When Michaela Michael first picked up a lacrosse stick when she was nine years old, she was so unfamiliar with the sport she kept hitting the ball on the ground as if she were playing field hockey. Oh, how the times have changed.
After being named a first-team All-American in 2011 and 2012 while at Menlo High School in Atherton, California, Michael could have ventured east to play for an established women's lacrosse program. Instead, she decided to stay in California and join a USC women's lacrosse program that was only in its second year of existence.
Michael's gamble paid off when she started every game her freshman year and scored 25 goals and had six assists, but it was as a sophomore that her game really took off. She scored 63 goals and had 13 assists that season to lead the MPSF in points per game (3.8), goals per game (3.15), and game-winning goals (5) and was named the MPSF Player of the Year and a third-team IWLCA All-American.
Perhaps more significant for her development as a player was the work she put in with newly hired assistant coach Alyssa Leonard, who was an IWLCA All-American and the NCAA draw control record holder as a player at Northwestern. After working with Leonard during her sophomore year, Michael set a new MPSF record for draw controls in a season with 123, which ranked sixth in the NCAA.
As a junior, Michael continued her dominant ways, setting new USC single-season records with 99 points and 68 goals and leading the MPSF with 5.1 draw controls per game. She was named the MPSF Offensive Player of the Week four times and earned first-team IWLCA All-American honors at the end of the season. She also led the Trojans to a MPSF conference championship and helped the team become the first West Coast school to host an NCAA tournament game. After beating Stanford, USC lost to Syracuse in the NCAA quarterfinals 12-11 in overtime.
This season, Michael seems determined to carry her team into uncharted territory. No West Coast school has ever made the semifinals of the NCAA tournament. After scoring 13 goals and two assists and totaling 17 draw controls in two games last week, the senior attacker was named the MPSF Offensive Player of the Week for the fourth straight week. It is the 10th time in her career she's earned an MPSF Player of the Week award, the most by any USC player in the program's history.
Michael currently ranks in the top three in almost every offensive category for her career at USC, including points (206, second all-time), goals (156, second) and assists (50, third). If she's able to maintain her current pace, she'll hold every offensive career record at her school at the end of the season.
While she surely appreciates the individual honors, you can bet Michael won't be satisfied until she helps carry her team deep into the NCAA tournament, but to do so, USC needs to finish its MPSF season strong. The team's next test comes this Friday, when it hosts sixth-ranked Colorado at the LA Memorial Coliseum.