After a 0-1 loss to Arizona, the Trojans sought to reestablish their command of PAC-12 conference play in their game against Arizona State on Sunday, in which they emerged victorious 2-1.
“After a big upset on Thursday…we had to come out of this game with a lot of energy, just step it up and come with intensity,” said senior midfielder Croix Bethune.
Led by assistant coach Shigeyoshi “Sugar” Shinohara – a former Arizona State assistant – and head coach Jane Alukonis, USC struck early in the 11th minute. After a quick restart, second-year midfielder Helena Sampaio assisted Bethune with a shot just outside the right post and into an open goal.
“Sugar obviously had the experience of working with them before, so he gave the best possible scout in terms of the game plan…I was proud that we came out and scored early,” Alukonis said.
After a quick change of possession, sophomore forward Kayla Colbert carried the team downfield along the left bank. With his elegant and elusive ball movement, Colbert perfectly set up Bethune to score his second goal of the game and seventh of the season.
In response to the early deficit, Arizona State increased the pressure at both ends of the field. Despite failing to score in the first half, the Sun Devils gained momentum as they closed out the 45th minute, outscoring the Trojans by 8 shots to 4 shots.
In the 48th minute, Arizona State capitalized on a scoring opportunity when freshman defenseman Meighan Farrell assisted a goal from freshman midfielder Enasia Colon.
The Trojan defense held the ASU offense scoreless for the rest of the game.
“I’m glad we finished the job. We had some really good defensive efforts which stopped some of their good opportunities,” Alukonis said.
Alukonis believes the key to USC’s defensive performance was “to get the job done, show some courage and stay tuned all the time.”
“[Defender] Brandi Peterson had some really big saves and [Defender] Kaylin [Martin] had his hands full. [The] the centre-backs had their hands full the whole game with [Forward] Nicole Douglas – she is [a] top scorer in the country,” Alukonis said.
At the Senior Day pre-game ceremony, the Trojans honored Bethune and Martin alongside senior forwards Jaelyn Eisenhart and Olufolasade Adamolekun, defenders Lily Babalola, Savannah Kessler and Nicole Payne, and forward Hannah White.
These seniors showed their leadership, experience and resilience this Sunday in the rebound victory. To commemorate one of their final home games, Bethune, Payne and Martin took charge of their ends of the court and each played a full 90 minutes.
On the defensive front, Martin and Payne limited the impact of the Sun Devils’ 21 shots while revealing their ability to make explosive plays on the field and facilitate shots on goal for the Trojans offense.
White rectified his attacking presence by taking his first shots on goal for the first time in three games, and Bethune’s brace revealed his continued evolution as an energizing leader and punching power when the ball is within reach.
With this Senior Day victory, the Trojans have regained their strength and cohesion at both ends of the field.
“We worked harder… The full game has to be full effort or full focus every time we play…. We knew today we had to go out and give something different,” Alukonis said.
The seniors will continue to lead their team as they enter the final six regular season games of the season.
USC goes to 8-2-1 overall and 4-1-0 in Pac-12 play. The team will travel north this week to face UC Berkeley on Friday at 4:00 p.m.