexton follows with 47 (35g, 12a) while junior midfielder Casey Pearsall rounds out the top three with 34 points (21g, 13a). Defender Barbara Sullivan leads the team with 51 draw controls. In goal, freshman keeper Samantha Giacolone has 86 saves on the year, boasting a .440 save percentage and an 8.02 goals-against average. Despite the storied history between USC and Notre Dame football, the Trojans and Irish will meet in lacrosse for the first time.
ON THE HORIZON: Next week, the Trojans close out the regular-season schedule as host to No. 9 Stanford at the LA Memorial Coliseum on Friday, April 22, and then celebrate senior day with a game against UC Davis on Sunday, April 24, at McAlister Field.
HOME, SWEET HOME: The Women of Troy have won 14 straight games at McAlister Field and own a 22-8 all-time record on the home field. This year, the Trojans finally played their season opener on McAlister Field and won their season opener for the first time. The Trojans have not lost there since April 18, 2014 (10-8 to Oregon).
CLINCHED: With four games remaining on the regular-season schedule (two league contests), the Women of Troy have already claimed one of six coveted spots in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation tournament. USC has appeared in the league tourney in each of its first three seasons and played in the program's first title game last May.
HAT TRICK MAGIC: At least one Trojan has scored at least three goals in all 13 of USC's games this season. Junior attacker Michaela Michael scored the team's single-game high of seven goals in a win over Oregon on March 27.
LET'S GO STREAKING: The Trojans have opened the season 13-0 to mark the best start for the program in its four-year history. In each of the three previous seasons, USC started 0-2 before the team picked up its first win. The 13-game winning streak is also in the record books as the longest in school history, breaking a seven-game streak that was set in 2015 between Feb. 22 and March 28.
MPSF START: The Trojans have traditionally had strong starts to league play. In 2013, USC opened with two wins against MPSF foes. In 2014, the Trojans went 5-0 to start league games. In 2015, the Trojans were 7-0 against MPSF teams before suffering their only loss to Stanford. That year, USC finished second to the Cardinal but earned one of two first-round byes at the MPSF Tournament and later played in the tournament's title game.
RIDE WITH ME: USC has made the transition game a nightmare for opponents this season. The ride is anything but smooth for those who traverse the neutral zone against USC to the tune of a 107-for-186 clearance rate. That's a .575 success rate. As such, the Trojans have been able to out-shoot their opponent in all but one game this season and are out-shooting foes by a 377-177 clip.
A SHORT TIME COMING: USC has trailed its opponent for all of just 21 minutes and 25 seconds this season. Only Michigan (4:00), Oregon (8:57), and Colorado (8:28) have held leads against USC this season, and none by more than a single goal. The shortest time between any two USC goals in the same game was a grand total of eight seconds during the Oregon game (March 27); Michaela Michael scored one goal, won the next draw, and scored eight seconds later. On the flip side, the Trojans have also effectively held opponents off with a stretch of more than 30 minutes without goals from Michigan and a dry spell that lasted more than 25 minutes against Duke. The Trojans held California scoreless for 41:24 to end the game on March 18.
TWO TEW WATCH: Senior midfielder Amanda Johansen and junior attacker Michaela Michael were each named to the first official Tewaaraton Award Watch List on Feb. 23. They are the first Trojans ever to be listed on the Tewaaraton watch list. Johansen was the MPSF Rookie of the Year in 2013. Michael was the 2015 MPSF Player of the Year and is the program's first-ever IWLCA All-American (third team in 2015).
MPSF PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: Five different Trojans have won MPSF Player of the Week honors this season. Junior attacker Michaela Michael was named the MPSF Offensive Player of the Week three times (Feb. 15, Mar. 7, and Mar. 28). Junior attacker Kylie Drexel was chosen on March 21. Senior Courtney Tarleton was selected twice (Feb. 22, April 11), sophomore midfielder Lydia Sutton (March 7), and sophomore goalie Gussie Johns (April 4) each received defensive awards. Michael has been honored a team-high five times (once as a Rookie of the Week). Overall, USC has had eight offensive and seven defensive award winners to go with five rookie honorees: 20 overall.
TRACK THE TROJANS: Fans of USC women's lacrosse can follow the Trojans on Twitter and Instagram. For a behind-the-scenes look at the program, scores, and news updates, follow @USCTrojansLax. The Women of Troy will appear on five Pac-12 Networks live broadcasts this spring and will also be shown on MaxLaxOC.com (vs. Duke, Feb. 20), Mountain West Network (at Fresno State, Mar. 31), Altitude TV (at Denver, April 10), on Big Ten Network (at Northwestern, April 15), and on ESPN3 (at Notre Dame, April 18). USC's non-televised home games at McAlister Field will be webcast on the USCTrojans.com Pac-12 Networks portal.