5 Reasons Why #DUKEvsUSC Matters to SoCal Girls’ Lacrosse

USC women’s lacrosse will face Duke in the inaugural OC Winter Invitational on Feb. 20 at Orange Coast College. The Trojans are coming off the best season of their brief existence, and #DUKEvsUSC represents a rematch with the team that ended USC’s season last spring.

Here are five reasons the #DUKEvsUSC women’s lacrosse game matters to SoCal girls lacrosse — reasons that also explain why you should get your tickets early.

1. #DUKEvsUSC: West Coast Meets East Coast

West Coast lacrosse doesn’t have the history of East Coast lacrosse. But do we admire, envy or aspire to the East Coast game? For USC, the East is a challenge met. Last season, the Trojans went 4-4 against East Coast teams, with one of those losses coming against Duke. After USC earned its first NCAA Tournament berth last May, Duke beat the Trojans 17-9 in the second round.

#DUKEvsUSC is a not a rematch to miss. If Denver can win a men’s national championship, could a Western women’s team do the same? Whether it be Stanford, Fresno State, Cal, SDSU, St. Mary’s, UC Davis or USC, California sure would love to claim a championship of its own. On OCC’s neutral but local site, #DUKEvsUSC should gather a Southern California base of fans for USC. That’s all the more to empower them against this cross-country competition.

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2. USC Building Momentum

USC women’s lacrosse, under the leadership of coach Lindsey Munday, knows what it’s like to build from scratch. The NCAA Division I program is heading into its fourth year of existence after posting season records of 8-10, 9-9 and, last year, 14-6, including an NCAA Tournament bid. After tasting the tournament last season, has USC grown enough to break out even bigger?

USC’s growth as a program is #relatable to Southern California, where lacrosse programs sprout out of shallow roots in every county; where soccer-coach converts take on the near-impossible task of teaching the sport to new athletes; and where kids pick up sticks so they can ditch their 12-minute miles in PE. Girls lacrosse in SoCal is experiencing the ugly duckling phase of growth. The Trojans program represents something larger and more beautiful to which SoCal teams can aspire.

3. Duke Transplant Kate Hick

There aren’t any Californians on the Duke roster, but a Duke alum has been a key figure in the growth of Southern California girls’ lacrosse for many years. Pennsylvania native Kate Hick was an All-American at Duke from 1998-2001. Hick moved to California, coached at Pepperdine for four years and has now become head coach of the 2015 Southern Section championship-winning Foothill High School girls’ team. She brings a valuable background that both Duke and Southern California girls’ lacrosse appreciate.

SoCal-native pride might bias us toward our fellow pacific coastliners at USC. But any native, up-and-coming athletes who have ever benefited from the leadership of Coach Hick would be curious to discover the program that produced her. “Perseverance” set the tone of Hick’s experience with the Blue Devils. She has shared that perseverance with Southern California. East coast transplants like Hick, such as St. Margaret’s and Victory club coach Holly Reilly, bring us the history and establishment of East Coast lacrosse not only embodied in their example, but in the knowledge they share with laxers who are eager to advance. #DUKEvsUSC might be a bit awkward for Hick, since her Foothill player Hannah Upshaw has committed to USC, but that also shows what coaches like Hick can do for SoCal laxers.

4. USC Cali Natives Past and Present

Upshaw will join a legacy of Southern California-native Trojans. Looking at these testaments to SoCal roots, budding players from their home towns can aspire to reach their accomplishments. For example, there is alumnus Elizabeth Eddy (Newport Harbor), who graduated last spring. Kaitlyn Couture (Coronado) is a graduate student on the 2016 Trojans roster. Several other players from Northern California join the list. The Women of Troy boast a roster mix of athletes from across the country.

Why players from either coast would want to play lacrosse here has to do with more than the great weather. For non-native transplants, it beats laxing in the snow. For locals, there is the opportunity to play D-I lacrosse close to home. At schools like USC, and as recently announced, Arizona State, there are even more nearby chances to play at the highest level and get a top-notch education. Travel is easier, weather is warmer, and student-athletes can pioneer the rapid rise of West Coast lacrosse. The natives on the USC team are bound to have local supporters in the stands at #DUKEvsUSC. They represent examples for young players and the Cali pride of success based on humble beginnings.

5. Good Lacrosse is Good Lacrosse

It doesn’t matter if you’re rooting for USC or Duke. Good lacrosse is good lacrosse. Fans of the women’s game will benefit from watching it whether they are a U13 club player, high school coach or a lacrosse parent just learning. The benefit from watching an advanced player, like the benefit from calling one a teammate, is that the best of her rubs off on you.

Together, we will learn from #DUKEvsUSC. We will learn from both their strengths and areas of improvement. We’ll go home and try that sick trick shot. We’ll go to our teams and use Munday’s motivational speeches. And since the Feb. 20 game is early in the season, we’ll be able to keep up with the rest of Duke and USC’s seasons, following their stories closely as we continue to write our own.

Tickets are available now.

Michelle Mendoza is a graduate of El Toro High School and Chapman University, where she played NCAA D3 lacrosse. Follow her on Twitter @michelledm18.

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