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April 16, 2016 — The once and future disruptors

The word “disruptor” has become an almost overused term to describe a product or service which changes the way that people look at an aspect of their lives.

It’s been used in recent times to describe ride-sharing services, Internet portals, and people offering alternative sales of eyeglasses and razor blades.

But there have been disruptors in history before: Henry Ford’s assembly line, Milton Berle’s comedy show (which tipped the entertainment balance from radio to television), and Apple’s iPhone.

And then, there was the Northwestern women’s lacrosse team. Playing an attacking, appealing style of lacrosse with heady players from sometimes non-traditional areas of the country, the Wildcats won seven national championships in an eight-year span from 2005 to 2012. Head coach Kelly Amonte-Hiller questioned everything, from some of the arcane rules of the game, to the uniforms, to her recruiting pattern, to the type of athlete recruited.

Yesterday, Northwestern met a team which could very well be the new disruptors of collegiate women’s lacrosse. The University of Southern California, a team built very much in Northwestern’s image, won 14-11.

USC is now 14-0 on the season, and has risen to No. 5 in the polls. The Women of Troy have beaten the likes of Stony Brook and Duke this year, although to be fair, their strength of schedule (featuring opponents’ and opponents-of-opponents’ records) is 52nd of the 111 Division I sides.

Still, this isn’t half-bad for USC’s fourth year of varsity competition.

That’s right; Year 4.

Lindsay Munday’s crew is built on Amonte-Hiller’s model of success that brought Northwestern a title by Year 5. When you look at game-by-game scores, it is not easy to identify the one attacking player to try to shut off. But the team has a genuine superstar in junior attacking midfielder Michaela Michael, who leads the teams in goals, assists, and draw controls. She comes from Atherton Menlo School (Calif.), a small private school about halfway between San Francisco and San Jose.

One of the team leaders in the defensive midfield is Lydia Sutton, who played her high-school ball at Minnetonka Blake School (Minn.). But the unquestioned leader on the defense is Gussie Johns, who prepped at national powerhouse Alexandria St. Stephen’s/St. Agnes (Va.). And she is being coached by U.S. national team starter Devon Wills.

It’s hard to envision USC winning the national championship, at least this year. They’ll have to win their way into the tournament through the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation as an AQ, although they may have a chance for one of the 13 at-large bids, since the Women of Troy are currently 12th in Ratings Percentage Index.

In 2017 and beyond? Watch out for the Women of Troy. This is a program you should get to know.

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