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Best on the Beach

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USC sand volleyball stakes the claim to the best team on the beach at both the college and professional level. The Women of Troy flexed their muscle through an undefeated season led by Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes, the national pairs champions, and at the AVP level, USC alum April Ross seemingly never loses with her partner Kerri Walsh Jennings.

Ross and Walsh Jennings started the 2015 season the same way they played throughout their perfect 2014 campaign. The duo claimed the New Orleans Open title by defeating another former USC All-American Jennifer Kessy with her new partner Emily Day.

Click here for more.

Ross and Kessy teamed up to win the Olympic silver medal at London 2012, losing to former USC sand volleyball assistant coach Misty May-Treanor and Walsh Jennings in the final. Walsh Jennings will be going for her fourth Olympic gold medal with Ross at Rio 2016.

RB6_6388.JPG(Photo by Robert Beck)

Let the Countdown Begin

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Trojan Track Corner: Myles Andrews

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USC track & field needs to finds it finishing kick now as the NCAA Championships are upon us. The Trojans are in action this week (Thursday-Saturday) at the NCAA West Preliminary Rounds in Austin, Texas, trying to qualify as many athletes as possible for the NCAA Finals in Eugene, Oregon (June 10-13).

Click here for the prelims preview.

Senior Myles Andrews is among those competing this week as he attempts to qualify for the 800m. Here is more on Andrews in the latest "Trojan Track Corner":


Recruiting Down Under

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USC women's basketball has already announced the signing of Harvard transfer Temi Fagbenle from Great Britain and Candela Abejón from Spain, and now the Women of Troy added two new foreign talents by way of Australia. Daniejla "Dani" Milisic and Khaedin Taito join the 2015 recruiting class, packing international experience in their suitcases.

Click here for more.

Milisic (pictured), a 6-foot-4 center, will join the team in December once her school year is complete. The Sydney native has been a member of the Australian Under-16 and Under-17 National Teams, having participated in the 2012 FIBA Oceania Under-16 Games and traveling extensively with the Under-17 team.

"Dani is a highly confident, highly motivated athlete," head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke said of Milisic "She is pure strength and power, giving our team a next-level paint presence with great size. She is an excellent athlete and has the speed and quickness to play a tempo game. We expect her to be a `double-double' athlete as her tenacity on the glass separates her from her peers."

Taito is a 5-foot-11 left-handed guard who is originally from New Zealand but was raised in Queensland, Australia. She has competed for the New Zealand National Team at the under-16, under-17 and under-18 levels, and participated in the 2013 FIBA Oceania Under-16 Games.

"Khaedin is a highly skilled, high motor athlete who will immediately impact our team," Cooper-Dyke said of Taito. "She has great size and strength, is left-handed, and is an excellent, explosive athlete. Her versatility will enable her to play multiple perimeter positions. Her National Team and international experience gives her a head start towards the college game."

Milisic.jpgPhoto by Adam McLean

Eurotrip Recap

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National champion USC sand volleyball is home from its two-week adventure to Europe, having succeeded on the court by winning tournaments in Italy and Slovenia and off the court by immersing itself in new cultural experiences.

The team kept a running diary while it was away. Catch up using the links below:

Click here for Eurotrip 2015 Part I.

Click here for Eurotrip 2015 Part II.

Click here for Eurotrip 2015 Part III.

Click here for Eurotrip 2015 Part IV.

Click here for Eurotrip 2015 Part V.

You can also look back at the trip by following @USCSandVBall on Instagram.

A Trojan pyramid at Vienna's Schonbrunn Palace. #eurotour #FightOn

A photo posted by USC Sand Volleyball (@uscsandvball) on


Reaping the Rewards

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USC baseball posted its best regular season record since 2001, and with team success comes individual recognition. For the first time since 2002, four Trojans were named All-Pac-12 First Team led by senior catcher Garrett Stubbs, who was also voted the program's first ever Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Year.

Stubbs is joined by infielder Dante Flores and outfielders Bobby Stahel and Timmy Robinson on the list of the Pac-12's best. Plus, first baseman/catcher Jeremy Martinez, pitchers Mitch Hart and Kyle Twomey, and slugger A.J. Ramirez made honorable mention.

Click here for the complete release.

Stubbs, who is also a semifinalist for the Johnny Bench Award, made his mark this season with his bat, arm and leadership. The senior backstop threw out 54 percent of would-be base stealers to lead the conference, while also hitting .330 (seventh in the Pac-12) with 22 RBI and 19 stolen bases (third in the Pac-12).

Stahel, Robinson and Flores are all two-way talents as well. Stahel and Robinson blanketed the outfield all season with their athleticism, while Flores locked down second base spot. Stahel paced the team with a .379 batting average (second in the Pac-12) to go along with four home runs and 31 RBI. Robinson (pictured) led the team with 50 RBI and tied Stubbs with 19 stolen bases. Flores capped his career with his best ever season, hitting .315 with 5 HRs, 41 RBI and 29 walks.

The Trojans are in the NCAA Tournament for the first time in nine years. They have earned a No. 2 seed and will face off against the No. 3 seed Virginia in the UC Santa Barbara Regional in Lake Elsinore on Friday at 3 p.m.

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Match Played

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In its sixth round of NCAA Tournament golf this week, the Women of Troy finally faltered, falling 3-2 to  Stanford team in the national semifinals. Despite winning the stroke play portion, USC is forced to settle for its 10th consecutive Top 5 national finish, a remarkable achievement in consistency.

The new match play format adds drama, but also unpredictability to the year-end championships. While USC and Duke finished first and second over four days of stroke play, the perennial powers were bested by Stanford and Baylor, two programs playing for their first national championships today.

"Match play is unpredictable. When you play stroke play, there's four days and that's an endurance race," head coach Andrea Gaston said. "You know you have to play and you know there will be times where you're not playing you're best and you have to minimize your mistakes and try to make your bad day not too bad. But in match play, anyone can catch fire. Stanford is a great team and we give them credit. We really had to battle."

The Trojans are still a young team, but they will lose junior Annie Park, who announced that she will be turning pro this summer. Park is one of the program's most decorated players, collecting the 2013 NCAA Player and Freshman of the Year awards to go along with a school record six career individual titles, including the 2013 NCAA individual crown.

Sophomore Karen Chung went 2-0 during match play.
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Formidable

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USC men's tennis four-time national champion Steve Johnson forced his way into the third round of the French Open by defeating Sergiy Stakhovsky 2-6, 6-3, 7-6 (5), 7-6 (6), early this morning. Johnson is enjoying his best trip to Paris, winning two main draw matches for the first time and making it back-to-back third round appearances at Grand Slams (2015 Australian Open).

Next up, Johnson will face No. 8 Stan Wawrinka on Friday. He has never made the fourth round at any of the four major tournaments.


America's Best

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Former USC men's volleyball All-Americans Micah Christenson and Murphy Troy return home to Galen Center this weekend as members of the U.S. National Men's Volleyball Team. The Americans will play Iran on Saturday at 7 p.m. PT and Sunday at 4 p.m. PT to open the 2015 FIVB World League.

To purchase tickets, click here.

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Time of Their Lives

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When Pat Haden took over as athletic director, he spoke often about wanting the student-athletes to enjoy the whole breadth of the USC experience. While we often get caught up in the results, two exemplary women's tennis players, Zoe Scandalis and Sabrina Santamaria, emphasized the power of the journey over the destination while summing up their careers on Instagram.

Click here for Santamaria's post.

Here is what Scandalis had to say after the Women of Troy's 2015 run ended in the Final Four: