March 2016 Archives

2016 Spring Practice #8: Notes

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The Trojans are a little banged up, but they keep pushing through the meat of spring football.
  • Defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast called DL Kenny Bigelow a "big time" loss, but the Trojans will press on without their most experienced defensive lineman, who had successful ACL surgery at USC Keck Medical Center.
  • The defensive line responded with its "best day at pass rush," said head coach Clay Helton. "I really thought the defensive line took a huge step forward." As a whole, the defense won the competitive portion of practice again.
  • Without Bigelow, rising sophomore DL Rasheem Green becomes an indispensable player with the experience that he gained last year. "In a way, I kind of do feel like I need to step up and be the rock for the D-Line since Kenny can't play with us now," said Green. "I just have to step up."
  • However, Green has much more to develop in his game, and he's working tirelessly with new DL coach Kenechi Udeze to improve. "He has made me pay more attention to the small things in my game, the things that can help me improve as a player in the long run," said Green about Udeze. "I feel like that is what all the coaches are focused on, trying to help us with small things like alignment and hand placement that can really help us be better football players and play team defense."
  • The linebackers received a boost today as Osa Masina, Uchenna Nwosu and John Houston all returned to practice. Pendergast said that Masina has the talent to play inside or outside. "Besides the whole scheme change, we're hyped, we're juiced," said Masina about the new defense. "We're ready to do something big this year. I think we're going to get a lot more pressure this year. I think we're going to rush the quarterback, get a lot more interceptions, a lot more sacks, rushed throws."
  • Pendergast's defense is all about communication, so even the quietest players are learning to speak up. "The two safeties, Leon [McQuay] and Marvell [Tell], are starting to communicate," said Helton. "At one point in time, I thought they were both mutes, but now they are starting to talk to one another."
  • Tell on the new coaches: "It's been fun. They expect a lot out of us. We just have to meet their standards."
  • Talking is a noticeable change at practice without the music blaring. Helton made the point that the quieter atmosphere allows the players on and off the field to hear their coaches make teaching points, so everyone is getting the mental rep.
  • Offensively, Steven Mitchell Jr. and Ronald Jones II were "under the weather" and missed practice.
  • As for the quarterback competition, "there is a gap" between Max Browne and Sam Darnold, but the redshirt freshman is doing his best to close it, said Helton. "I have seen 14, Sam Darnold, make two really good practices. The light's kind of coming on for him now. You are seeing his talent take over."
  • For those attending practice and/or Swim With Mike on Saturday, there will be a "little bit" of a scrimmage, but the team is too banged up to tackle for 100 plays. Practice starts at 10 a.m. on Howard Jones Field.
  • Here is Helton:

Beefing Up the Schedule

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mbb-216-17.jpgWhile the complete non-conference slate will be released at a later date, USC men's basketball announced that it has added two national Top 25 teams, Texas A&M and SMU, to the 2016-17 and 2017-18 schedules.

The home-and-home series with Texas A&M starts with a trip to College Station on November 18. The Aggies will come to the Galen Center the following season.

SMU is a headline home game for USC in 2016. On Friday, November 25, the Trojans and Mustangs will provide the perfect Thanksgiving week appetizer for the USC/Notre Dame feast the following day at the Coliseum. The Trojans will travel to Dallas to play at SMU as part of the 2017-18 schedule.

No Sophomore Slump

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playerofthemonth-crocker.jpgNo. 1 USC men's golf has built on its surprising run to the 2015 NCAA Championship Final by winning three events this season led by sophomore Sean Crocker, who was named the Pac-12 Men's Golfer of the Month. The 2015 Pac-12 Freshman of the Year has been playing stellar golf of late, finishing second at the Southern Highlands Collegiate in Las Vegas, an event which the team won.

Click here for more.

Crocker and company will tee it up next at the Western Intercollegiate in Santa Cruz (April 11-13).

Using Their Voice

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Last Friday, Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott visited USC to meet with a group of student-athletes representing nearly all of the school's 21 sports. His mission was to simply listen and learn from those in attendance the biggest pressures, obstacles and triumphs of being a student-athlete in 2016, and that's exactly what Scott came away with after the meeting.

"Student-athletes at our schools are really elite at what they are doing. They're competing for Pac-12 championships, national championships and many are going on to the Olympics or professional sports," explained Scott. "We're trying to figure out how you respect that and balance that and give them everything they need to succeed, but also recognize that most student-athletes here are not going to be professional athletes and are not going to compete after college. They've got an amazing opportunity here and we want to make sure they have enough time and flexibility to fully take advantage of that."

After last year's NCAA Convention, Scott made a commitment to the conference that he would visit every campus to talk with students before he meets with the commissioners from the other Power 5 conferences in April. He knows that every sport, campus and student-athlete is different, so Scott's goal is to hear from as many different students as possible to understand how to best serve and represent the conference at large. After his afternoon at USC, the fifth school he's visited so far, the commissioner said he's learned a lot more about the unique demands among different sports and the holistic time commitment involved in being a student-athlete, including warm-ups, practices, meals, film, etc.

"Meeting with Mr. Scott was a great opportunity for us to share our thoughts on the time demands required of student-athletes," said USC QB Max Browne, a member of the student-athlete group that met with the commissioner on Friday. "It's awesome to know that the conference is looking to better the experience of student-athletes while at the same time not taking away the drive to be great within each of our sports."

An important conclusion that Scott has drawn from his meetings so far, is that while collegiate sports require enormous amounts of time and sacrifice, every athlete he's met with doesn't want to dial back the effort he or she puts into their sport. The commissioner has found that student-athletes are simply looking for more flexibility, in both their academic and athletic commitments and requirements. According to Scott, the best solution to be discussed at the Power 5 conferences' meeting in April, is increased communication and a sharing of best practices when it comes to managing time and balancing schedules within each sport. 


Trojans Coaching Abroad

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Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

Football is going overseas this summer to China as a part of the Student Athlete Experience (SAE), an academic and athletic camp that "aims to bridge the gap between the classroom and the field."

Barrett-SAE.pngOne of the first camps to focus on American-Football in China, SAE will feature nine former college and professional football players who will coach the camp, including co-directors Chris Barrett ('07) and Joseph Krassenstein ('15), both USC alums.

Barrett was a defensive tackle from Tustin and Krassenstein, who was a walk-on, is from Shanghai, China. Both men have had experience playing and coaching the game in China.

Krassenstein and Barrett (pictured) will be joined by a few more former Trojans on the coaching staff: DaJohn Harris, Will Poole, Kevin Ellison, and Sandy Fletcher. With six of the nine coaches from USC, the Trojans will have their fingerprints all over this camp.

American-Football is rapidly growing in China, popping up in many cities already, such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou. The camp will aim at the children growing as football players while balancing the rigor of academics. The Student-Athlete Experience Camp's long term goal is to allow talented students to study abroad at schools in Southern California, with the help of Barrett's knowledge and connections to the schools.

The camp will take place this summer from July 14-31 at the Skyway American-Football Academy, a program dedicated to preparing the next generation of Chinese athletes. In addition to partnering with the academy, SAE was approved by the NFL as a "Play 60" initiative, focused on getting children to play and exercise for 60 minutes every day.

Spontaneous Recovery

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

The smell of the grass, the feeling of the dirt beneath his feet, the noise of the crowd slowly filling the stands - the combination of these senses transcend time, making 68-year-old Jay Jaffe feel as if it's the late 1960s all over again. Psychologists call this feeling spontaneous recovery, the concept that when you go some place and smell certain aromas or see something that looks familiar it brings you back to a specific time and place when you first experienced these senses.

"That's how it is for me when I get into a batter's box," said Jaffe. "It's like spontaneous recovery. I am back to where I was when I was in college. I don't feel any different, I don't feel my age."

Forty-eight years after last suiting up in Cardinal & Gold under legendary head coach Rod Dedeaux, Jaffe looks forward to the one chance every year he can experience that spontaneous recovery - the Trojan Alumni Game. The former USC center fielder has not missed an Alumni Game since he graduated - a grand total of 46 appearances. But, the feeling that he misses the most is something that doesn't transcend time.

"I can remember each one. It's a thrill. There's nothing like hitting a home run," said Jaffe. "It's just so rewarding, the feeling of hitting one right on the nails, there's no feeling like it."

Screen Shot 2016-03-30 at 12.09.26 PM.pngJaffe was the starting center fielder for the 1968 national champion Trojans, a team that featured future professional players like ace Jim Barr, Red Sox Hall of Famer Bill Lee and the late Bill Seinsoth. Though Jaffe earned a spot on the San Diego Padres Single A affiliate team, the 1969 graduate opted to pursue his law career upon graduation instead, enrolling at Southwestern Law School. He may have officially hung up his cleats after that 1969 season, but Jaffe still cherishes his four years in Cardinal & Gold, describing them as an experience that became the foundation for his future.

"It means everything. It's probably one of the most important things, along with attending the University of Southern California, that one could hope for because it really defines you," said Jaffe. "Playing under coach Rod Dedeaux basically gave you a recipe for how to live your life."

Jaffe would soon rely on this recipe, facing a curve ball nastier than the ones he faced in the 1968 National Championship as he was diagnosed with lymphoma, a battle that he has now taken on and overcome three times. During these separate battles with cancer, the former center fielder often heard an old, familiar voice encouraging him along the way.

"Never let anything get you down, always challenge adversity and just when you think that things are falling apart you say 'just the way I like it', that was [Coach Dedeaux's] famous saying," Jaffe reminisced.

Not only did Jaffe survive his three battles with lymphoma, but he was also diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 2009, yet another obstacle that the USC baseball alum won't let get in the way of his streak of USC Alumni Games. In fact, he doesn't let any of these setbacks alter his ability to approach each and every day as a practicing lawyer and avid USC baseball fan.

"I don't really think about it. I just go do what I have to do. I don't think about any obstacles, I just go up to the plate, look for a pitch and hit it. That's the way I live my life."

So far, Jaffe is fighting off every curve ball that life throws at him, and he continues to wake up every day looking for the perfect pitch with the mindset that he's going yard. 

Swim With Mike on Saturday

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The 36th annual Swim With Mike swim-a-thon to raise money for the nation's leading scholarship fund for physically challenged athletes is coming up this Saturday, April 2, at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

Click here for more information.

The event begins at 7:30 a.m. with the opening of the "treasure chest" in front of the Lyon Center. Football practice is open to the public next door on Howard Jones Field from 10 a.m. to Noon followed by the "Football & Song Girl Relay" in the pool at 12:30 p.m. The barbecue will grill from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m.

You also do not want to miss the biggest splash contest (11:30 a.m.), the Trojan Marching Band (Noon) and photos with Traveler (Noon to 1 p.m. on Howard Jones). Auctions will be open throughout the event as well.

Since its inception, Swim With Mike has raised $16.8 million. And last year alone, $900K+ scholarship dollars were awarded to physically challenged athletes.


In Memoriam: Steven Sample

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The Trojan Family mourns the loss of Steven Sample, USC's 10th president, who was a proud supporter of Trojan athletics. Sample died on Tuesday at the age of 75.

Click here for his obituary.

