Lacrosse takes on USC in clash of top teams

April 21, 2016, 12:15 a.m.

Ever since its inception, lacrosse has been considered an East Coast sport. But on Friday, two California teams will not only fight for conference supremacy, but will also assert the notion that West Coast lacrosse is alive, well and here to stay, as No. 8 Stanford (12-2, 7-0 MPSF) and No. 4 USC (15-0, 7-0) face off in Los Angeles.

Stanford and USC may not be your traditional lacrosse powerhouses, but both programs have had statement seasons in a year that’s seen several teams unexpectedly emerge among the nation’s best.

Stanford has been ranked in the top-10 for four weeks in a row – after only being in the top-10 a combined four weeks over the past two years – and has taken down three top-20 opponents, including Johns Hopkins and Penn State.

In only its fourth year of existence, USC women’s lacrosse is also turning the lacrosse fans’ heads towards the West Coast: In its second season with a winning record, the program is only one of two teams (the other being Maryland) to boast undefeated records at this point in the season.

The Trojans are also the only team in the MPSF with both a top-five scoring offense and defense. They are the only team in the nation to hold opponents to fewer than six goals per game (5.27), but can also rely on their attack to rack up nearly 15 goals per meeting. Their offense is led by Michaela Michael’s 3.47 goals per game (her 52 goals on the season are third-best in the nation), while Caroline deLyra and Kylie Drexel have also contributed over 30 apiece on the season.

The Trojans’ success does not stem from mediocre competition: Outside of MPSF play, they have taken down storied, well-established programs such as Duke (11-5), Northwestern (14-11) and, in their most recent game, Notre Dame (5-4). Their best win in terms of rankings was a 14-10 victory over current No. 6 Stony Brook, a team that handed Stanford its second loss of the season in a 17-7 defeat that also featured the season-ending injury to Lucy Dikeou.

Since then, the Cardinal have not skipped a beat, winning six straight – mostly by wide margins – and remaining undefeated in the MPSF. Junior Kelsey Murray has stepped up to score 21 of her 37 goals in the past six games, while six other players, excluding Dikeou, have contributed at least 10 goals each. Yet the team’s success doesn’t simply derive from its ability to score: Stanford also does the little things well, such as dominate draw controls (14.93) and consistently convert on free position goals (.556 – good for fifth in the nation).

Against a team as talented as USC, the Cardinal will have to get everything clicking on both ends of the field in order to come out with the win. Against the five other ranked opponents Stanford has played this season, the Cardinal defense allowed over 11 goals on average; in the three games from this set that the team won, the offense came through to score at least 10 goals and made up for any defensive breakdown.

With USC’s top defense, Stanford’s offense may not be able to bail out the defense as easily; instead, the Cardinal – and more players than just Murray – will have to score early and often to keep up with the Trojans, while also pushing for an aggressive second half on offense. The team scores nearly 60 percent of its goals before halftime. Stanford must also protect the ball – turnovers have been a bit of an issue at some points – to prevent the Trojans from gaining additional scoring opportunities.

While in Southern California, the Cardinal will also visit San Diego State to complete their regular season on Sunday. Stanford will then host the MPSF Tournament two weekends from now, in which the Cardinal will look to win their 10th MPSF title and second in a row.

Catch the Cardinal as they take on the Trojans Friday at 4:30 p.m. on Pac-12 Networks.


Contact Alexa Philippou at [email protected].

Alexa Philippou '18 is a political science major and a former Managing Editor of The Daily's sports section. She switched from the sports section to news her junior year, where she has worked on the university/local beat since. Being from Baltimore, she is a die-hard Ravens and Orioles fan who cried when the Ravens won the Super Bowl. To contact Alexa, please email her at aphil723 'at'

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