Swim With Mike Kicks Off

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The 35th anniversary of USC's Swim With Mike event will take place on April 11. To celebrate the landmark year, quarterback Cody Kessler and incoming freshman Jake Olson helped kickoff the Swim With Mike festivities a little bit early on Thursday.

Swim With Mike is an organization that raises money to offer college scholarships to physically challenged students across the country. The annual swim-a-thon originated at USC when friends of Trojan Mike Nyeholt sought to raise money to provide him with an adapted van. In the 35 years since, the money raised each year has gone to provide students scholarships to USC and 84 other universities.

At a luncheon to launch fundraising efforts in advance of the main event in April, Kessler and Olson hopped in the Uytengsu Aquatics Center pool to swim the first official lap. In attendance were all of the 2015 Swim With Mike scholarship recipients as well as many of the programs major donors.

Jake Olson has long been connected to USC. Fighting a 11-year battle with cancer which would ultimately leave him blind, one of Olson's wishes before losing his sight altogether was to witness one final USC football game when he was 12 years old. Pete Carroll, the USC head coach at the time, quickly invited Olson into the Trojan Family, bringing him to practices, the locker room and games. Olson became an inspiration to many in the USC community and will now get to continue his Trojan journey as a recipient of one of the 2015 Swim With Mike scholarships.

For more information regarding Swim With Mike, click here. To donate directly to the Swim With Mike scholarship, click here.

Here are Kessler and Olson launching the 35th annual Swim With Mike swim-a-thon...

The Quest Continues

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor


The No. 6 ranked USC men's tennis team looks to maintain its top 10 ranking as it continues its quest for another national championship. The Trojans open a long stretch of conference play on their own turf facing off against Washington and Oregon this weekend at Marks Stadium. USC will kick things off against the Huskies on Friday at 3:00p.m. before taking on the Ducks on Saturday at 1:00p.m. The Trojans are coming off their fifth national title in the past six years, but their loss to Tulsa at the end of February knocked them out of their number one ranking. 

USC is led by the senior dynamic duo of No. 9 ranked Yannick Hanfmann and No. 19 ranked Roberto Quiroz, but have been carried by fellow senior Eric Johnson who picked up Pac-12 Player of the Week honors this week. The unranked senior is riding an 11-match singles winning streak with another impressive performance in the desert last weekend at the BNP Paribas Collegiate Tennis Challenge leading the Trojans to a third place finish against tough competition. 

After this weekend, the Trojans' journey in conference play continues at home as they host Utah and Arizona next weekend. USC already boasts a conference victory defeating crosstown rival and the No. 14 ranked UCLA Bruins in an epic 4-1 battle on March 14. 

Photo Gallery: Tennis Stars Take Over Galen

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

With the USC basketball season over, the Galen Center turned to a different kind of court on Wednesday night. Former tennis stars Andy Roddick, James Blake, Jim Courier and Mark Philippoussis put on a show for all in attendance as a part of the PowerShares champions tennis circuit. Philippoussis, who was coming off a victory over Andre Agassi in the opening event of the 12-city circuit on Tuesday, replaced Pete Sampras who backed out after injuring his calf in Sweden last week. USC tennis players like Roberto Quiroz were at the Galen Center to meet and even hit with these famous tennis professionals. 

The last American tennis player to hoist the U.S. Open trophy, Andy Roddick, dominated the event with his physical performance on the court and with his comedic trash talking especially against former Davis Cup teammate James Blake. Roddick defeated Blake 6-2 in the opening round before defeating Philippoussis in the championship 6-4. Roddick retired from the ATP Tour in 2012, but is now a sports broadcaster for Fox Sports 1 while also making the time for tennis expeditions like these. The circuit continues next Wednesday in Lincoln, Nebraska at the Pinnacle Bank Arena with John McEnroe rotating in for Philippoussis. 

Here are Pierson Clair's photos from the PowerShares series...

Back to Business

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

After losing to both UC Santa Barbara and UCLA earlier in the season, the No. 9 USC men's volleyball team gets a shot at revenge this weekend when it hosts both teams at the Galen Center.

The first match versus UC Santa Barbara begins at 8 p.m. PT on Friday and tickets are just $1 at the door. The Trojans' rivalry match on Saturday starts at 7 p.m. PT and fans that bring a children's book will receive complimentary admission.


Sensational Start

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

In just its fourth season, the USC women's sand volleyball program is proving that it won't settle for anything less than the best. After sweeping both CSU Bakersfield and Saint Mary's College on Thursday, the No. 1 Trojans now boast a 9-0 record, their best start to a season in school history.

Click here for a full recap of the duals.

USC didn't drop a single set in the 10 individual matches. Only a month into their season, the Women of Troy have swept six of the nine duals they've won. It's been a promising and exciting start to a season in which the Trojans are set on capturing their first AVCA team title.

The road ahead doesn't get any easier however, as the team travels to Arizona this weekend for three duals. USC will face New Mexico at 5 p.m. PT and Grand Canyon at 7:30 p.m. PT at the GCU Sand Courts in Phoenix on Friday. On Saturday morning, the Women of Troy take on Arizona State at 3 p.m. PT at the Pera Club in Tempe.

Here is head coach Anna Collier speaking with the Pac-12 Network after the Trojans' victorious doubleheader...

