Inaugural Champions

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At first glance, it was an average, slightly overcast April Friday in Los Angeles. But there was nothing ordinary about top-seeded USC duo Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes' afternoon at Merle Norman Stadium. After two highly-competitive 22-20 sets, the pair emerged as the Pac-12 Conference's first-ever pairs champions, boasting an astounding 65-0 match record and remaining undefeated on the season (40-0). 

After defeated fourth-seeded Arizona State in the semifinal, the Trojan pair battled through two tight sets against Arizona twins Madison and McKenna Witt. The pairs exchanged the lead multiple times in both sets, tying each at 20 before Claes and Hughes buckled down to claim two straight points for the match victory. The reigning 2015 AVCA National Pairs Champions will look to become the first-ever NCAA Pairs Champions next month. 

The Trojan team will now compete for the inaugural Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Team Championship, of which the semifinal and final matches will be played on Saturday starting at 10 a.m. PT. Be sure to follow @USCBeach for in-match updates and more this weekend!

2016 NFL Draft Coverage

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Good luck to all the Trojans in pursuit of their NFL dreams this week!

Draft coverage begins tonight at 5 p.m. PT on ESPN and NFL Network with the first round in Chicago. The second and third rounds will be held on Friday, while the fourth through seventh rounds are Saturday.

We will announce each Trojan to get drafted as the picks come in on Twitter and Instagram as well as right here on the RipsIt Blog. USC football has had 492 all-time draft picks, the most by any school.


Spring Forward - John Baxter

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Special teams coordinator and tight ends coach John Baxter never wanted to leave USC, and now he has come home to finish the story.

The Trojans expect to return to their playmaking ways on special teams under Baxter. In his first tenure, USC blocked 24 kicks from 2010-13, always ranking in the national Top 15.

Not only does USC boast world-class athletes, but world-class student-athletes as well. Each month, we will profile one of these outstanding Trojans who has chosen to pursue coursework in either the science, technology, engineering or math field (STEM).

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for chevron-track-hill.jpgName: Deanna Hill
Sport: Women's Track & Field 
Year: Sophomore
Major: Human Biology

Sarah Bergstrom (SB): So what brought you to USC? I know you're from Florida, which has a great track history, so what brought you across the country?

Deanna Hill (DH): It was really the recruiting process. I didn't feel like staying in Florida. Having grown up there my whole life I really wanted to see something new. I was big on weather and where the school was, so there were schools that were nice, but the location might not have been as good. I wanted to try LA. You hear so much about it and how it's so expensive, but to be able to go here for free and get to experience it without the cost of paying for it, it was something I could try.

SB: Did you know what you wanted to major in when you were in high school?

DH: I've always leaned toward the medicine side of things. When I was little I had different ideas like being a chef (laughs), but at the end of the day it was about going into medicine because I like the body.

SB: Is that something your parents or anyone in your family got into?

DH: No, though, they like it too. But they're not medical people.

SB: What was your recruitment like? Coach Caryl had just gotten here, so what was she like in the recruiting process?

DH: She had been at UCF, which is in Orlando, and I went to middle school and high school in Orlando, so she knew my parents. They had communication. I knew her through that and I had seen her at meets. So when she moved she started recruiting me for here [USC]. We had a relationship through that so that was kind of comforting. She brought me out here and when we came out it was more of a family than a team. With track it can get a little hard to find a team where everybody comes together and is close since track has so many types of people. I'd go to some other teams and see that they were trying for the visit to be close, but in reality they were more split up. Here people naturally were more of a family and that's what [Coach Caryl] aimed for with the team. It's not about success. The first priority is the team getting along, then our personal lives, and then it's track. I like how she staggered those.

SB: What's she like as a coach? I've heard really good things from a lot of your teammates, but what's been your experience?

DH: She's as hard as any top coach would be. What I think makes her so different is she's one of the first female coaches to have men and women on her team. With that comes a lot of pressure, but I think she handles it really well. Her priorities are a little different than other coaches. A lot of coaches are about athletics first and making sure you win. But she wants you to have your personal life in order and then the athletics can fall in line right behind it. That's kind of something I was drawn toward.

