No. 10 USC hosts Berkeley in third-to-last Pac-12 game

Junior midfielder Croix Bethune dribbles between defenders with the ball at her feet.
Junior midfielder Croix Bethune has the most goal contributions for the Trojans this season with 16 total. (Polina Past | Daily Trojan)

No. 10 women’s soccer enters the home stretch of the conference season with a home game against UC Berkeley as USC looks to continue its hunt for the Pac-12 title. After two consecutive draws against Washington State and Washington, the Trojans look to return to their prolific form against the Bears.  

The Trojans enter their ninth game of the Pac-12 season as conference leaders, as they hold a thin one-point advantage over second-place No. 9 Stanford who has 19 points. 

Despite sitting in sixth place, Berkeley is in the midst of a winning streak of its own as the Bears managed three victories on the bounce, all of which were earned with a clean sheet. Freshman forward Karlie Lema is in prolific form as she has scored two goals in her last three matches, one of which was an overtime winner against Arizona. 

“Cal is an extremely organized team,” Head Coach Keidane McAlpine said in an interview with the Daily Trojan. “Their goalkeeper [Julia Ortega] is extremely good, so they will be a difficult team to break down.”

USC was without marquee players in its draw against Washington on Sunday, as senior forwards Penelope Hocking and Jada Talley were out of the starting lineup. Junior forward Hannah White and freshman forward Simone Jackson provided vital assists in the 2-2 draw against the Huskies as they were called up to replace the veterans. 

“The players that came in, especially Hannah White and Simone Jackson, were extremely good,” McAlpine said. “It goes to show the depth we have in our team … I would expect those others and a few more players to step up and give us some great minutes.”

Junior forward Croix Bethune has three goals in her last three matches, two of which proved necessary in the draw against Washington. Bethune is the team’s leading scorer and assister this season, operating as an instrumental part of the midfield. She managed a hat trick in USC’s triumphant 5-0 victory over Berkeley last season. 

“I expect [Bethune] to continue doing what she has done and will continue to do,” McAlpine said. “For us, we need her to be that kind of player in order to be the best version of ourselves.” 

USC, Stanford and No. 5 UCLA will face each other in the last two matches of the season in what will be a nail-biting conclusion to the Pac-12 season. 

“You just have to go out and play and let things fall where they will,” McAlpine said. “I think we played a difficult schedule and the next game in front of us is going to be no different. In the Pac-12, there are no easy games … as long as we keep the simple things then we will be just fine in the game.” 

USC will host UC Berkeley at Soni McAlister Field Thursday at 3 p.m.