"Generations from now, those studying the history of our university will quickly find themselves learning the remarkable story of Steven Sample," said USC President C. L. Max Nikias. "So many of USC's successes, so much of our university's current stature can be traced back to Dr. Sample's dynamic leadership, keen foresight, and extraordinary prudence. Dr. Sample stood over our university -- and led our Trojan Family -- as it began its singular transformation, and for this we should all be grateful."

From his obituary: He and his wife, Kathryn (pictured at the Orange Bowl), shared a love and support of USC athletics. Sample liked to start speeches with the rousing statement, "Isn't it a great day to be a Trojan!"

the samples ob pg.jpg
After a "clean" and impressive scrimmage on Saturday, Clay Helton and the Trojans returned to Howard Jones Field on Tuesday looking to build on their early but solid foundation entering the third week of Spring Football.
  • Rising senior running back Justin Davis drew complimentary remarks from Helton after a well-played scrimmage at the Coliseum. According to the head coach, the running back has improved tremendously in his pass-catching ability in the last several years and increasingly showcases a more complete skill set at the position. "When he first got here, it was life or death with him catching the ball. It could go off his face or off his chest. He has improved so much in that area," explained Helton, comparing Davis to former USC RB Buck Allen. "If you truly want to be a professional football player in today's time, you have to catch the ball out of the backfield, and he's worked so hard to do that."
  • Another member of the Trojan backfield on the receiving end of Helton's praise this spring is rising sophomore Aca'Cedric Ware, who has impressed his head coach with his growth through seven practices. "The light's kind of coming on for him," said Helton. "He's one of those violent runners."
  • Ware is in agreement with his head coach, pleased by his progress this spring and welcoming the clean slate that comes with a new position coach. "I'm getting a lot of opportunities, a lot of chances to show what I can do and I'm competing with the other guys just like last year," said Ware. "So far, things are going good."
  • According to the RB, his biggest area of growth in the last year has come as a pass-catcher. His focus this spring however is on a slightly different element of the passing game as Tommie Robinson has stressed the importance of learning proper technique for pass protection.
  • The rising sophomore understands that the battle begins now for playing time within the incredibly talented position group. In Ware's eyes, he brings "a more physical run game" than the other backs, but he is quick to point out that the competition within the group is a close one. "We all push each other. We're all on each others' heels," he explained. "We know if one guy doesn't get the job done, the next one will and that's the mentality we have to have in practice."
  • Ware's competitive spirit is echoed by his teammates at every position, including tight end Daniel Imatorbhebhe who is itching to take to the field this fall. A member of the team in 2015, but forced to remain out of competition due to transfer rules, the rising redshirt freshman recognizes the positives of his season on the sidelines. "Last year was such a huge year for development for me. Getting to go out there with the scout team, that definitely made me a lot better and I'm grateful for it. I remember when I came out for camp last year going with the threes... Now I'm running with the ones and it's normal."
  • The upcoming fall presents the first opportunity for Imatorbhebhe to suit up alongside his Trojan brothers, but it won't be the first time he plays alongside his actual little brother, Josh, who joined USC as a wide receiver this year. "It's a lot like old times," explained Daniel. "I'm the first one to put him on my back when he gets a catch and it's the same way for him. I'm his biggest fan and he says he's mine. We're probably more happy to see each other succeed that see ourselves succeed."
  • Helton's injury update included Uchenna Nwosu (sprained back) who should be back later this week and Osa Masina and JuJu Smith-Schuster (hamstrings) who are being treated with caution but are both close to returning. Jacob Daniel (ankle) was held out of the end of practice, John Plattenburg (ankle) continued to remain out of practice and Ronald Jones II wasn't feeling well and rested for much of Tuesday's session. 
  • Here's more from the head coach after Tuesday's blustery practice...

Three of a Kind

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

USC track & field earned three Pac-12 Player of the Week nods on Tuesday after the Trojans took first (women) and second (men) place at the Power Conference Cardinal & Gold Challenge on Saturday. The three Trojans recognized by the conference this week after their outstanding performances were athletic phenom and two-sport athlete Adoree' Jackson, sophomore 400m dash champion Ricky Morgan Jr. and senior record-setter Jaide Stepter.

Click here for a full press release on the Pac-12 Player of the Week honors.

Jackson is taking the spring off of football to specifically focus on track & field and his dedication is allowing him to fully invest himself in the track & field program, contributing in a variety of events. The sophomore won the men's long jump with a wind-aided leap of 25-10.75/7.89 (+4.1w), and he also jumped a nation's sixth-best wind-legal leap of 24-8.00/7.82 (+1.89). Jackson continued his impressive outing by narrowly finishing in second place in the men's 100m dash with a PR of 10.41 (+.06) just .01 seconds behind the winner.   

The other sophomore, Morgan Jr., won the men's 400m dash (45.54) to earn the title of the fastest 400m dash this season in the nation. Morgan competed against top talent as his mark was one of three times on Saturday that placed in the top five 400m dash times this season.

The lone woman from USC earning Pac-12 Player of the Week honors outshined the men as Stepter not only set the top mark in the nation, but she also earned a spot at the top of the USC record books. Her 400m time of 50.91 surpassed Carol Rodriguez's mark which set the USC record in 2008 (51.39) and it tied the Loker Stadium record set by Monique Henderson (UCLA) in 2005.

The Trojans look to continue their dominate outdoor season and set more USC records at the California Collegiate Invitational in San Diego on Saturday.


Basketball Season Ticket Sweepstakes

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contibutor

With Andy Enfield locked up, the Galen Center will be jumping next year. Quicken Loans is offering FREE season tickets to one lucky winner for the next USC men's basketball season.

To enter, click here.

The sweepstakes is running now through April 1. You must be 18 years of age and a U.S. citizen to enter.

Two weekends ago, Bruce Springsteen played the final show ever to be held at the Los Angeles Sports Arena, signaling the end of a 56-year era for the venue that hosted politicians, world champions, rockstars and more. From 1959 to 2006 the Sports Arena was home to USC men's basketball as well, and with its impending destruction to make way for LA's newest MLS team, it's time to pay homage to the historic landmark.

Click here to check out LAist's "Amazing History of the L.A. Sports Arena" photo gallery including shots of John F. Kennedy, Cassius Clay and more.

From the 1964 Democratic National Convention to the boxing matches of the 1984 Olympics to some of the most famous rock concerts ever performed in the city, the Sports Arena served as center stage for some of the biggest events to come to Los Angeles in the later half of the last century. USC basketball stars like Harold Miner and Paul Westphal played out their Trojan careers within its walls and the arena grew to become a major fixture in USC Athletics history. 

Sports Arena.jpg

Spring Forward - Tee Martin

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Under the direction of new offensive coordinator Tee Martin, the Trojans plan to attack from all angles this fall.

Surf and Turf

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On the back of another successful week, in which Jenna Belton and Abril Bustamante became the third different USC team to win Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Pair of the Week, the Women of Troy will travel to Miami for the FIU Surf and Turf Invitational. No. 2 USC women's beach volleyball will play six matches in a 28-hour span on South Beach, including Top 10 showdowns with No. 8 Georgia State, No. 9 Stetson and No. 10 Florida International.

Click here for the weekend preview.

Belton and Bustamante are 10-2 in dual matches playing out of the No. 4 spot in the lineup together. No. 1 Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes and No. 3 Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler have already collected Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Pair of the Week honors.



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playeroftheweek-robinson.jpgUSC baseball senior Timmy Robinson was named the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week for his scorching hot bat, which hit .462 with 3 home runs and 6 RBI last week. Over his last 10 games, he sports a .394 batting average with 12 runs scored, 3 home runs and 11 RBI.

Click here for more on Robinson.

Robinson and the Trojans will get back to work tonight against Loyola Marymount at Dedeaux Field (6 p.m. first pitch).
The USC Football Coaching Clinic, featuring head coach Clay Helton, the entire Trojan coaching staff and several guest speakers including Los Angeles Rams head coach Jeff Fisher, will be held April 1 and 2 at the John McKay Center on campus.

The clinic is open to coaches of all levels, as well as fans who want to learn more about the USC football staff and its coaching philosophy.

The comprehensive two-day clinic will have presentations by Helton and his staff, as well as offensive and defensive staff roundtable discussions covering philosophy and scheme and in-depth position meetings led by each position coach. USC strength and conditioning coach Ivan Lewis also will conduct a presentation on player development and the off-season/in-season training program.

In addition to Fisher, the guest speakers include Kirby Wilson (Cleveland Browns run game coordinator/running backs coach), Freddie Kitchens (Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks coach), Troy Calhoun (Air Force head coach) and Tim DeRuyter (Fresno State head coach).

The clinic also includes attendance at the USC spring football practice on April 2 on Howard Jones Field, allowing attendees to see the presentations come to life.

Cost of the two-day clinic is $80 ($65 for a single day). The clinic offers a staff discount of $15 off per person for groups of five or more who pre-register together for both days.

Online registration is available by clicking here. For more information, email Eloy Ledesma.


Three Men's Basketball Transfers

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USC men's basketball redshirt juniors Darion Clark and Katin Reinhardt as well as sophomore Malik Martin have been granted releases to transfer out of the program by head coach Andy Enfield. Clark, who expects to graduate this spring, and Reinhardt, who anticipates graduating in the summer, will be immediately eligible next season under grad transfer rules, but Martin will be forced to sit out a year as an undergraduate.

Clark spent two seasons at USC after arriving as a transfer from UNC Charlotte. He was massive for the Trojans this year on the boards, collecting 4.6 rebounds per game despite playing only 11.1 minutes per contest. He missed eight games, including the NCAA Tournament, with a shoulder injury.

Reinhardt, who transferred to USC from UNLV, played in all 34 games for the Trojans this season, including starting 18, and he was one of five players to average double figures in scoring. He tied for the team lead with 60 made threes and led the team in free throw percentage (min. 10 attempts). Reinhardt was USC's leading scorer in 2014-15.

Martin played sparingly this season, averaging 6.6 minutes per game in 27 appearances, but he started 15 games as a true freshman. The Florida native will have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Enfield Extended Through 2021

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USC men's basketball head coach Andy Enfield, who guided the Trojans to 21 wins this season and the program's first berth in the NCAA Tournament since 2011, has had his contract extended through the 2021 season.

"We are very excited about the direction of our men's basketball program under Coach Enfield and the progress that has been made," said USC athletic director Pat Haden. "We look forward to continued progress and we believe that with this contract extension, Coach Enfield will bring stability and success to USC men's basketball for the long term."

"The men's basketball staff is very appreciative of the great leadership and support from our administration and we are very thankful to have talented players in our program who are terrific representatives of USC," said Enfield. "We look forward to an offseason of continued development for our players that will set the foundation for an exciting 2016-17 season."

Enfield came to USC prior to the 2013-14 season after guiding Florida Gulf Coast to the Sweet 16 as a No. 15 seed. After building the foundation of the program during his first two years at USC, he led the Trojans to a 21-13 record and sixth place finish in the difficult Pac-12 Conference in 2015-16. USC's 8.5 game improvement during the regular season was the most by any Power 5 conference team in the country.

