As a senior captain at University of Southern California this season, Lydia Sutton preferred pregame tunes that got the team unified. Music with positive vibes and heavy enough beats to get dance parties going. “Party in the USA” by Miley Cyrus happened to be a USC locker room favorite throughout college.
It’s just one of those songs you can put on in the locker room that gets everyone going.
Sutton, now a USC graduate playing her rookie season in the Women’s Professional Lacrosse League, prides herself on being a communicator. But like anyone, she admits that wasn’t always the case. She credits the USC women’s lacrosse program for helping her grow into being a leader. She even served as team captain during the 2018 season.
Lydia Sutton grew up in Minnesota, attended the Blake School and planned on playing soccer in college. However, it was the promise of creating new traditions in lacrosse that lured her to Los Angeles. She just finished up an incredible defensive career for the Trojans.
1v1 with Lydia Sutton, Upstate Pride (USC ’18)
LAS: How did you get introduced to lacrosse?
Lydia Sutton: I wanted to do everything my brother did, so of course I got interested immediately when he started playing lacrosse. He didn’t know there was a difference between girls and guys lacrosse, and the first stick he bought was a girls! I quickly inherited the stick, and that’s when it all started.
I started participating in leagues here and there, but it was nothing serious. Then my soon-to-be best friend, Anne Slusser, who played at Duke, moved to town from New Jersey and everything changed.
Anne’s family pretty much put lacrosse on the map here in Minnesota. They started a club program and things started growing rapidly.
Why did you choose to pursue lacrosse in college?
My whole life I thought I’d be a college soccer player. I was really into the game my whole life, and soccer was my favorite sport. Then I was contacted by a recruiter for lacrosse during my sophomore year of high school. At that point, I took a step back and took some time to reflect. I realized lacrosse was actually the sport I wanted to play in college, and I wanted to play it at the highest level possible.
I actually looked at a lot of other major lacrosse schools, and USC wasn’t really on my radar. But on my first visit, I was like, “okay, this place is serious about women’s lacrosse, and I’m serious about them.” Then I made a second visit and committed on the spot September 1st of my junior year.
I think I chose to play lacrosse in college because it’s so much of a team sport yet there’s also a ton of individual technical skill that an athlete is required to have. You never get bored. I was also really inspired to help USC build its brand new program.
What’s your favorite aspect of playing defense? Why did you choose the position?
For me, my favorite thing about defense is pushing people around and having it be legal. I love being able to take control of a game by being the first on the ball. I’ve always felt more confident as a defender. It was my time to shine.
How would you describe your experience at USC?
When I was looking at USC, it wasn’t even a program yet. I realized I would like to be part of a program that I could help build the history at versus being the part of old traditions. We had zero tradition, and had to create our own from day one.
Even if I’d had a career changing injury, I would’ve still gone to school at USC and loved it there.
What’s one thing you’ll miss about off campus life?
Gussie was my roommate freshman year, then we lived together again during our junior and senior years. I lived with her and another teammate, and we shared the place with two other roommates who didn’t play lacrosse, and it was kind of nice. I feel like it’s important to have a getaway when you’re putting so much time into lacrosse, and where we lived gave us that. I loved having Gussie as a roommate because we’re so similar in what we believe and what we like about lacrosse.
What was your favorite academic experience in college?
During my last semester, I took a psych class with one of my favorite professors. It was called “Intelligence, Creativity and Problem Solving.” We’d literally discuss theories of intelligence, and there were no right or wrong answers. Our class served as guinea pigs for him to design a new course, and it was the most fascinating class that I ever took.
What will you miss most about playing lacrosse at USC?
It might sound corny, but honesty, the Trojan family. I didn’t really realize it until my senior year, but the USC community has always got your back. We’re one giant family, even outside of athletics, and I’m so grateful to be a part of it.
I’ll also miss Spitz, a Mediterranean wraps and salad place in Little Toyko that we’d go out of our way to go to any day of the week!
How did playing NCAA DI lacrosse prepare you to compete at the pro level?
I think the last 3 years of college really set the tempo for me as a communicator. The first year of college was a little difficult – I think it is for everyone. The whole spectrum really opened up for me once I learned how to effectively communicate with my coaches and teammates. We’ll be friends for life. Even though we’re out of season and I’m graduated, I’m still texting with my coaches all the time.
What words of wisdom do you have for other young players looking to follow in your footsteps?
I was considered late for my commitment, but I still felt like it was an early decision for me. Nobody knows what they want when they are young – don’t expect that you should be any different!
Take your time. Weigh out every pro and con. Don’t fall into the stereotypes or stigmas surrounding the game. Disregard what other people might think. Listen to your heart.
What’s it like to play pro women’s lacrosse?
I love it! The lacrosse, the talent and athleticism on the field, is uncanny. I’m really excited to see how the league grows and to be a part of it.
Where do you see lacrosse 5 years from now?
I’m hoping lacrosse gets in the olympics, but regardless I just think it’s going to get much bigger. In a couple of years, I hope the women’s game is in a similar spot to where the men’s is now. More fans, more people coming to games, more growth in nontraditional areas – these are all good things!
Thank you for your time, Lydia Sutton! Keep growing the game!