USC secures tight victory against Arizona State

The Trojans hold off the Sun Devils to take the win.

Croix Bethune in a yellow jersey dribbles the ball up the field.

After Thursday’s loss to Arizona, the USC Trojans bounced back and celebrated the team’s senior class with a win against Arizona State.

The intensity was on point from the start of the game. With a high defensive block, the Trojans quickly smothered their opponents, pushing them back into their half of the field. And the effect was quickly felt.

Following a promptly played foul in the 10th minute, sophomore midfielder Helena Sampaio passed the ball to senior midfielder Croix Bethune, dribbled past the goalkeeper, and scored into the empty net.

USC’s College Soccer News Preseason All-American wasn’t done yet. Bethune made a lot of defensive plays and helped her team recover precious balls in the midfield. Seven minutes later, off a pass from sophomore forward Kayla Colbert, Bethune unleashed a great shot from the inside of her foot into the top corner of the net, leaving no chance for ASU’s keeper. Two goals on the first two shots on goal, and all in less than 17 minutes.

Boosted by these two goals, the energy remained high, with USC shooting on the crossbar in the 24th minute. While ASU acquired more possession, USC’s defense neutralized their offensive line attack, which seemed to be carried only by graduate forward Nicole Douglas. Too little to destabilize the Trojans’ solid defense.

“The team responded very well in the defense during both periods,” USC head coach Jane Alukonis said after the match.

In the second half, two minutes of average intensity after the kickoff were enough for the Sun Devils to come back from down two goals to one. On an assist from freshman defender Meighan Farrell, unmarked by two USC defenders, hit a sublime shot from outside the penalty area that landed in the top corner.

If USC was safe in the first half, they played under pressure for the rest of the game. With the Sun Devils controlling possession, the Trojans had to resort to numerous counterplays before losing sophomore defender Brooklyn Courtnall to a cramp in the 65th minute – an unfortunate short break that boosted the USC players.

A minute later, on a superb cross from Colbert on the right side of the field, Jackson, free of defensive marking, missed her header, which landed over the crossbar. In the 68th minute, after a pass from Sampaio, Jackson got a late shot off, but it was inevitably blocked by the goalkeeper, who was out of her goal.

Despite a dangerous move by ASU in the 71st minute, USC maintained a solid defense for the last 20 minutes. USC, very disciplined throughout the game, with five shots on target and two goals, delivered a reliable performance winning 2-1 at the final whistle.

“I think we kind of overestimated ourselves and went into the game with that mentality [against Arizona]. Today it wasn’t perfect, but overall, I think we did a pretty good job,” sophomore midfielder Aaliyah Farmer said.

With this win, the Trojans move up to 8-2-1 overall and 4-1-0 in Pac-12 play. They will now go on three away games at Cal, Utah and Colorado. “Going up to Cal at least feels a little better, being just a quick trip,” Alukonis said.

“The Thursday-Sunday games are always a tough turnaround, but we’re excited. The Utah, Colorado trip is always fun because you just play in a different, cooler temperature-wise part of the country.”