Along with winning, Enfield has brought an electrifying style of play to the Galen Center. The Trojans averaged 80.5 points per game, their highest number since the 1991 season and second among all Pac-12 teams in 2016, and made a school-record 266 three-pointers. USC also held opponents to 41.7 percent shooting, third-best among conference teams last season, and set the school record for blocks in a season with 182, which ranked 15th in the country.

Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

USC's women's tennis extended its current winning streak to five games with an impressive 7-0 sweep of the No. 35 Oregon Ducks last Friday at Marks Stadium. The win saw the No. 29 Trojans improve to 8-4 on the year and stay undefeated in Pac-12 play at 3-0.

Click here for the recap.

The Women of Troy secured the doubles point very quickly with wins from their top doubles pairs. Giuliana Olmos and Gabby Smith (pictured) won their match 6-0, and then Zoe Katz and Madison Westby clinched the doubles point for the Trojans, winning their match 6-2.

From there, the Trojans took care of the Ducks in all six of their singles matches. Olmos, ranked No. 22 in the country, set the tone for singles play with a three-set victory. But it was the sophomore Smith who went undefeated in both of her doubles and singles matches to lead the way against Oregon.

The Women of Troy will look to stay undefeated in the Pac-12 when they take on Utah in Salt Lake City this Friday at 12:30 p.m. PT. After that, the Trojans will head down to Boulder to face Colorado on Sunday at 11 a.m. PT. Be sure to follow @USCWomensTennis on Twitter to keep up with all the upcoming action!


Still Undefeated

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Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

A week after taking down No. 4 Hawaii over spring break, USC women's water polo returned to action on Saturday with a convincing, 11-6, road victory over No. 10 San Jose State. The victory keeps the top-ranked Women of Troy undefeated at 15-0, with a 2-0 conference record.

Click here for the recap.

The Trojans got out to a 5-1 lead after the first frame, but would need a second-half hat trick from junior captain Avery Peterson (pictured) to seal the deal.

Saturday's win was yet another display of the team's dominance this season, as USC registered its 10th win with nine or more goals. On the season, the Women of Troy have outscored their opponents 185-71.

The Women of Troy will put their undefeated record back on the line Saturday, as they travel to sunny San Diego for a non-conference battle against the San Diego State Aztecs, bright and early at 10 a.m. PT. Be sure to follow @USCWaterPolo for in-game updates, photos and more all season long. 

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Hot at Home

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At 11-11, if USC baseball could make a wish, it'd likely be to carry its home momentum on the road. The Trojans have won four consecutive games at Dedeaux Field, including victories over Cal State Fullerton and UC Santa Barbara last week, but dropped two at UCSB in between.

USC will have the luxury of one home game this week, Tuesday against Loyola Marymount at 6 p.m., before a difficult trip to Stanford on Friday (7 p.m.), Saturday (1 p.m.) and Sunday (4 p.m.). All three games at the Sunken Diamond in Palo Alto will be live on Pac-12 Network.

Here is the new episode of Trojan Wind Up to catch you up on all things USC baseball:

Easter Duck Hunt

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MPSF-michael3.jpgNo. 8 USC women's lacrosse bludgeoned Oregon, 17-4, on Easter Sunday to move to 9-0 on the season and 3-0 in league play. The Women of Troy continued their unprecedented run of good form, extending the program's longest winning streak to nine, thanks to reigning MPSF Player of the Year Michaela Michael, who tallied a career-high seven goals en route to being named MPSF Offensive Player of the Week.

Click here for the recap.

USC is destroying everything in its way this season. The Trojans have won the last four games by a combined score of 69-13.

This week, the Women of Troy will travel to Fresno State for a televised duel (Mountain West Network) on Thursday at 5 p.m. and then come home to host San Diego State on Saturday at 3 p.m. on McAlister Field.

Here are the highlights from win over Oregon:

Conference Drama

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No. 8 USC men's tennis took a trip up to the Pacific Northwest to begin Pac-12 play last week and came home with a split after two dramatic dual matches. First, the Trojans fell to Washington, 4-3, on Friday, but then they rebounded to beat Oregon, 4-3, on Sunday.

Click here for the recap of the win over the Ducks.

USC is getting exceptional play from the top of its lineup right now with No. 1 Nick Crystal (pictured) and No. 2 Max de Vroome winning both their singles matches last week. In the comeback victory over the Ducks, Crystal and de Vroome dominated their opponents in straight sets, dropping five games combined.

At 11-4 overall and now 1-1 in conference, USC returns home to the newly renovated Marks Stadium for back-to-back matches this week. First, the Trojans battle Cal on Friday at 3 p.m., and then they will face Stanford on Saturday at Noon.


Best of the Best

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Competing against three of the top track & field programs in the country last weekend, USC showed it's 2016 squads - both men's and women's - are two of the best of the best. The Women of Troy claimed the team victory, led by senior captain Jaide Stepter, who cruised to a school record victory in the 400m, and junior high jumper Amalie Iuel, who won the event with a clearance of 5-7.25. The Trojan men finished second, just a few points behind Ohio State, despite not running a team in either relay.

Steeper clocked a 50.91, breaking Carol Rodriguez's program mark of 51.39 and tying the Loker Stadium record to secure USC's first event victory on Saturday. Her mark is the fastest in the country in the early season. Sophomore Kendall Ellis followed her teammate, finishing in second with a time of 52.45. USC finished two-three in the 1500m as Rebekah Ent set a personal record finishing in 4:29.21 and Katerina Berdousi ran a season-best 4:31.74. The Women of Troy looked strong in both of the relays as well, finishing second in the 4x100m relay and winning the 4x400m relay with the fifth-fastest time in school history. The quartet of Alexis Faulknor, Deanna Hill, Destinee Brown and Tynia Gaither posted a 43.62 in the 4x100, good for 10th on USC's all-time list, while Ellis, Iuel, Stepter and Cameron Pettigrew teamed up to post a 3:29.73 in the 4x400.

Both the women and men shined in the field events, with the men taking home first in each of the three jumps. Adoree' Jackson, exclusively focused on track this spring, kicked off the successful day winning the long jump with a mark of 25-10.75 (+4.1w). Later, Randall Cunningham Jr. won the men's high jump at 7-3.75, while Iuel won on the women's side with a mark of 5-7.25. Trojan women finished second and third in both the long jump and shot put and Felicia Horvath placed second in the pole vault as well, moving up to fourth all-time in program history with a height of 12-5.50. Dominic Smallwood rounded out the group of victorious Trojan jumpers, winning the triple jump with a mark of 50-3.25.

The men's team made a strong showing on the track, led by sophomore Ricky Morgan who won the 400m with a personal record of 45.54, the fastest time in the country entering the weekend. Later in the competition, sophomore Mitchell Cameron and freshman Nicolaus Jakowec placed second and third, respectively, in the 1500m while Adoree' Jackson was narrowly edged in the 100m, falling second to Texas' Charles Anumnu by .01. His time of 10.41(+0.6) was a personal record. 

Next up, the Trojans will head to San Diego for the California Collegiate Invitational on Saturday. Be sure to follow @USC_Track_Field for in-meet updates, photos and more all season long. 

Check out all the John McGillen photos from Saturday here...

The Trojans were eager to don their pads and get to work in the Coliseum last Saturday for their first spring practice at their home stadium. 

Check out all the John McGillen photos from Saturday's practice and scrimmage on a beautiful Los Angeles morning...

Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

The Trojans were back in the Coliseum on Saturday for the first time in 2016 for another intense practice to wrap up week two.
  • The defense lost the competition drill for the third straight time this week, but head coach Clay Helton wasn't concerned, noting after practice his positive impressions of the unit through two weeks of spring ball. "I loved the physicality of practice right from the get go," said the head coach. "I thought the defense set the tone early in the scrimmage."
  •  Helton added that he has been very impressed with Uchenna Nwosu and Iman Marshall through the early parts of spring - two guys who have stood out to him on defense on every practice highlight tape thus far. 
  • The biggest news coming out of practice was Helton's announcement that defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow will be out for the next 7-9 months with a torn ACL suffered in Thursday's practice. However, Helton did add that Bigelow will be a team captain this year. "He's the rock for us," said Helton. "Now he goes by Coach Bigelow instead of Kenny."
  • With Bigelow out, Helton highlighted the team's strength of being able to play in the nickel package, which will help in his absence. The head coach noted that the package is something he and his coaching staff are already anticipating using often on a lot this coming fall.
  • On the offensive side, Helton was pleased by the impact of the running backs in the spring's first longer scrimmage. "I thought all three backs ran extremely hard and efficient," said Helton. "I really saw some maturity come out in Ronald Jones and [Aca'Cedric] Ware."
  • While Ware and Jones have stood out in their immediate progression, Helton also raved out his senior running back Justin Davis. "I think he's learned how to be patient runner. His maturity too," said the head coach. "I think he's going to be one of the best running backs in the Pac-12."
  • The most prominent storyline of Spring Football is the ongoing quarterback competition, and according to Helton, Max Browne continues to impress and is leading the way so far. However, the head coach has liked what he's seen from other members of the talented position group as well.  "You could see the poise of Max Browne today, but 14 [Sam Darnold] has come out in his first spring and acts like he's been doing this for years," said Helton. 
  • "Max is ahead and that's the way it should be," said Helton. "But Sam, every time we come out here and put the lights on, he makes a big play. His poise in real live game situations for a young person is really impressive."
  • As far as injuries go, Helton said that Noah Jefferson [back] is expected to be back next week, with WR JuJu Smith-Schuster [ankle] expected back early next week as well. LB Osa Masina continues to be out dealing with a hamstring injury, while TE Taylor McNamara is out for the time-being with a shoulder issue that he has battled since transferring to USC.
  • Here is more from the head coach after practice...

As USC football ushers in a new era under center, Tyson Helton is tasked with tutoring the next great Trojan quarterback. In our latest Spring Forward episode, get to know USC's new quarterbacks coach and passing game coordinator...

The second practice of the second week of Spring Football was a physical one for the Trojans on Howard Jones Field. Check out the John McGillen photos from Thursday's session...

