Soccer releases 2022 season schedule

USC midfielder Croix Bethune dribbles in between Colorado defenders.
Croix Bethune scored 16 goals and notched 10 assists last season, leading the Trojans in both categories. (Polina Past | Daily Trojan file photo)

Women’s soccer released the 2022 season schedule Tuesday, consisting of 17 regular season games after an opening exhibition game against Pepperdine on August 11. The Trojans had a memorable 2021 season, in which they managed a 15-game unbeaten run en route to a second-place finish in the Pac-12 and a second-round appearance in the NCAA tournament under former Head Coach Keidane McAlpine’s stewardship. 

New Head Coach Jane Alukonis was named to take over following McAlpine’s departure to the University of Georgia after eight seasons with the Trojans, during which USC never missed the postseason. With all-time leading goalscorer Penelope Hocking’s recent transfer to Penn State and Savannah DeMelo’s introduction to the National Women’s Soccer League, Alukonis will need to revitalize USC’s offense. 

Alukonis’ coaching staff includes former USWNT player Amy Rodriguez, who retired after 11 professional seasons. She is a former All-American, two-time gold medalist and World Cup winner. 

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have [Rodriguez] on the coaching staff,” said Alukonis in an interview with USC Athletics. “I can’t wait to see her push the players to their max on a daily basis. She is the perfect coach and mentor to help USC players achieve their big dreams.”

Alukonis also added former Arizona State Assistant Coach Shigeyoshi “Sugar” Shinohara to her coaching staff, who helped guide the Sun Devils to their first postseason appearance since 2014 during the 2020 campaign. 

“I couldn’t be more grateful to have Shigeyoshi ‘Sugar’ Shinohara join our coaching staff,”  Alukonis said. “Sugar is a teacher at heart, super intelligent, and has an especially enthusiastic and positive coaching demeanor.” 

Alukonis also added former World Cup winner Saskia Webber, who worked with Alukonis for two seasons as UCLA’s goalkeeper coach, to her staff.

“I am so grateful to have Saskia on staff here at USC,” Alukonis said. “She is able to bring the best out of goalkeepers through her high-energy and inspiring coaching style. Saskia will be a wonderful mentor not only to the goalkeepers, but to the entire team.”

Under Alukonis’ tenure as an assistant coach, UCLA never finished lower than second in the conference standings and made four straight NCAA postseason appearances. The former Duke player was part of the Pacific Region Coaching Staff of the Year during the 2020 season, and will now have a chance to lead a program for the first time in her career. 

Senior midfielder Croix Bethune played as a makeshift forward under McAlpine’s historical system last season, which saw the longest unbeaten streak in program history. In 20 total appearances, Bethune managed 16 goals and led the Pac-12 with 10 assists. With Hocking and DeMelo’s departure, Bethune will need to retain her scoring and playmaking ability. Bethune was named as last year’s Pac-12 Midfielder of the Year and earned All-Pac-12 first team honors. 

Sophomore forward Simone Jackson managed 5 goals and 8 assists in 20 total appearances, starting eight games. After showing promise during her freshman season, Jackson will have an opportunity this season to provide more fruitful contributions. Jackson earned both All-Pac-12 second team and All-Freshman team honors. 

Sophomore midfielders Simi Awujo and Aaliyah Farmer constructed a formidable partnership as holding midfielders in front of McAlpine’s defense, earning All-Freshman honors. Junior fullback Zoe Burns and sophomore defender Brooklyn Courtnall were instrumental in McAlpine’s defensive line, both contributing to seven total clean sheets. Burns earned All-Pac-12 second team recognition and Courtnall earned All-Pac-12 third team honors, as well as All-Freshman honors. 

The Trojans narrowly missed the Pac-12 title after losing against crosstown rivals UCLA in the last match of the regular season. USC subsequently defeated Grand Canyon in the first round of the NCAA Tournament before losing to Penn State in a dreaded penalty shoot-out after drawing with a 2-2 scoreline during regulation time. 

USC will face off against Texas Christian University this season, who finished as a fourth seed last campaign and managed a third-round appearance in the NCAA Tournament before falling to Rutgers. The Trojans will face Nebraska in an away bout in their first visit to Lincoln since 1997.  

USC’s first Pac-12 match will be a home showdown against Stanford, a team that was a Pac-12 title contender over the course of last season. The Trojans overcame a 2-0 deficit against Stanford in the penultimate match of the season, with goals from Jackson and Bethune, and finished the bout with a 3-2 victory. 

The Trojans will host both Washington and Washington State, two teams that etched out draws against USC in the away fixtures last season, before hosting UCLA in what will likely be another profound rivalry showdown on the last matchday of the 2022 season. 

USC will open the regular season with an away game against Purdue on August 18.