Women's Lacrosse

Syracuse women’s lacrosse opponent preview: What to know about Southern California

Jessica Sheldon | Photo Editor

Syracuse takes on USC at 3 p.m. on Saturday in the Carrier Dome. Read to learn what's important for SU fans to know heading into the matchup.

No. 4 seed Syracuse (18-5, 5-2 Atlantic Coast) will host Southern California (20-0, 9-0 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation) in the NCAA tournament quarterfinals on Saturday afternoon at 3 p.m. in the Carrier Dome. The Orange played the second round in Newton, Massachusetts because SU could not secure enough hotel rooms in the Syracuse area for a game it would have hosted.

Both teams had a first-round bye. The Orange dodged Stony Brook in the second round, 7-6, on Sunday while the Trojans beat Stanford, 14-8. Syracuse’s prolific offense will be matched up with USC’s historic defense. This NCAA tournament is also the last chance for Syracuse’s best-ever, Kayla Treanor, to lead her team to a national championship.

Here’s everything you need to know before SU plays USC:

All-Time Series: This will be the first meeting between the two teams.

The Southern California Report: The Trojans began the season by imposing its will on Stetson with a 21-2 beatdown that set the tone for the rest of the season. USC won seven games by 13 or more goals. Despite running through a weak conference with ease — the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation sent just one other team, Stanford, to the NCAA tournament — USC poses a significant obstacle in Syracuse’s path to the Final Four.

USC proved it could hang with the sport’s best by beating Stony Brook, 14-10, at home in mid-March and then gritting out a 14-11 win over Northwestern and a 5-4 win over Notre Dame three days later.

The gaudy goal numbers became bloated by picking on inferior teams, but the defense is legit. After facing the No. 2 defense in the nation in Stony Brook, Syracuse will face the country’s best on Saturday. USC allows a stingy 5.5 goals per game and has held opponents to fewer than 10 goals in 18 of 20 games this season.

But Southern California usually stops opponents before they can take a shot on net. Led by 5-foot-4 senior defender Courtney Tarleton’s 50 caused turnovers, USC forces the second most caused turnovers in the country. The Trojans also vacuum up groundballs with a deep defensive rotation including sophomore Lydia Sutton, junior Nina Kelty and senior Kelsey Dreyer.

How Syracuse beats USC: Dominate the draw (again). The Trojans don’t turn the ball over a ton (12.1 per game), clear well (.859 clearing percentage) and convert their chances (.517 shooting percentage). By holding Syracuse to its fewest goals in a game this season (seven), Stony Brook’s defense showed other teams that forcing the Orange to play through someone other than Kayla Treanor can create problems.

Despite the struggle to score, Syracuse still escaped Stony Brook by solving the defense for a four-goal run in the second half and maintaining an 11-4 edge on the draw to give itself extra possessions. The 5-foot-9 Treanor dominated SBU’s 5-foot-5 Kasey Mitchell but she’ll have a tougher time with USC’s 5-foot-10 Michaela Michael.

It took 50 minutes for the Orange to overcome the Seawolves’ pressing defense. Syracuse now faces a tougher task and will need the extra minutes with the ball to ensure it has all the chances it needs to advance.

Numbers to Know:

8.3 — Southern California has won by an average of 8.3 goals per game this season. Nine of the Trojans’ 20 wins came by double-digit goals.

3 — Southern California beat three teams—No. 6 Stony Brook, No. 7 Notre Dame and No. 8 Stanford — that finished in the Top 10 in the final Inside Lacrosse poll of the season. Syracuse beat four such teams.

4 — This season is only USC’s fourth in existence. Each year the Trojans win total has risen.

Player to watch: Michaela Michael

The 5-foot-10 junior is Southern California’s version of Kayla Treanor: A big, do-it-all attack that leads her team in goals (66), assists (31), game-winners (6) and draw controls (103). The third-team All-American last season only improved this year, racking up 31 assists when she’d totaled 19 in her first two seasons and posting a career-high goal total with a career-best .569 shooting percentage. She’s also been at her best when USC has been challenged, though that’s been rarely. In USC’s three games decided by fewer than three goals, Michael has led her team in points each time, averaging three per contest. In a game that promises to be tighter than normal for USC, its success depends heavily on how Michael handles the attention of a top-rate defense.

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