2016 Spring Practice #5: Notes

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The Trojans put the pads on and engaged in an extremely physical Thursday practice.
  • The practice had at least one casualty as DL Kenny Bigelow went down with a knee injury. He will have an MRI to see the extent of the damage. "We'll all be saying our prayers tonight for him," said head coach Clay Helton. "He's very much a leader of our team, and we need him."
  • USC_FOOTBALL_Spring_032416_MCGILLEN_9027.jpgIn other injury news, DL Noah Jefferson remains out with a lower back issue. WR Michael Pittman Jr. will likely be non-contact for the rest of spring, so his collarbone can fully heal. WR JuJu Smith-Schuster is out with a hamstring injury. TE Tyler Petite is going through concussion protocol. LB Osa Masina (hamstring) is close to returning.
  • Helton has emphasized physicality and toughness since taking over last season. Today, he challenged both lines with a 3rd and 2 competition. The veteran offensive line dominated their counterparts, winning three of four plays to send the defense running. "I expect that from our offensive line right now," said Helton about his most experienced unit. "I want it every period. They should be dominating."
  • The defense had its most success in practice sending pressure off the edge, which is a staple of Clancy Pendergast's 5-2 scheme. "I'm standing behind the quarterback, and I can feel the pressure," said Helton about the outside rushers collapsing the pocket.
  • Porter Gustin on the change in aggressiveness under Pendergast: "As a Predator, we're just blitzing more, more up on the line, playing the run a little more, not dropping back as much. It's great. I love the way he coaches. I'm loving the defense so far. It's very aggressive, and he's letting us play. I don't have to think too much, just go at it."
  • Pendergast, who emphasizes communication over everything, has been working closely with the middle linebackers so far because they are the "quarterback" in his scheme, along with the free safety, and the group is inexperienced. He did not look at any of last year's tape, choosing to give the players a "clean slate."
  • At linebacker, Quinton Powell is emerging as a breakout player this spring. The senior is playing in the middle for Pendergast. "I'm playing fast because I know what I'm doing and the coaches are working with me," said Powell. "I couldn't say the same when the old coaches were here, but the coaches now, they support me and I'm able to play with confidence and with speed."
  • Powell loves working with Pendergast, saying, "[Pendergast] judges my heart. He knows I've got heart and at the end of the day, anyone can play linebacker if you've got heart."
  • In the secondary, Pendergast brought in Ronnie Bradford to coach up a talented group, and the defensive backs have responded. "I got to give these guys credit," said Bradford. "They've been working their butts off. This time of year, you start working on fundamentals, but you're still installing a new defense. They come out here with a great attitude and great energy."
  • With that said, like the entire defense, the secondary play has been inconsistent as they figure out the new defense. "Right now, we're throwing a lot at them. They're swimming," Bradford said. "They're drinking from a fire hose. There's a lot of defense coming at them right now."
  • Here is Helton after practice:

March Mayhem

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While the hoops world was engrossed in March Madness, No. 1 USC women's golf was knocking off team-after-team en route to the SDSU March Mayhem Match Play title. The Women of Troy defeated No. 9 Arizona, 3-1, in the final on Wednesday after beating UC Irvine, Oregon and Stanford in the preceding rounds.

Click here for the recap.

"This was a great event and a neat format," USC head coach Andrea Gaston said. "Four rounds, it's a lot of golf, and gives us good experience. Oregon on Monday was a heck of a match and emotions ran high. It was great to see Victoria [Morgan] come through with a couple great shots to halve her match and give us that win.

"We were able to lead Stanford most of the way, yesterday, as they did not have one of their better days, and today was really good because every match was pretty close. We had the lead but a lot can go wrong in the match and momentum can turn around. I love how Karen [Chung] closed it out today, nailing that nine iron, against the wind, to within six feet and converting the putt."

This is the second match play title of the season for the Women of Troy, which is a good sign because the NCAA Tournament becomes a match play format over the final three rounds to decide the national champion. Last year, USC fell in the national semifinals to Stanford, 3-2, but the Trojans knocked off the Cardinal, 4-1, in March Mayhem on Tuesday.

Karen Chung clinched the tournament victory over Arizona.
The 36th annual Swim With Mike swim-a-thon is right around the corner, and starting now you can make a donation for the one-of-a-kind scholarship fund that supports physically challenged athletes seeking to achieve their collegiate goals. The main event will be held on April 2 at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

Started in 1981 as a one-time fundraiser for USC All-American Mike Nyeholt, Swim With Mike has since raised over $16.8 million to help 187 students receive colleges to 90 different schools across the United States. To learn more about ways you can get involved in the organization's efforts, go to

While you prepare for this year's fun, check out this video from last year's Swim With Mike event...

Wrecking Ball

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No. 8 USC women's lacrosse is an unstoppable force at present, ringing up another blowout victory on Wednesday, 17-4 over Dartmouth at McAlister Field. The Women of Troy are riding a program-record eight-game winning streak, and they have beaten their last three opponents by a combined score of 52-9.

Click here for the recap.

In their latest triumph, the Trojans were led in scoring by Michaela Michael and Caroline de Lyra with four goals apiece. The defensive effort was just as impressive, including a career-best four ground balls by Cynthia Del Core.

USC will host an MPSF showdown on Sunday against Oregon at Noon. Come out to McAlister Field or watch it live on Pac-12 Network.

Here are the highlights from the win over Dartmouth:

#USCtotheNFL: 2016 USC Pro Day

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Representatives from every NFL team convened at the John McKay Center and on Cromwell Field for USC's Pro Day on Wednesday to watch as a talented group of Trojans showcased their abilities in hopes of making their #USCtotheNFL dreams come true.

Check out the results, photos and social media highlights from 2016 USC Pro Day by clicking on our Slate story below...

USC Pro Day 2016

Photo Gallery: USC Pro Day 2016

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With the NFL watching, the Trojans showed up and showed out at USC Pro Day inside John McKay Center and on Cromwell Field. More coverage to come, but here are John McGillen's photos:

Weekday Double Dip

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No. 3 USC beach volleyball added two more wins to its growing season total by knocking off No. 6 Long Beach State, 4-1, and Cal, 5-0, on Tuesday at Merle Norman Stadium. The Women of Troy were led by top pair Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes who extended their winning streak to 41, including a resounding demolition of Long Beach's best, 21-9, 21-4.

Click here for the recap and highlights.

USC boosted its record to 11-2, having won six consecutive dual matches. The Women of Troy are off until April when they travel to Miami for the Surf and Turf Classic.

Here is yesterday's Rapid Reaction:

Photo Gallery: Spring Practice #4

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The Trojans were back on the practice field Tuesday evening, and John McGillen captured all the spring action.

2016 Spring Practice #4: Notes

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After a week off for Spring Break, USC is back on Howard Jones to begin four consecutive weeks of Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday practices.
  • The Trojans were in shoulder pads and shorts today. They will be in full pads on Thursday and then head to the Coliseum on Saturday. Head coach Clay Helton is looking forward to seeing the quarterback competition play out on Saturday with "live bullets" flying.
  • USC_FOOTBALL_SPRING_032216_MCGILLEN_6907.jpgPete Jenkins, who served as USC's defensive line coach during Ed Orgeron's stint as interim head coach, was out on the practice field to observe the defensive line. He cannot coach the players, but he can advise new DL coach Kenechi Udeze on technique and drill work.
  • The new offensive line coach Neil Callaway has made noticeable changes to the practice habits of his unit, working the group relentlessly to build toughness. "Everyone has their way of doing things, we have our way of doing things," said the no-nonsense Callaway. "We need to play as hard as we can, as physical as we can, as smart as we can. If we get those three things accomplished, we can be a very good unit."
  • The offensive line has nine players returning with starting experience led by redshirt senior Zach Banner. "I want him to be a guy that doesn't think that he's arrived," said Helton about the All-Pac-12 offensive tackle who is working on both ends of the line. "He's got a chance to be one of the premier tackles in the country, but to do that, he can't waste a second."
  • Banner on Callaway: "He's a great coach. I think you always love a dude who gets you better. If you get bothered by how he yells then you don't deserve to play this sport. My father was the same way, it doesn't phase me."
  • If the line comes together as a dominant unit, USC's plethora of skill position players will be the beneficiaries. The wide receiver group is double-digits deep with pass catching talent. "Let them all play," said offensive coordinator and WR coach Tee Martin. "The best thing that's happened here over the years is that we've been playing them young whether it was Marqise Lee or Nelson Agholor or JuJu Smith-Schuster and now you have this younger crowd coming behind them. It's the only way to get better. When they're ready to play, that's when they play. It creates this healthy competition in the room because they know if I'm not getting the job done, the guy behind me can. It makes us a better offense for it."
  • Darreus Rogers returns as the veteran leader of the receiving corps. "Everything's slowed down, I'm capable of playing my game, having fun, teaching the young dudes," he said about going into his senior season. "I'm like two steps ahead of the game right now."
  • Rogers sees more 50/50 opportunities in the passing game with Martin calling plays and Helton running the team, which is a strength of his game. "Towards the end of the season, I really saw him make some big plays in the passing game and plays downfield going vertical," said Martin about Rogers winning jump balls. "He really improved that part of his game."
  • Ajene Harris (pictured), who sat out last season with an injury, is one of the under the radar weapons in this offense. The slot receiver made the practice-winning touchdown catch which sent the defense off running. "I knew the ball was coming to me," said Harris, who is fully recovered from hip surgery. "My defender was playing me inside and I had a corner route. I just knew I had to make a play for the team. It was a great throw, shout out to Max."
  • As for the tailbacks, RB coach Tommie Robinson is still getting a feel for his stable. "Just like last time, I really didn't want anyone to tell me a lot about the guys when I first got here. I wanted to evaluate them myself. We know what happened last time, we were told what Buck Allen couldn't do and we found out real fast what he could do. I'm still going through the evaluation stage with these guys."
  • Practices are a lot quieter as Helton has turned off the music. "We've turned the music off because we're here to work," said Banner.
  • Two quick injury notes, DL Noah Jefferson is out with a back issue, while WR Michael Pittman Jr. is limited by a sore collarbone. Here is Helton's complete press conference:

Dempster's Decision-Maker

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Thanks to Corey Dempster's eighth inning home run, USC baseball won its third straight and 10th overall game this season against Cal State Fullerton on Monday evening at Dedeaux Field. The Trojans showed resiliency in the game, coming away with the victory even after the Titans battled back to even the game 2-2 in the seventh inning.

USC's three runs came off of five hits, with home runs from Timmy Robinson and Dempster as well as an RBI single from Reggie Southall. Freshman CJ Stubbs pitched 6.1 innings and allowed just two runs on four hits with no walks in his strongest start of the year, while Brooks Kriske notched his third save of 2016 retiring the side in the top of the ninth.

Beginning on Thursday, the Trojans will play two games at UC Santa Barbara. Both Thursday and Friday's games begin at 3 p.m. PT. Be sure to follow @USC_Baseball for in-game updates, photos and more all season long.

Check out the John McGillen photos from a beautiful night of baseball at Dedeaux Field...

And watch all the SnappyTV highlights, including Dempster's clinching home run here...

No. 8 With a Bullet

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lax-ranking-8.jpgFor the first time in program history, USC women's lacrosse has moved into the national Top 10 at No. 8 in the latest IWLCA coaches' poll. At 7-0, the Women of Troy are one of three undefeated teams left in the country.

USC's climb up the rankings is all the more remarkable considering the program played its first game in 2013. Under head coach Lindsey Munday, the Women of Troy have gone from west coast experiment to national power player in less than four seasons.

Last week, the Trojans went on the road and demolished Cal and Saint Mary's by a combined score of 35-5 after beating a tough Stony Brook team at home, 14-10. Junior attacker Kylie Drexel scored a hat trick in all three games, earning MPSF Offensive Player of the Week.

Next up, USC puts its winning streak on the line against Dartmouth (2 p.m. on Wednesday at McAlister Field) and Oregon (Noon on Sunday at McAlister Field). Both games will be live on Pac-12 Network.


Recognizing Bravery

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Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

In February, USC long snapper Jake Olson, who lost his sight to a rare form of cancer called retinoblastoma, was named one of six finalists for the Rare Disease Champion Award. And one month later, he was honored with the award at the Maxwell Awards Gala after winning an online vote.

