Now in their third year as a program, members and coaches of the USC women’s lacrosse team have made it clear that this a season in which they expect to make significant strides in both their cohesion and consistency as a unit. If Tuesday’s conference opener was any indication, the team is well on their way toward accomplishing that goal.USC convincingly handled Fresno State in the first game at McAlister Field this season, winning by a lopsided score 17-6. The team was relentless on all sides of the field and kept their high level of intensity for all 60 minutes of the match en route to the victory.“We’re very exited about the win and starting off the conference season like that,” head coach Lindsey Munday said following the game. “We are coming off a tough weekend with long travel where we played two tough opponents … I’m very proud of the mental and physical strength we showed as a team today to come in and fight the way we did.”As Munday alluded to, Tuesday’s win marked the third game in the last four days for the Women of Troy. The team traveled across the country this weekend, splitting a pair of games New York before traveling back to Southern California in preparation for Tuesday’s game. They dropped a low-scoring affair against then-No. 16 ranked Stony Brook on Saturday, 7-4, before bouncing back for their first win of the season against Marist, 11-7, on Sunday.Tuesday’s victory over Fresno State marked the first conference win of the year for the squad and also evened their overall record to 2-2. The Women of Troy lost their season-opener in dramatic overtime fashion to then-No. 5 Northwestern, 12-11, in a game played at the Coliseum. Northwestern has won seven of the last 10 women’s lacrosse national championships.Though historically Fresno State has not provided much competition for its MPSF opponents, the Women of Troy approached the game no differently than they would any other opponent and didn’t take their foot off the gas pedal until the final horn blared.“We knew we had to come out really strong in this first conference game and play hard, and we are really excited to get a big win like this,” sophomore attacker Michaela Michael said. “It doesn’t matter who the opponent is, our approach is still the same.”With the game tied at two after the opening six minutes of the game, USC took the lead on a free position shot from junior midfielder Amanda Johansen with 23:40 on the clock and never looked back, scoring nine more goals in consecutive fashion to take a 12-2 lead into halftime.Johansen, who entered the game as the team leader in draw controls, showcased a strong finishing ability as well Tuesday, scoring five goals to lead the Women of Troy. Junior attacker Caroline de Lyra also had an excellent game, dishing three assists — all to Johansen — and recording a hat trick of her own as well, her third triple-goal game in the team’s four games thus far. De Lyra has now tallied ten goals and seven assists to lead the team with 17 points so far this season. Michael sits in second place with 13 points on nine goals and four assists, with Johansen currently slated for the bronze medal with nine points on eight goals and one assist thanks to her offensive outburst Tuesday.When asked about her scoring success against the Bulldogs after the game, Johansen was quick to attribute her performance to her teammates’ awareness and unselfishness, and in particular, de Lyra’s:“If you work hard and cut hard, the girls on this team will find you with passes,” she said. “My teammates did that today, and especially Cara. She got the assists on most of my goals.”Despite the outstanding performances from de Lyra and Johansen, as well a stout defensive effort from USC’s back line, which forced Fresno State into eleven turnovers, the game ball of the day was unquestionably earned by Michael. In fact, Michael quite literally took home the game ball, for in addition to a hat-trick of goals, the 5’11” attacker tallied 15 draw control wins, the most ever in one individual performance in MPSF conference history.While Michael was proud of the accomplishment, much like Johansen, she attributed her success to someone else, that of new assistant head coach Alyssa Leonard.“To be honest, my performance today is really all thanks to coach Leonard,” Michael said. “We’ve been working on draw controls since the minute we stepped on campus this year, and to have a game like this and see such significant strides is really exciting.”Leonard, who just graduated from Northwestern last year, finished her playing career as a Wildcat with an NCAA record of 469 draw controls, over 100 more than the previous record. Leonard’s career high in draw controls as a player in one game was 15, and so now, just four games into her coaching career, one of her pupils has tied that astounding tally. This speaks volumes about her value to the team in teaching draw control technique, and not just to Michael: USC now has won 58 draw controls on the season, as compared to just 27 for its opponents.Michael’s record was largely the result of her diligent hard work — much of it outside of scheduled practices — and her team has taken notice.“Michaela works extremely hard and has put in the work all year, whether it has been in practice or in extra one-on-one time with Alyssa,” Munday said. “We are so happy and excited to see her success on the field coming to fruition like this because we know she is earning it each and every day.”While Michael’s record and the other performances from Tuesday deserve celebration and indicate that the team was locked in from beginning to end, the Women of Troy are also aware that this is only the beginning of the conference season, and there is still plenty of work to be done in the weeks to come.“There’s definitely still things to improve on, such as the 13 turnovers we had, for example,” Munday said. “That is not a standard we want to set as a program, and so taking care of the ball will be a big focus over the next couple weeks in practice. For the most part, that comes down to staying focused, staying poised and staying under control even when we are playing aggressively.”However, if Michael’s performance Tuesday can stand as a broader representation of the work ethic and drive of the whole team, one can expect those improvements to made much sooner than later.The Women of Troy’s next game comes March 9 at home vs. Liberty, the second of a five-game homestand at McAlister Field.