No. 8 USC scoots by No. 25 Stanford to stay perfect on the season

Eight-year head coach Lindsey Munday racked in her 100th career victory with a 13-12 win over Stanford.

In a tight battle, head coach Lindsey Munday secured her 100th career win with USC women’s lacrosse in a 13-12 victory against Stanford. But Munday was less impressed with herself and more impressed with her team.

“It’s not about the 100th win,” Munday said. “I’m just really proud of the girls and how hard they fought, their resolve and pulling it out against a great team.”

The Women of Troy didn’t triumph for her, or anyone, in particular. They won for each other.

“For us,” said Munday, senior midfielder Kerrigan Miller and junior goalie Riley Hertford.

The whole season has been centered around that focus.

“We’ve been trying to focus on us,” Miller said. “A lot of times we let outside factors — the refs, the other teams, etc. — get into our head, so we brought it in and wanted to center it back to us and what we know we can do, which I think was really effective.”

That was the game plan coming out of a timeout with possession of the ball in Stanford’s end and the game tied at 12 with five minutes left to play.

The ball was in Miller’s stick on the corner of the 8-meter, where she charged in, threw a pump fake and got the shooting-space call. On the next whistle she ran in from the hash and found the net to give the Trojans the 13-12 edge.

After being tied at each score from eight through 12, the Trojans knew the game was far from over. Two minutes of scoreless play followed before Stanford got possession in Trojan territory and called timeout. They had a loaded 90-second shot clock to try and tie the game, but the Trojan defense stepped up and the Cardinal couldn’t get a shot off. Munday couldn’t have dreamed it better.

Or could she?

“My coach had a dream two days ago and she said ‘I had a dream you had an 8-meter to win the game and I woke up before it actually happened,’” Miller said. “So these last few days, maybe I’m superstitious, I have been repping 8-meters so when I got it, I went up to the line pretty confident based off all my prep.”

For most of the game, the Women of Troy had multiple penalties in the 8-meter, gave up numerous free position shots and struggled on the defensive end, but not in the last three minutes. The Trojans’ backer defense got caught in multiple three-second calls when two Trojans would guard one Cardinal cutter, causing the 8-meter to get clogged.

“It was mostly cleaning up some three-second calls and trying to focus on us,” Hertford said. “We were really trying to get on their hands and get the backside feeds, but for the most part it was definitely a team win.”

Stanford outsized the Trojans, but the way to tame the Cardinal was no different from any other game plan.

“The key to managing [their size] was honestly just focusing on us, communicating what [defensive set] they were in and keeping our composure,” Miller said.

The Trojans ended each half with undeniable drive. In the last minute of the first half, USC showed more heart than they did in the first 29. Their passing and catching was crisp, and they out-hustled the Cardinal. Their last transitional set was an upfield run by Miller to find junior midfielder Kelsey Huff in the attacking zone, where she took it inside the 8-meter and ripped it top shelf to put the Trojans up one with six seconds left in the half.

The Trojans’ transition game relies heavily on Miller. Time after time, the senior midfielder came up with the ground ball or turnover in the defensive end and, having no outlet passes to move the ball upfield, carried the ball from one end zone to another.

On the draw, the Trojans found no consistency, often fighting in 50-50 battles on the floor. Sophomore midfielder Katie Ramsey didn’t use her 6-foot height to the Trojans advantage, and the USC midfielders on the circle weren’t explosive enough off the line.

The last 90 seconds of play, however, was a perfectly executed game of keep-away. USC ran down the shot clock and left Stanford six seconds to go 100 yards to goal, but the Cardinal would come up short.

Munday said the team needs to work on draw controls if they want to slide by Berkeley.

If USC can find a way to consistently win draw controls and regulate the tempo of the game, they can make a serious run in both the Pac-12 and NCAA tournaments.

The road there continues at noon Sunday against UC Berkeley at McAlister Field.