The Rare Disease Champion Award winner goes to a leader in college football that makes an impact on the rare disease community. This award recognizes Olson's impact on others lives and his hard work to inspire and educate others about the disease.


Fun in the Sun

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No. 3 USC beach volleyball enjoyed spring break the best way it knows how, collecting crowns on the sandy shores of Hawaii. The Women of Troy returned home with four more team victories plus three pairs titles, knocking off No. 5 Hawaii and Nebraska twice each and sweeping the Hawaii Invitational led by Sara Hughes and Kelly Claes, who were named the Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Pair of the Week.

Click here for the spring break photos.

Click here for the match recaps.

Hughes and Claes are putting together another extraordinary season atop USC's lineup. The reigning national pairs champions are 14-0, including 7-0 last week in Hawaii with all victories coming in straight sets. The duo is currently riding a 39-match winning streak, dating back to April 2, 2015.


Photo Gallery: Trojan Invitational

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USC track & field is in the midst of back-to-back home meets, providing an opportunity for the Trojans to dazzle the crowds at the Loker Track. USC did not fail to impress, collecting 14 individual titles over two days.

Freshman Jasmyne Graham took home two crowns, winning the 100m HH and the long jump, to lead the Women of Troy. On the men's side, highly touted freshman thrower Matt Katnik lived up to the billing, tossing the shot put 61-7.75 (18.79m) for his first outdoor victory as a Trojan.

Click here for the recap.

The Trojans will continue their outdoor season this Friday and Saturday with the Power Conference Cardinal & Gold Challenge at the Loker Track. The meet will be televised by Pac-12 Network on Saturday from 3:30 to 5:30 p.m.

Here are the John McGillen photos from the Trojan Invitational:

Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

At the University of Southern California, there are plenty of mouthwatering destinations for spring break. From parading the Mango Deck at the ever popular Cabo San Lucas to shredding down the slopes at Lake Tahoe, there's plenty of room and variation for a break from classes.

While many students were relaxing at those aforementioned locations, the women's water polo team was hard at work, though they also got to get away for a bit. Over the break, the Women of Troy took their undefeated record and No. 1 ranking to Honolulu for a battle against No. 4 Hawaii.

Click here for a complete recap of the match against Hawaii.

The top ranked Trojans stood the test of a great opponent and amazing scenery, winning 9-5, to remain undefeated at 14-0 on the year.

Despite allowing the first goal, USC came back strongly by scoring four straight to take a commanding lead. The four goals were scored by four different Trojans.

USC held a 6-4 lead at halftime, behind junior Stephania Haralabidis' first half hat trick. Haralabidis added another goal in the second half to bring her final tally to four on the day.

Like the rest of the student body, it's back to class and time to leave paradise, with a trip to face the San Jose State Spartans on the horizon.

Mahalo Tim Guard for hosting us at the OutRigger Canoe Club for a beautiful dinner! #TrojanFamily #FightOnForever

A photo posted by USC Women's Water Polo (@uscwomenswaterpolo) on

Much Improved in March

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After a difficult stretch in February, in which the USC women's tennis team went 1-4 against a slew of tough opponents including Florida and No. 1 Cal, the Trojans have rebounded in the month of March to advance their overall record to 7-4. Last weekend, the Women of Troy took down Baylor at the BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Challenge for their fourth straight victory of the month.

The duo of Zoe Katz and Madison Westby came up big early in the match, battling in a tiebreaker to claim a 7-6 (2) win and earn USC's first points of the day. From there, the Trojans made quick work of their opponent, securing three consecutive singles points en route to a 4-0 win. Gabby Smith, Rihanna Valdes and Giuliana Oleos each won their singles matches in two dominating sets to close out the successful day in Indian Wells.

The Women of Troy could not have picked a better time for a hot streak as they enter the thick of Pac-12 play this week. First up, the Trojans host Oregon at 1:30 p.m. PT on Friday at Marks Stadium. Be sure to follow @USCWomensTennis for match updates, photos and more!


Baseball Bounce Back

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USC baseball found itself having lost six out of seven games after dropping the Pac-12 opener against No. 12 Cal, but the Trojans rallied on Friday and Saturday to take the series and turn the momentum just in time. After falling, 5-4, in its Pac-12 home opener, USC hammered the Bears in game two, 18-5, and then picked off the rubber match, 5-4.

Click here for Friday's recap.

Click here for Saturday's recap.

In need of some lumber, the Trojans' veteran sluggers delivered at Dedeaux Field. Junior catcher Jeremy Martinez had multiple hits in all three games, while senior 1B/RF A.J. Ramirez scored seven runs, drove in four and belted a home run in the series.

After 18 games, USC sits at 9-9 with perennial power Cal State Fullerton in town tonight (6 p.m. PT on Pac-12 Network). The Trojans will play their next five games against non-conference foes before taking their first Pac-12 road trip to Stanford (April 1-3).

Here is the baseball recap show from last week:

Besting the Big 12

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The No. 12 USC men's tennis team earned back-to-back, 4-1, victories over No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 21 Baylor in the BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Tennis Challenge last weekend to advance to 10-3 overall in 2016. Sophomore Thibault Forget extended his singles winning streak to 10, clinching two-set victories in both matches, and was crowned the Pac-12 Player of the Week for his highly successful weekend. 

And click here for a complete recap of Sunday's victory over Baylor. 

The Trojans started strong against the Sooners on Saturday, capturing the doubles point thanks to the winning tandems of Max de Vroome and Jake DeVine and Jack Jaede and Tanner Smith. Forget (6-2, 6-1) and Nick Crystal (6-3, 7-5) finished off their opponents in two sets each while DeVine battled through three sets to clinch the match. 

On Sunday, Forget pulled the Trojans even with his singles victory after the Bears earned the doubles point to begin the match. De Vroome (6-2, 6-1) and DeVine (6-1, 6-3) sured up the USC lead with back-to-back wins on courts one and three before freshman Logan Smith decided the match with a 6-3, 6-2 win on court four. 

Now, USC will head out on the road for its first Pac-12 matches of the year. On Friday, the Trojans take on Washington in Seattle at 5 p.m PT before traveling to Eugene to challenge the Oregon Ducks on Sunday at 12 p.m. PT. Be sure to follow @USCMensTennis for match updates, photos and more. 


Phenomenal 400

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The Women of Troy made a sensational finish on the final night of the 2016 NCAA Women's Swimming and Diving Championships in Atlanta, winning USC's first-ever NCAA title in the 400y free relay and demolishing the school record to finish sixth as a team at the meet. The Trojans are now one of only four teams to finish in the Top 8 in each of the past seven years. 

Senior Kasia Wilk, freshman Kirsten Vose and juniors Chelsea Chenault and Anika Apostalon won the relay in 3:09.69, more than a second under the school record and just over a second off of the NCAA record set in 2015. It was just the second overall NCAA relay title in program history. 

"The whole meet, and the year, the theme has been about the team," said head coach Dave Salo on Saturday. "We had some missteps on some individual events, but we never failed on any of the relays. The relays were awesome. That was the final piece of the whole team focus, coming together and winning it."

At the end of the four-day meet, USC counted eight All-Americans - Anika Apostalon (100y free, 200y free relay, 400y free relay, 800y free relay, 400y medley relay), Kirsten Vose (200y IM, 200y breast, 400y free relay, 800y free relay), Kasia Wilk (100y free relay, 200y free relay, 400y free relay, 800y free relay), Chelsea Chenault (400y free relay, 800y free relay), Riley Scott (400y medley relay), Kendyl Stewart (200y free relay, 400y medley relay), Evan Swenson (200y free relay) and Hannah Weiss (400y medley relay) - and four new program records. 


And Then There Were Three

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The No. 12 USC women's lacrosse team secured a dominating, 20-3, win over Saint Mary's College on Sunday for its seventh consecutive victory this season. The Women of Troy have now outscored opponents, 112-33, to start the year and are one of just three undefeated teams left in the country.

The win over the Gaels was USC's fourth double-digit victory this year and featured goals from 11 different Trojans including juniors Kylie Drexel and Drew Jackson who both scored hat tricks. The team effort also included 14 assists and 18 forced turnovers. It was fitting that junior Michaela Michael, the team-leader in goals this season, started the scoring for the Trojans on Sunday. And while Saint Mary's answered to tie the score early, by halftime, USC was up 13-2.

Sharing an undefeated record with just Cornell and Maryland, the Women of Troy are fast making their mark as one of college lacrosse's most talented teams. The Trojans are tied for third in scoring offense (averaging 15.4 goals per game), lead the nation in scoring defense (with an average of 5.6 goals allowed per game) and boast the sport's top scorer in Michael (averaging 4.4 goals per game).

Looking to keep their streak alive, USC next hosts Dartmouth on Wednesday at 2 p.m. PT. The game will be broadcast live on Pac-12 Networks. The Women of Troy will have their first MPSF home game on Sunday against Oregon at 12 p.m. PT. To stay up to date on all USC women's lacrosse news, be sure to follow @USCTrojansLAX.

Photo Gallery: March Madness

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While the pain of losing at the buzzer still stings, USC men's basketball's journey to the NCAA Tournament will be remembered as a triumphant season. On the game's biggest stage, the Trojans fought to the end with Providence, getting a taste of what the program hopes will be an annual event on the schedule.

Here are the March Madness photos from Raleigh, North Carolina, by John McGillen:

3-Points: Providence 70, USC 69

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

In true, heart-breaking March Madness fashion, USC fell to Providence, 70-69, in the final seconds of the first round of the 2016 NCAA Tournament in Raleigh, North Carolina on Thursday night. The Trojans finish the season with a 21-13 record overall.


The Agony of Defeat

The Trojans ended up on the wrong side of the annual thrills that accompany the NCAA Tournament, as they watched their season end on Rodney Bullock's buzzer-beating layup at PNC Arena. Despite leading the Friars by seven with just over seven and a half minutes remaining in the game, USC stuttered down the stretch, giving up an 8-0 run, turning the ball over three times, missing three layups and failing to capitalize on four separate opportunities at the free throw line. While the Trojans outshot the Friars, 53.8 to 40.3 percent in the game, Providence scored a combined 27 points off of turnovers and second chance buckets to USC's two. There were a handful of opportunities to put the game away and advance to the Round of 32, but ultimately the Trojans finished the game with a two minute stretch that lacked composure, a frustrating ending for a team that made enormous strides this past season.

"I'm just extremely hurt. We had the game in our hands and we let it go. It sucks because we had control of the game up until the last minute and we just looked really uncomfortable," said junior point guard Julian Jacobs. "We should have won that game. We had every opportunity to seal the deal, we just didn't."

Expensive Free Throws

Locked in a back-and-forth battle that endured from tip-off to the final whistle, it soon became apparent that the victor of Thursday night's eight/nine-seed matchup would be determined at the free throw line. While USC finished with more rebounds and steals than Providence and shot better than the Friars from both beyond the arc and the field, the Trojans could not execute when given free opportunities to clinch a convincing lead. The Trojans were 5-of-11 from the free throw line in the second half including two crucial misses by Elijah Stewart and Julian Jacobs on one-and-ones in the final 30 seconds of the game. Providence, on the other hand, was a perfect 6-of-6 from the stripe to close out the game, enough to earn the one-point victory and advance to the next round.