SB: On the track side of things, you accomplished a ton as a freshman. Did you have certain expectations for yourself or did you surprise yourself, especially on the 4x100m relay team?

DH: Coming in I just wanted to do well. I didn't have any straight goals. Coming out of high school I wasn't ranked number one or anything, so coming in I just wanted to make a bigger name for myself. I was known, but not as much as I wanted to be known. That was kind of my goal. When the season started shaping out, it was a surprise. I had worked really hard in the fall, but to see it be done and finally come together, that was more of the surprise part. Being able to run those times was really fun. Then having the team aspect of things and being so close was fun any time we stepped on the track together.

SB: Where did last season's success put you in terms of thinking about your goals and what you wanted to accomplish this year? Having experienced and done well at the NCAAs, what did that do for your outlook for this year?

DH: I think it set me up this year to work even harder because I went to NCAAs last year as a freshman, and so few freshmen get to make it that far. That set me up to do even better in my individual events, as well as my relay. My relay finished really well, but I didn't do as well as I wanted to in my individual events, so that made me a little hungrier this year.

Dynamic playmaker Su'a Cravens is next in line to join the fraternity of talented Trojans in the NFL. With the 2016 NFL Draft just over 24 hours away, the former USC hybrid linebacker will soon be hearing from his new team. Whichever team lands Cravens will receive a versatile and ferocious defensive force who accounted for 206 tackles, 10.5 sacks, 16 deflections and nine interceptions through 40 starts in his three years at USC.

As Cravens has said for months leading up to the Draft, "pick him or he'll pick you"...

Two More Wins

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Munday-MPSF.jpgUndefeated USC women's lacrosse added two more victories to its growing total as Lindsey Munday earned MPSF Coach of the Year for the second consecutive season and senior captain Courtney Tarleton was named MPSF Player of the Year. Seven Trojans were placed on the All-MPSF Team led by senior Amanda Johansen who finished her career as a four-time first team selection.

Click here for the complete story.

Tarleton and Johansen were joined on the All-MPSF First Team by junior attacker Michaela Michael, sophomore goalie Gussie Johns and senior attacker Caroline deLyra. Junior attacker Kylie Drexel and sophomore defender Lydia Sutton made the second team.

USC seniors Michael Hutchings and Chris Hawkins claim to be the Trojans' "best" friends on the football team and their proficiency in this week's Otter Pops Quiz suggests the duo might be right. From academic major to fast food craving to who breaks it down better on the dance floor, Hutchings and Hawkins know each other like only best friends can.

DeRozan Time

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USC men's basketball alum DeMar DeRozan broke out last night for a playoff career-high 34 points in the Raptors comeback win over the Pacers to swing the series in Toronto's favor, 3-2. DeRozan had been struggling to find his touch in the first four games, but maintained his belief that the shots would eventually fall after putting together a tremendous season.

"I knew it was going to come," he said after the game. "I worked too hard for it not to come."

The Raptors will look to close out the Pacers in Indiana on Friday.

USC alum DeMar DeRozan dropped a career playoff-high 34 points in last night's Raptors Game 5 win. #USCtotheNBA #FightOn

A photo posted by USC Men's Basketball (@uschoops) on

Farewell Felix

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Former USC Track & Field All-American and two-time Olympic 400m hurdles champion Felix Sanchez announced his retirement on Tuesday. The 38-year-old from the Dominican Republic ran for the Trojans from 1998-1999 before beginning what would be an incredibly successful professional career. 

In addition to the two Olympic gold medals won in 2004 and 2012, his nearly two decades of professional hurdling include two world titles and a 43-race winning streak between 2001 and 2004. From 2001 to 2013, Sanchez reached the final at seven successive IAAF World Championships, a feat accomplished by only two other athletes in the history of an individual track event. Sanchez is one of 89 Trojans to have won a gold medal in the Olympics.


2016 NFL Draft Preview: Tre Madden

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After being slowed at the NFL Combine by injury, Tre Madden showed up in peak physical condition at USC Pro Day, putting in one of the most impressive all-around workouts, including the day's best 40-yard dash.

At the next level, Madden provides the versatility that NFL teams crave in tailbacks. He has the size, speed and hands to play all three downs, and the former linebacker can contribute immediately on special teams.