2015 Spring Practice #8: Notes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The Trojans answered the call for another high intensity practice on Thursday.
  • "I was really proud with the guys that they responded the way they did after a really good practice on Tuesday," explained head coach Steve Sarkisian. "Anyone can do it once, it's the really good teams that can come out and do it again and again and again. I thought the guys did that today."
  • Sarkisian noted that Adoree' Jackson played offense in the hot afternoon practice and not surprisingly continued to make plays on that side of the ball.
  • The offense won the finish challenge off of a touchdown pass from Cody Kessler to JuJu Smith. Nearly at the midway point of spring ball, the offense and defense are tied at four in the ongoing competition.
  • The Trojans now have a year under their belts playing Sarkisian's uptempo system, and the head coach says he can see the difference in the fitness level of his team. "I like where we're at from a conditioning stand point," he said. "We are much better off this spring than where we were at a year ago. The guys are really understanding the tempo of practice itself and then the tempo at which we operate offensively, and that affects both sides of the ball."
  • Always with a focus on finishing in mind, the head coach also commented on the level of toughness the Trojans have displayed through the first three weeks. "I've been pleased that guys are fighting through the bumps and bruises because we're starting to have some of those and we're going to have more I'm sure," Sarkisian said. "The challenge for our guys is to fight through it and come back and have another great practice on Saturday. In a game you're going to get banged up, but you need to be at your best in the fourth quarter when you are sore and that's something we've been preaching to the guys."
  • On the offensive side of the ball, Sarkisian continues to be impressed with sophomore wide receiver JuJu Smith, especially considering that he's been playing with a small cast on his hand during the spring. "Becoming the go-to guy can be a challenge for some players but I don't think it will be for JuJu," Sarkisian explained, adding that Smith's work ethic is what sets him apart. "He's so accustomed to it, I think quite honestly he wanted to be that guy last year."
  • Sarkisian and the entire defensive coaching staff have really liked what they've seen in the start of sophomore defensive back John Plattenburg's second year. "He's playing with really good anticipation," the head coach said. "When you're a safety and you can anticipate things and you have a big heart, you can go make those types of plays. He's been doing that, he's very confident and you can see it in the way that he plays. He's always been willing, but now it's really able to come out of him because he's playing with confidence."
  • Redshirt freshman defensive back Lamont Simmons sat out of Thursday's practice with an irritated hamstring and junior running back Justin Davis had a rest day after a very physical practice on Tuesday.
  • Here is Sarkisian after practice...

2015 Spring Practice #8: Rapid Reaction

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The Trojans continue to battle through spring ball and on Thursday, redshirt senior Antwaun Woods got the rapid reaction on practice from fellow defensive tackles Claude Pelon and Kenny Bigelow...

Dukes to Transfer

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

USC men's basketball sophomore Kahlil Dukes announced on Thursday that he will transfer following the 2014-15 school year. The guard averaged 2.1 points per game in 20 games this season, including a career-high 18 points against Arizona State on February 22. His freshman year he averaged 2.7 points per game and led the team with a .355 average from the three-point line.


Williams' Whirwind

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

With just over a month until the 2015 NFL Draft, excitement continues to build around former USC DL Leonard Williams. The young talent, presumed to be a top five pick, is what the NFL Network's Daniel Jeremiah describes as "the definition of game-changer". Possessing an impressive array of raw physical talents at just 20 years old, the 'Big Cat' has NFL coaches and scouts salivating over his potential for years to come.

Ever since Williams made his NFL announcement on December 29, his days have been a whirlwind of intense training, interviews with teams and a frenzy of cameras and coverage everywhere he's gone. He shined on the field at USC Pro Day, and immediately afterwards hosted round after round of media interviews like a veteran. Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit caught up with the defensive lineman that afternoon to watch film and get a sense of William's football IQ, a quality he soon came to realize might be even more impressive than his athleticism. 

Williams has been described by ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. as "the best player available" and by ESPN's Todd McShay as "the most dominant and complete player in this class, at any position". In each of their most recent mock drafts, Jeremiah, Kiper and McShay all project Williams being selected second overall to the Tennessee Titans.

In the weeks leading up to the NFL Draft, Williams will be featured in NFL Network's draft series "Game Changers" as well as an upcoming episode of ESPN's "Sports Science". The 2015 NFL Draft will be held in Chicago from April 30 to May 2, with round one beginning at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN and the NFL Network.

Here is the full video of Williams breaking down game film with Sports Illustrated's Andy Benoit...

Mike Williams Gets a Whistle

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Former USC wide receiver Mike Williams has been named the head football coach for Locke Charter High School in Los Angeles according to the Los Angeles Times. After a successful six-year career in the NFL, Williams will now work to train up the next generation of phenomenal football talent.

Williams was named a Freshman All-American at USC after the 2003 season in which he had 81 receptions for 1,265 yards and 14 touchdowns, all of which were school and conference freshman records. His second and final year at USC he led the Trojans in receiving yards and touchdowns while finishing as a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award and receiving first team All-American honors. After sitting out a year from football in lieu of a court ruling that declared him ineligible for the 2004 NFL Draft, Williams was selected 10th overall in the 2005 NFL Draft by the Detroit Lions.

The wide receiver finished his NFL career with his former USC coach Pete Carroll and the Seattle Seahawks in 2010-2011. With a strong recommendation from Carroll, Williams will now go to work leading the Locke program which finished with a record of 7-8 in 2014.

mwilliams.0414.jpg(Photo credit: Orange County Register)