Good Night, Not Goodbye

The devastating loss will certainly linger with the team in the coming weeks and months that fill the offseason, but there's no reason to despair. All but one member of this year's Trojan team is expected to return in 2016-17, an incredibly encouraging sign for a group that made the biggest turnaround of any Power 5 basketball program this season. Led by Jacobs and soon-to-be junior point guard Jordan McLaughlin, who led USC with 15 points on Thursday, as well as soon-to-be senior Nikola Jovanovic, USC will enter the next season with even more experience and an even stronger sense of chemistry. A clear challenger in the talented Pac-12 Conference this season, the Trojans are looking to be true contenders one year from now, a goal that head coach Andy Enfield believes will drive his team back to the Tournament.

"I'm sure they'll be thinking about this in the offseason," said Enfield after the game. "We're trying to build a program, build on this success, and I think this experience for our players will propel them to improve in the offseason and come back next year and want to be back here. There's nothing like experience at the NCAA Tournament to help you down the road."

Here are the SnappyTV highlights, including the thrilling final minute, of USC's NCAA Tournament loss...

It Takes A Team

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By coming together as one, the Trojans learned how to win this season. And as March Madness begins, they are buoyed by the knowledge that the Trojan Family is behind them.

USC's New Power Program

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No. 12 USC women's lacrosse is off to its best start in program history, opening the season 5-0 after defeating No. 11 Stony Brook, 14-10, on Monday at McAlister Field. The Women of Troy continue to hop every hurdle in their way under head coach Lindsey Munday and sit on the precipice of a national Top 10 ranking.

Click here for the recap and video highlights.

While the usual suspects paced the offensive attack, including four goals apiece for Michaela Michael and Kylie Drexel and three for Amanda Johansen, the Trojans' defense came through in the clutch in the latest victory. Sophomore goalie Gussie Johns made nine saves, while her Stony Brook counterparts stopped just two shots between them.

Click here to see Michael and Johansen on Trojans Live.

The Women of Troy will take their five-game winning streak on the road for the next two, visiting Cal and Saint Mary's, which also marks the start of league play.

Here are John McGillen's photos from Monday's victory:

Raleigh Bound!

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USC departed for Raleigh, North Carolina on Tuesday morning with their sights set on an NCAA Tournament First Round matchup against Providence. The Trojans will spend the next two days adjusting to the time change, practicing at PNC Arena and preparing for their March Madness debut. 

Be sure to follow @USC_Hoops to stay up to date on all the action in Raleigh this week including photos, videos and more!
The Trojans are back in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2011, which called for a March Madness-themed Trojans Live on Monday night before the team departed for Raleigh, North Carolina on Tuesday. Kicking off the show with John Jackson and Jordan Moore was head coach Andy Enfield, who led the Trojans to a 21-12 record this season, the greatest improvement among Power 5 schools. 

Also calling in to the show was new USC offensive coordinator Tee Martin, who recapped USC's first week of Spring Football and provided his insight on this year's quarterback battle. 

Perhaps the most exciting team on campus this spring is USC women's lacrosse, which currently boasts a program-best 5-0 record to begin the 2016 season. The Women of Troy's leading goal scorer, Michaela Michael, and elite midfielder, Amanda Johansen, dropped by The Lab to talk about their team's rapid ascent to the top of the sport. 

Rounding out the crop of March Madness guests was USC point guard Jordan McLaughlin. The sophomore, alongside fellow point guard Julian Jacobs, has been the engine of the Trojan team this year, propelling USC to its best regular season record since 2009. The day before flying east, McLaughlin joined the show to talk about the Trojans' potential, his relationship with Jacobs and his thoughts on Thursday's matchup with the Friers. 

Watch McLaughlin's interview here...

Taste of Tulsa

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USC men's tennis head coach Peter Smith accomplished two goals on the last road trip. First and foremost, the Trojans picked up a 7-0 victory over No. 26 Tulsa.

But also, No. 15 USC got a first-hand look at the NCAA Championships site for 2016. Smith's teams always have title dreams, having won five national championships in the last seven years.

Click here for the recap.

Senior Max de Vroome, who knows what it takes to win a national title, paced the Trojans on the trip with wins in doubles and singles. For his efforts, he earned Pac-12 Player of the Week.


All-American Gary Jeter Died

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Former USC defensive tackle Gary Jeter, a 1976 All-American first teamer and 1974 national champion, died on Thursday (March 10) in Plainsboro, N.J. He was 61.

Click here for the complete obituary.

Jeter was a four-year (1973-76) starter for the Trojans, recording 234 career tackles at USC and winning all-conference first team honors his last three seasons. During his time, the Trojans played in three Rose Bowls (1974-75-77) and in the 1975 Liberty Bowl.

He was the fifth pick of the 1977 NFL Draft by the New York Giants. He would go on to play 13 NFL seasons with the Giants, Los Angeles Rams and New England Patriots.

GARY JETER (2).jpg
March Madness is underway for USC men's basketball, but the excitement of the season isn't lost on the Trojan football team which began spring practice last week. The Trojans spent the first two sessions on Howard Jones Field focusing on technique and fundamentals while working with many of the new faces on this year's coaching staff. On Saturday, the team donned pads for one final physical practice before taking a week off for Spring Break. 

Check out all the John McGillen photos from Saturday's practice and stay tuned for more from Spring Football next week...

Let's Dance

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IMG_4927.JPGFor the first time since 2011, USC men's basketball is going to the Big Dance. The Trojans earned the No. 8 seed in the East Region, and they will play No. 9 Providence on Thursday in Raleigh, North Carolina. The approximate tip time is 9:50 ET/6:50 PT.

Click here for the entire NCAA Tournament bracket.

USC finished 21-12 in the third year under head coach Andy Enfield, earning a spot in the Round of 64 for the first time since 2009. The Trojans will battle the Friars (23-10) for a spot in Saturday's Round of 32 against the winner of No. 1 North Carolina vs. No. 16 Florida Gulf Coast or Farleigh Dickinson.

We will have comprehensive March Madness coverage all week long on @USC_Hoops (Twitter) and @usc_hoops (Instagram), but first, enjoy the Trojans' reaction as their ticket gets officially punched.

The Trojans ended their first week of Spring Football with their first practice in pads on Saturday at Howard Jones Field. The team will have one week off for Spring Break before suiting up for four straight weeks of practices beginning on Tuesday, March 22. 
  • USC head coach Clay Helton was impressed with his team's competitiveness on their first full day in pads, especially being one day away from the start of a week-long break. In the team's final competition period, the offense and defense went after it, forcing two turnovers and ending on a long touchdown from Max Browne to JuJu Smith-Schuster.
  • While the offense had the final say, winning the competition drill on the final three plays, Helton felt that it was the defense which stole the show on Saturday. "I thought the defense won the war today, I really did," he explained. "I thought they brought a physicality and a toughness and created turnovers which hadn't been happening really in the first two practices."
  • Senior safety Leon McQuay III highlighted the final 15 minutes of practice, intercepting Browne on back-to-back plays to give the defense an early lead. "To see Leon come up with two plays like that made me a happy person," said a pleased Helton, who explained that McQuay is a player he thinks has benefited from the one on one meetings the coaching staff had with the entire team this offseason. "He's an extremely talented young man and when he knows his assignment he plays really fast. He's a really physical player at the safety position as well. I'm expecting really big things from him."
  • The head coach has also been impressed with some of the young members of USC's defensive line - Rasheem Green and Porter Gustin - through the first week of practice. A sophomore defensive tackle, Green has demonstrated "his quickness and quick twitch off the ball, especially in one on one pass rush", while Gustin, a sophomore defensive end, is "really causing havoc in both run and pass". On the opposite side of the line, Helton has been pleased with sophomore offensive tackle Chuma Edoga who he says has been "pretty special off the edge" through one week.
  • Spring practices, and your RipsIt team, will be back in one week with more news from Howard Jones Field. For now, here's Helton's complete post-practice presser...

3-Points: Utah 80, USC 72

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Despite a late comeback effort directed by junior PG Jordan McLaughlin, USC fell to No. 12 Utah in the quarterfinals of the Pac-12 Tournament on Thursday. With a 21-12 overall record, the Trojans now await their NCAA Tournament fate to be delivered in four days on Selection Sunday.

Too Hot To Handle

Thursday night's quarterfinal match began as a back-and-forth brawl with 15 lead changes in the first half and the Trojans' leading with just under three minutes to go. USC fought hard, but could not keep pace with Utah which shot 60.8 percent in the game, including 10-of-22 from beyond the arc. The Utes also outrebounded the Trojans, 35 to 31, and dished out 22 assists to USC's nine. The Trojans battled back in the second, piecing together a 13-5 run late in the game to pull within two, but the Utes were able to fend off the comeback thanks to Kyle Kuzma's 23-point effort and a late dagger of a three from Brandon Taylor. 

"It's never a good feeling when you lose. Especially when you're highly capable of beating a good team," said a frustrated Julian Jacobs after the game. "With that being said, I'm still proud of the team, of how much we've accomplished so far. It just sucks losing."

Backcourt Brawn

In USC's first loss to Utah earlier this season, the Trojans' two point guards combined for 37 points. On Thursday, Jacobs and McLaughlin led the charge again, combining for 40 points, seven assists and three steals. Twenty of McLaughlin's 24 points came in the second half as the sophomore PG orchestrated the Trojans' late come-from-behind run. The duo took care of the ball, turning it over just five times to Utah's 13, but struggled to move the ball efficiently on offense. Unfortunately, the backcourt generals' efforts simply weren't enough as just one other Trojan scored in double-digits - Katin Reinhardt (13) - and USC finished with a 42.9 percent shooting mark. 

And Now We Wait...

With their Pac-12 Tournament journey now over, the Trojans have four days to see if their work this season is enough to be invited to the Big Dance. Despite a frustrating 3-7 slide to end the season, USC's final 10 games featured five losses to Top 25 teams, an aspect of the Trojans' resume that head coach Andy Enfield isn't ashamed of. The head coach was quick to highlight USC's impressive wins this season in the postgame press conference, eager to point out the remarkable turnaround made by his team this year. The Trojans will discover their NCAA fate on Sunday at 2:30 p.m. PT in CBS's two-hour Selection Sunday broadcast.

"I think with our strength of schedule and how many Top 100 wins we have, there's no question that we deserve to be in the [NCAA] Tournament," said a confident Enfield after the game. "I certainly wouldn't want to play us. We're very streaky and explosive, as you've seen the last two games. But that's out of our hands... We will be like a lot of other teams waiting on Sunday to see what the situation is."

Here are the SnappyTV highlights from the Trojans' quarterfinal game...

Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

USC football got back to work on Thursday for its second practice of the spring with a very competitive and physical session...
  • "You want a very chippy, mad football team that wants to compete," said head coach Clay Helton. "One decision can cost you a game. We're on a mission to go win a championship."
  • The head coach is preaching an emphasis on technique and fundamentals at practice, something he sees a lot from new defensive coordinator Clancy Pendergast. "I sleep really well at night," said Helton on having Pendergast back on staff. "He's really captured the defensive room."
  • Pendergast returns to USC after spending the last year as the San Francisco 49ers linebackers coach, and he's looking for his defense to play very fast with plenty of nickel coverage. The new defensive coordinator is a familiar face for some players as he was the Trojans' defensive coordinator back in 2013. However, he's learning how to work with a plethora of new talent. "There's really not that many guys. You've got Quinton Powell, Leon McQuay, those are two guys I'm really excited about," said Pendergast. "Really it's dominated by the guys who weren't here."
  • The defensive coordinator is familiarizing himself with the roster, understanding that it is a young group with flexibility throughout the linebackers and defensive line. "They're an athletic group, I like their size," said Pendergast of his young defensive linemen. "I like some of the things I see, but there's a transition from a technique standpoint compared to what they did last year, so they're taking baby steps."
  • The few guys who've played for Pendergast are excited to have their former DC back in Cardinal & Gold. "Back in 2013, we had the number one defense in the Pac-12 under coach Clancy," said USC defensive tackle Kenny Bigelow Jr. "It's a more physical attacking defense (this year), more penetration altogether."
  • Despite all the Xs and Os, the number one key for the new defensive coordinator's system seems quite simple: communication. "It all starts with communication. We're going to be a communication-oriented defense," said Pendergast. "I think the more we're out here, the better these guys are going to be."
  • Last time at USC, Pendergast had a limited coaching staff, but this year Coach Helton allowed him to pick a coach for every position. He cited Ronnie Bradford's hiring as the secondary coach as a vital addition, as someone who he's previously worked with and who knows his system.
  • While he believes there's plenty to improve on, he was reflective on how happy he is to be back. "I feel like I just left yesterday. I'm flattered to have an opportunity to come back," said Pendergast.
  • The defense appeared to win the end of practice scrimmage with an interception; however, the play had been whistled dead. Max Browne responded by leading the offense down the field to beat the defense. Helton loved the resilience from Browne and Co. after the turnover from his quarterback.
  • Update on the injury front: Taylor McNamara and Quinton Powell returned to practice on Thursday after missing the first spring practice due to strep throat.
  • Here is Helton after the second practice...

Photo Gallery: Men's Golf Riding Highlands

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USC men's basketball is not the only Trojan program living large in Las Vegas. No. 4 USC men's golf picked up back-to-back tournament victories by besting the field at the Southern Highlands Collegiate.

Click here for the recap.

The four-stroke win was keyed by the usual suspects as sophomore Sean Crocker finished second overall and junior Rico Hoey carded a team-best 72 in the final round. Crocker turned in his fourth top 8 this year and his second in a row, finishing at 3-under 213 (70-68-75). Hoey kept his impressive streak of top 10 finishes alive, extending it to six in a row with a tie for eighth at 2-over 218 (76-70-72).

Here are the John McGillen photos from Las Vegas:

Texas Roadie

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USC baseball will test its toughness in the Lone Star State as the Trojans travel to No. 8 TCU for a three-game series this weekend. USC is 6-5 on the season, having won both local road games at Loyola Marymount and Long Beach State.

Here's a look at the week that was and the week that will be in USC baseball:

Photo Gallery: Tourney Time

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En route to posting its largest margin of victory over UCLA since 1945, USC men's basketball enjoyed every minute, which is clearly captured in John McGillen's photo galleries from the Pac-12 Tournament in Las Vegas.

3-Points: USC 95, UCLA 71

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Written by Caroline Deisley and Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

The USC men's basketball team kicked off the Pac-12 Tournament on an extremely high note, dominating crosstown rival UCLA, 95-71, to advance to the quarterfinals. This is the Trojans' first three-game sweep of the Bruins since 1942.

Click here for a full recap from the Trojans' first-round victory.

first round final.jpgDouble-Digit Domination

The Trojans opened up the game on a 14-2 run and never looked back, holding a double-digit lead for XX. USC once again owned its season-long slogan - It Takes A Team - finishing with six players in double figures. Freshman Bennie Boatwright led the team with 19 points followed by Jordan McLaughlin (18), Nikola Jovanovic (16), Julian Jacobs (11), Chimezie Metu (10) and Katin Reinhardt (10). USC also dominated the boards, outrebounding UCLA a whopping 52-29. Wednesday's opening round victory was the Trojans' largest margin of victory over the Bruins since 1945.

"It feels really good," said Jovanovic. "This Wednesday was a whole new start to the season. We didn't care what we did in the regular season. We knew what we had to do to win games in order to stay in the tournament. Every day is a fight. We're just going to go game by game."

Freshmen Phenoms

It didn't look like the first Pac-12 Tournament game for freshmen Boatwright and Metu who lit up the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Boatwright led the team in scoring with 19 points, hitting five threes and collecting nine rebounds. Metu added the thrills, putting on a show for the Las Vegas crowd with an assortment of unbelievable dunks. He recorded his first career double-double with 11 points and 10 rebounds.

"I had a feeling both would play well," said head coach Andy Enfield of the dynamite duo. "Bennie was terrific making those threes and then Chimezie came in with his career-high in rebounds. He played a key part in our defensive scheme. The freshman played beyond their years this evening."

On to the Next One

After an emotional win, the Trojans must now compose themselves and prepare for their impending second-round battle on Thursday night. USC will square off against Utah at 6 p.m., looking to erase the sour taste of an 80-69 regular season loss to the Utes. Be sure to follow @USC_Hoops for photos, in-game updates and more from the Pac-12 Tournament.

Check out the SnappyTV highlights from USC's emphatic first-round victory...

Finding A Foundation

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From cellar dweller to NCAA Tournament hopeful, USC's All-Pac-12 point guard Julian Jacobs has seen it all. As his team prepares to face UCLA in round one of the Pac-12 Tournament, the junior reflects on the Trojans' journey the last three years.

Renaissance Woman

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As USC women's beach volleyball begins its national title defense, the Women of Troy are counting on junior Nicolette Martin to hold down the No. 3 position with her partner Allie Wheeler. The duo could not be off to a better start, winning all four matches and collecting the first-ever Pac-12 Beach Volleyball Pair of the Week honor.

While Martin continues to grow as a player, she is also thriving in her other passions at USC, including her exceptional artistic talent. For her latest project, she added some color to the entrance at Merle Norman Stadium.

Kids Take Over the Ballpark

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On Saturday, March 26, Dedeaux Field belongs to the kids. USC baseball will host UC Santa Barbara at 2 p.m. and we are offering a "Kids Take Over the Ballpark" package for only $20 which includes two tickets (adult and youth), youth snapback hat, Easter egg hunt, USC baseball trading cards, two food vouchers and much more.

Click here to purchase.


2016 Spring Practice #1: Notes

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

USC football is officially back in action as the Trojans took the field for the first time in 2016 with some new and some familiar faces to kick off spring ball...
  • "Spring ball is one of my favorite times of the year because you focus on the technique and fundamentals of the game - things that are going to win championships," said head coach Clay Helton. "I could hardly sleep last night with excitement to get back out with the team and be a part of this."
  • Tuesday marked Helton's first spring practice as head coach along with his new coaching staff. He continually emphasized the new coaching staff's toughness and ability to coach players extremely hard. Toughness is just one of the coaching staff's "four T's" for spring practice. The staff's message is focused on the team's Technique - the fundamentals of the game, Toughness - the art of discipline of doing things right, Togetherness - a brotherhood, and Trust - trusting the process. 
  • The number one story line heading into the Trojans' spring practices is the quarterback competition between redshirt junior Max Browne and redshirt freshman Sam Darnold. Both impressed on the first day with some outstanding deep balls, including a roughly 40-yard touchdown to WR JuJu Smith-Schuster from Browne. "It was neat to see a third-year vet come out there and really look smooth and act like a third-year vet in Max Browne," said Helton. "And then to have three really talented young guys right behind him, it makes you feel good as a coach. It helps you sleep at night to have that position really solidified with a lot of talent."
  • Browne understands his role as a three-year vet including how the experience gives him the slight edge in the position battle. "I'm older, I've been here longer, have more reps, so I'm taking the mindset that it's my job to lose but obviously at the end of the day, it's the coaches' decision," said the quarterback. "I'm one of the older guys here. I may not have the on-field experience as some guys but I've been through the ropes as far as offseasons and spring balls and all that. I've earned my stripes a little bit. I'm a leader and need to take that approach."
  • Darnold stressed that in the eyes of the coaches it is still very much an even playing field. Though he understands his lack of experience, he isn't phased at the idea of stepping into the role as USC's starting quarterback against the Alabama Crimson Tide. "I like to think of myself as a leader by example mostly, but if guys need me to lead vocally or step up that way I can," said Darnold. "If there needs to be a little more juice around practice, more energy, I definitely think of myself as a guy that can do that."
  • Helton emphasized that the coaching staff is looking to name a starter by the end of spring if there's a clear gap, but if there's still progress to be made, then they'll decide whether or not to continue it through Fall Camp.
  • All eyes were on the quarterbacks, but Helton declared the wide receiver corps as the position group that stood out the most in the first practice, including early enrollees Michael Pittman Jr. and Josh Imatorbhebhe, who looked like two-year veterans on their first day according to the head coach.
  •  "It's different because you have Max Browne who has a cannon, Sam Darnold who has accuracy and Jalen Greene who has the speed and throws with his left hand," said JuJu Smith-Schuster. "Trying to catch from different quarterbacks is kind of hard so I'm glad we're doing it at the beginning of spring so I can get used to it."
  • This depth at wide out as well as in the running back corps allows the Trojans to have an extremely well-balanced offensive attack, something that Smith-Schuster recognizes. "For me, in order for our team to progress and move forward to the next level, I think I might have to step back a little and let the other guys play more."
  • The first practice of 2016 brought a handful of Trojan football alumni out to Howard Jones to scope out this year's talented squad. The notable alumni list including recent players like Su'a Cravens, Soma Vainuku, Randall Telfer, Hayes Pullard and George Uko as well as Trojan legends like John Robinson, Marc Raab, Chris Hale and Tom Malone.
  • After missing the Holiday Bowl to end last season, OL Chad Wheeler returned to the team after dealing with personal issues. "I had a personal situation and I regret my actions. I have apologized to my team and coaches and I apologize to our fans," said Wheeler. "I have dealt with my issue and I look forward to the season."
  • A quick injury update to start spring ball - Cameron Smith, Toa Lobendahn, Khaliel Rogers and Chris Hawkins are all still rehabbing surgeries so their performances will be limited as they continue to heal. LB Osa Masina tweaked a hamstring and will most like miss the rest of the week. Strept throat has been traveling around the team with Taylor McNamara and Quinton Powell missing practice as they try to rest up for Thursday.  Leon McQuay III won't be participating in spring practice because he has a class he needs to take to graduate but will work out separately with the coaching staff. Finally, Don Hill was absent for a violation of team rules and Scott Felix remains ineligible due to personal issues.
  • Rounding out the Trojans absent from spring practice is three-way superstar Adoree' Jackson, who is spending the spring focusing on track. "To allow him to attempt to win a national championship and to be a part of the Olympics, you have to master it. I don't think you can go back and forth," said Helton. "He's one of those special players that needs three weeks of camp to be ready for a season. He's just that supreme of an athlete."
  • Here is Helton after the first spring practice...

