February 9, 2013

Off and Running: USC Opener a 'Starting Point'

by Andie Hagemann | LaxMagazine.com | Live Blog Replay

Amanda Johansen (7) scored USC's first-ever goal on Saturday against Northwestern.
© Dirk Dewachter

LOS ANGELES — The USC women's lacrosse team opened its inaugural season against reigning NCAA champion Northwestern in a marquee matchup at historic Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum on Saturday evening. The Wildcats defeated the Trojans, 18-5, in a fast-paced game in front of a crowd of 2,890.

"We were so excited for this game. We know how great each and every one of [Northwestern's] players are and what they all can do," said USC midfielder Amanda Johansen. "Being able to go head to head with them was a good time to prove on the field what we really have and how hard we have worked."

Despite playing in its first Division I game, the Women of Troy did not let the Wildcats' impressive pedigree intimidate them.

"It was a huge deal coming out and playing a team like this," Johansen said. "You wouldn't expect a new program to come out and play the reigning national champions. I think every goal that we scored and good play that we made gave us the drive to try to do that every play."

Johansen made history for the USC program when she scored the first-ever goal for the Trojans at the 17:44 mark, making it a day she will never forget.

"It definitely, by far, is the coolest day of my life," said Johansen, who added another goal in the second half.

The Northwestern offense was fueled by Erin Fitzgerald, who scored three goals. Alyssa Leonard, Kat DeRonda, Kara Mupo, Taylor Thornton, and Ali Cassera each had two goals. Gabriella Flibotte, Beatrice Conley, Kaleigh Craig, and Brooks Lawler added one goal each. Conley, Fitzgerald, Leonard, Amanda Macaluso and Kelly Rich were all credited with assists. Northwestern's defense forced 15 turnovers and owned a 23-14 edge in ground balls against USC.

"Alyssa [Leonard] is one of the most talented draw specialists I've worked with and very driven to succeed," Northwestern coach Kelly Amonte Hiller said. "We've seen in the past how critical her ability on the draw can be to our success and that's going to be true all season long."

Along with Johansen, Caroline de Lyra, Haleigh Dalmass and Paige Bonomi each scored goals for USC. Johansen and de Lyra also added assists.

Although it was a lopsided loss, USC head coach Lindsey Munday said she was impressed by the play of her young team and believes it is a great starting point for the new program.

"We did some nice things out there and there is obviously a lot that we need to work on," Munday said. "At the end of the day, it's a starting point and we're excited about that."

The Women of Troy trailed the Wildcats 11-2 at halftime but managed to become more assertive in the second half.

"I am happy with the spurts when we can feed it. Obviously in the first half, draw controls were a major factor," Munday said. "We came up with a few in the second half. To see that improvement, that is a positive thing right there."

It was fitting for USC and Munday to play the Trojans inaugural game against a familiar face, Munday's mentor and former coach, Kelly Amonte Hiller. "I have a lot of respect for Lindsey," Amonte Hiller said. "She is an amazing role model for her student-athletes and a good friend. It is always special when you get to go against a good friend."

The fast-paced playing style of the Northwestern has inspired USC to follow with the same game plan. "We definitely want to play a fun style. When you can play an exciting, fast-paced style, I think the fans enjoy it more," Munday said.

Northwestern (2-0) will travel to Chapel Hill to face fifth-ranked North Carolina on Friday, Feb. 22. USC (0-1) will host Massachusetts next Sunday at McAlister Field before opening MPSF play next week.

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