Lax has what it takes to win it all

first_imgI figured it wouldn’t happen a second time in a row. Two years ago, during another very strong season in 2014, the women’s lacrosse team improved its national reputation as a formidable team, continuing to grow as one of the up-and-coming programs. But the Women of Troy hadn’t broken away as the clear force to be reckoned with, the true best of the west, in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.The Women of Troy dropped three of nine conference games  in 2014, including a heartbreaking overtime thriller at Colorado by a score of 12-11. The Women of Troy followed that up with another frustrating 1-goal loss that weekend at Denver, losing 8-7. Denver was already one of the dominant forces in women’s lacrosse on the West Coast, so it was easier to understand how an upstart USC program wasn’t quite on the Pioneers’ level yet.The loss to Colorado, though, was an upset in the other direction. Colorado was the kind of team USC had to beat consistently if it wanted to be a threat to win the conference. Not that there are any games to give away in a nine-game conference season, but splitting between Denver and Stanford still leaves open the possibility of finishing on top of the standings. Everybody else, though, including Colorado, are pretty much must-wins.It’s similar to the football team’s season. There’s usually enough parity and margin for error for ’SC to drop one to either Stanford or Oregon, but win every other game, and finish on top of the standings. It’s arguably more important that the Trojans show up for all of the potential sleepers and avoid a bad upset than it is for the Trojans to be at a different level against the toughest competition.So that’s what made this year’s trip to the Rockies so important for the women’s lacrosse team. Not only would it feature arguably the Trojans’ toughest conference test all season in Denver, but it also featured the biggest opportunity for an upset. It was so crucial that the Women of Troy brought their best focus into Boulder. Because as the late and great Star Wars voice actor Erik Bauersfeld would say, “It’s a trap.”Sure enough, the Women of Troy found themselves back in overtime.Let’s backtrack a bit — up until that point, this had been by far the best season in the program’s history. The Women of Troy are undefeated, they have climbed into the top-10 of the national poll and they looked poised to make a deep run in the NCAA tournament.The biggest win up before the Colorado trip was a breakout performance against Duke. The Blue Devils, one of the perennial national powers, knocked the Women of Troy out of playoffs the year before and advanced all the way to the national semifinals. But with a big 11-5 win over the Blue Devils, the Women of Troy not only avenged last year’s playoff loss but also set the tone for the rest of this season. The new expectations were that this team would be a legitimate national title contender — this would be the season the Women of Troy take another huge step forward.Since then, the Women of Troy had done nothing but dominate. They certainly validated the updated national polls that continue to rank them higher and higher. With the exception of a 14-10 victory over Stony Brook, a well-established East Coast program, the Women of Troy won all nine of their next games by at least 9 goals.In some ways, it was a great sign for the program. They were truly wiping the floor with the MPSF competition. But the team was in need of a challenge. Not only had the team played every game in California, including the Duke matchup, but the Blue Devils were the only opponent really on USC’s level.So that’s what made the Colorado trip crucial. It was not just the undefeated record of the team that was on the line, or the chance to take command of the MPSF standings and set the team up for an advantageous NCAA tournament run. It was a chance for the team to show its true mental toughness.It certainly wasn’t a flawless performance. I’m sure players would say that Colorado shouldn’t be the kind of team taking USC to the brink of defeat. But in the face of the team’s first true test, the team answered the call. It showed up and made the big plays when they mattered most, and came away with a hard-earned victory.The road will continue to get harder. The Women of Troy will still have to hit Stanford and visit another national power in Northwestern this weekend.But the team made another big step this weekend. This season is no longer about USC hypothetically having a shot at the national title, or having the talent to compete for a national title. This team legitimately could win it all in its fourth-ever season. The Women of Troy seriously have what it takes.Luke Holthouse is junior majoring in policy, planning and development and print and digital journalism. His column, “Holthouse Party,” runs on every other Wednesday.last_img


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