Alukonis leads soccer in her first season

Croix Bethune will play her senior season for the Trojans. Bethune was ranked as the No. 1 overall women’s soccer player by (Vincent Leo | Daily Trojan)

With USC women’s soccer three games into their season, newly-appointed Head Coach Jane Alukonis and her team look forward to conference play to begin Sept. 23 against Stanford University. But before that, USC must get through a gauntlet of non-conference games, with matches against Texas Christian University, California State University Northridge, University of Nebraska and UC Irvine. The Daily Trojan spoke with Alukonis to discuss her vision for the upcoming match days. 

Daily Trojan: “Being that this is your first season at the helm for women’s soccer, and judging from [former Head Coach] Keidane McAlpine’s reign for the past few seasons, what expectations do you have in terms of league finish for your team?” 

Jane Alukonis: “I think that coming into the job, I knew the level of the program of current and past players is national championship level, so that’s verbiage that we use often. Of course, winning the Pac-12 is a massive honor because we have such good teams in our conference, so those are certainly two goals that we’re after this year.” 

DT: “Do you see, being that it’s a change of the coaching staff and Penelope Hocking – USC’s all-time leading goalscorer – transferred, do you see this as a quick rebuild project or a continuation of USC’s past few seasons as a whole?” 

JA: “I couldn’t be happier with the players that we have here — just the level of quality output they have been putting out everyday. So, when I look across the team, I’m just super grateful and excited. You have to rebuild in areas to get things how you like them, but [I’m] certainly not thinking that the quality or the level is going down. I’m thrilled with the level of players I get to work with on this team.” 

DT: “This offseason, there have been some recruits entering the fold, and it’s pretty comprehensive. You have two [new] defenders, a goalkeeper and a midfielder. How do you see their role and what they are going to contribute for this upcoming season?” 

JA: “I think we were super fortunate in the transfer portal, because we were able to get Nicole [Payne] and Brandi [Peterson], who have both done really well at the college level. It’s funny because they came in during preseason and they just fit right in, in terms of knowing what college is, what the demands are and just the daily grind. Jayce [Woodward] and Hannah [Dickinson] have done great as well. I know their teammates have given feedback to me in terms of just how perfectly they fit into the team. Every player, I would say, always is competing for spots but it is pretty cool that we did get two transfers that have actually played in the past with a lot of our players. So Brandi and Nicole played with Croix [Bethune] and Hannah at the club level, so that’s kind of special to be bringing some teammates back together.” 

DT: “Judging from my experience of viewing Keidane’s reign at USC, his style was more offensive first and using two pivot midfielders, and having that be the foundation for a primarily offensive game plan. What style do you want to implement for the upcoming season and future-wise?”

JA: “I think that when I’m asked that, you have to look at the current players that you have and the history of the program. I’ve always loved the fact that if SC can go forward they go forward and they’ve always been able to punish teams and put opponents on their heels, so certainly I would never want to take that away from the program or the current players. The attacking firepower is amazing, and I love it. In a nutshell, my philosophy is if you can go to goal, you go to goal. If not, you keep the ball until something opens up so that you can go to goal. It’s kind of the simplest way to put it.”