Helton 2016

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clay2016-3.pngAs Spring Football begins today, USC head coach Clay Helton and his newly assembled staff will continue the process of implementing their schemes and philosophies to create a team with a physical, aggressive identity on both sides of the football.

"I am looking forward to entering the 2016 season as a new coach not only with a roster of talented players with whom I already have a relationship, but with a coaching staff that I believe is exceptional," said Helton. "We want to run the ball on offense, stop the run defensively, play great special teams and not turn over the ball. However, there is a lot of development that must be done before the 2016 season and it starts with our time in spring practice and fall camp. I have no doubt that this staff will prepare our players well for the upcoming season.

On offense, Tee Martin now runs the show, having proven his value as one of the nation's best position coaches and recruiters over the last six years. He will be tasked by Helton with creating a power identity.

"Our offense will be very consistent to what Trojan fans have seen in the past," said Helton. "Tee not only is an outstanding play caller, but he has been with us long enough to understand what works well here. We want to keep defenses off balance by being balanced offensively. We believe we have the personnel to run the ball effectively and physically and to be explosive in the passing game. At the end of the day, though, we know that we must be able to run the ball and not turn it over."

On the other side of the ball, Clancy Pendergast is back after leading the Trojans to the top of the league in total defense during his one-year stint as USC defensive coordinator in 2013.

"After seeing how effective the 5-2 defense was here in 2013 under Clancy, I'm excited to see it in action with the current personnel we have," said Helton. "It's an aggressive, attacking system and I believe it's the perfect fit for us. We want to stop the run and get to the quarterback, and create turnovers."

And last but not least, Helton understands the importance of special teams. To that end, he brought back John Baxter, who is widely considered a leader in the profession.

"We are extremely fortunate that John came back to coach our special teams," said Helton. "He is one of the most respected special teams coordinators in the game. His trademark is impactful, creative special teams play.

Equal Strengths

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The USC women's lacrosse offense has been unstoppable this year, scoring 63 goals in its first four games led by junior attacker Michaela Michael with 18 goals on the season. But the Trojan defense has been equally impressive, holding opponents to just 18 total goals and posting an 11.25 average margin of victory to start the year. For their outstanding efforts in victories against both Michigan and Vermont, Michael and sophomore Lydia Sutton won MPSF Offensive and Defensive Player of the Week honors, respectively.

Michael has already been selected as the conference's Offensive Player of the Week this season, and secured it once again after scoring 10 goals and recording eight draw controls in USC's two victories last weekend. She is now tied for second in career goals in program history with 106. Sutton's award is the first of her career and comes after the sophomore tallied seven caused turnovers and seven ground balls in the pair of wins. It is the third time that USC has won multiple MPSF awards in the same week.

The No. 12 Women of Troy finish their season-opening home stretch this Monday against No. 10 Stony Brook at 3 p.m. Be sure to follow @USCTrojansLAX for information on the team, in-game updates and more.


Crosstown Cupdate - USC 70, UCLA 55

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After another busy weekend of rivalry action, USC stayed on top of UCLA in the BMW Crosstown Cup standings thanks to women's beach volleyball, which swept the Bruins in Malibu (pictured).

Click here for more on the BMW Crosstown Cup.

The Trojans opened up a nice lead in the fall and winter by sweeping football and men's basketball, and they are just 30 points from clinching the cup with major events to come this spring. While USC and UCLA will square off in the first round of the Pac-12 Men's Basketball Tournament in Las Vegas (Wednesday at 6 p.m. on Pac-12 Network), it will have no effect on the Crosstown Cup as the Trojans have already beaten the Bruins twice.


Avery's Afternoon

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Avery Peterson's hat trick performance against Arizona State on Saturday led USC women's water polo to it's 12th consecutive victory and earned the junior MPSF Player of the Week honors for the first time. The Trojans' 8-3 conference-opening win over the Sun Devils kept the team's undefeated record intact to start the 2016 season.

Peterson connected on all three of her shot attempts in the road game, while also drawing two ejections for the Women of Troy. The junior already has 22 goals in this year's 12 games, better than her career mark of 20 total goals entering the season. She is the second Trojan to earn MPSF Player of the Week honors this season, joining fellow junior Stephania Haralabidis who has won twice.

Next up, the Women of Troy host UC Irvine at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center on Friday at 5 p.m. Be sure to follow @USCWaterPolo for in-game updates, photos and more. 

Quite A Pair

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The unstoppable USC beach volleyball pair of juniors Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler were named the first-ever Pac-12 Pair of the Week after going 4-0 in dual matches at the Pepperdine Kick Off last weekend. The dynamic duo dominated from the No. 3 position all weekend to help the Trojans secure wins over No. 3 Hawaii, No. 4 Long Beach State and No. 6 UCLA.

The pair defeated its opponent in both the Hawaii and UCLA duals in straight sets while grinding out tough, three-set victories in both duals against Pepperdine and Long Beach State. Martin and Wheeler's 15-8 third-set win against Long Beach State clinched the match for the Women of Troy.

For more on Martin, Wheeler and the entire defending national champion Trojan team, follow @USCBeach


Jumpin' Julian

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Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

Congratulations to USC PG @jewjewjacobs on making First Team All-Pac-12! #ItTakesATeam #FightOn

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

USC was picked to finish 10th in the Pac-12 by the conference's media before the season, yet the Trojans blew away those expectations, battling atop the conference for much of the year before finishing tied for sixth. On Monday, the Pac-12 honored Julian Jacobs, a player who epitomized the strides the team made this year, as a member of the All-Pac-12 First Team.

Click here for a full recap of USC's Pac-12 honors.

The junior point guard, who led the league in assists per game, finished the season with career highs across the board, averaging 11.6 points, 4.8 rebounds, 5.4 assists and 1.3 steals. As his stats show, Jacobs did a little bit of everything for the Trojans, including adding invaluable leadership for a young team.

Jacobs is the lone Trojan on the All-Pac-12 First Team, though sophomore guard Jordan McLaughlin was given honorable mention status. Forward Bennie Boatwright was also an honorable mention for the All-Pac-12 Freshmen Team.

While Jacobs is being honored primarily for his selfless play all season, he has also treated crowds to a plethora of showstopping, emphatic dunks, like the latest against Oregon:

Springing Into 2016

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USC Spring Football begins Tuesday as the Trojans suit up for the first of 15 practices, culminating in the annual Spring Game at the Coliseum on April 16. Under the direction of head coach Clay Helton, the 2016 Trojans have several questions to answer before the fall, headlined by the starting quarterback competition.

Redshirt junior Max Browne is the most experienced under center, but he will be pushed by an athletic young trio in redshirt freshman Sam Darnold, redshirt sophomore Jalen Greene and true freshman Matt Fink. Cody Kessler's successor will have plenty of experienced weapons at wide receiver and tailback, including All-Pac-12 WR JuJu Smith-Schuster and USC freshman rushing record holder Ronald Jones II. The strength of the Trojans offense should be up front with nine returning offensive linemen that have started a game led by All-Pac-12 OT Zach Banner.

USC will also be reintroducing Clancy Pendergast's 5-2 defense, focusing on getting pressure from the young defensive front seven, which officially returns only two starters. The experienced secondary should help give the pass rushers time though as all four starting defensive backs return, including lockdown corners Adoree' Jackson and Iman "Biggie" Marshall.

"I am looking forward to entering the 2016 season as a new coach not only with a roster of talented players with whom I already have a relationship, but with a coaching staff that I believe is exceptional," said Helton. "We want to run the ball on offense, stop the run defensively, play great special teams and not turn over the ball. However, there is a lot of development that must be done before the 2016 season and it starts with our time in spring practice and fall camp. I have no doubt that this staff will prepare our players well for the upcoming season."

Click here for the complete spring preview.

Click here for the spring practice schedule.

Spring Football will also mark the introduction of seven new freshmen with the rest of their classmates set to arrive in the fall. The Trojan Family will get its first look at WR Michael Pittman Jr., WR Josh Imatorbhebhe, DL Oluwole Betiku, QB Matt Fink, DL Liam Jimmons, DB C.J. Pollard and OL Nathan Smith.

As always, every practice will be covered right here on the RipsIt Blog, including video of Clay Helton's post-practice press conference.
Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

USC women's tennis opened Pac-12 play this weekend with back-to-back victories over No. 41 Washington and No. 47 Washington State at Marks Stadium. The Women of Troy took down Washington, 5-2, on Friday and Washington State, 5-1, on Saturday.

Click here for a full recap of the win over Washington.

Click here for a full recap of the win over Washington State.

Senior Giuliana Olmos (pictured) was a big reason why, setting the tone for her young team in Pac-12 play. In her singles match against the Huskies, Olmos lost just one game to her opponent, winning convincingly, 6-0, 6-1. Earlier in the day, she won her doubles match with partner Gabby Smith, 6-4.

On Saturday, the senior picked up right where she left off by taking care of her singles match again, winning 6-0, 6-3. However, no doubles matches were played due to weather issues.

Olmos wasn't the only Trojan to win both of her singles matches this weekend, as junior Zoe Katz and freshman Jessica Failla brought home singles sweeps over both Washington schools.

Following these victories, the Women of Troy will take their undefeated Pac-12 record to the Bay this weekend for duals against Stanford and California.

On A Roll

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For the first time in program history, USC women's lacrosse is 4-0 and ranked No. 11 in the country after defeating both Michigan and Vermont last weekend. A major key in the Trojans' early season success is junior Michaela Michael who once again set the offensive pace, scoring 10 goals and recording eight ball controls in the two games.

The Trojans all-around dominated both opponents, outshooting the Wolverines, 25-15, and outshooting the Catamounts, 32-13, while forcing a combined 39 turnovers. On Friday, Amanda Johansen joined Michael with her multi-goal outing, scoring her 17th-career hat trick in the win. Sophomore goalie Gussie Johns recorded seven saves while allowing just two goals in each half. Three Trojans posted hat tricks against the Catamounts on Saturday, including Caroline de Lyra and Kylie Drexel who scored four and three goals, apiece.

Michael now has 106 career goals, good for second in program history. Saturday marked her 17th-career hat trick and her ninth game with five or more goals.

The red-hot Trojans will have a week off before hosting Stony Brook on Monday, March 14 at 3 p.m. Be sure to follow @USCTrojansLAX for in-game updates, photos and more all season long.

Check out the John McGillen photos from the Trojan victory on Saturday...

Swimming a Strong Second

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USC men's swimming and diving placed second at the Pac-12 Championships last weekend, posting back-to-back top two conference finishes for the first time since 1997-98. The previous defending conference champions earned five individual swim titles for the first time since 2003 as the Trojans tallied 700 total points in the meet. 

Junior Reed Malone took home his second individual title of the meet on Friday, becoming the seventh Trojan in a row to win the 200y free. Following his teammates' lead, sophomore Ralf Tribuntsov then won USC's first 100y back title in nearly 20 years, reaching the wall just .15 ahead of the next-fastest swimmer. Two Trojans - Alex Valente and Carsten Vissering - finished second in their respective events, while USC's 400y medley relay team also finished second to close the third day of competition just .25 seconds too slow to defend their title in the event. 

On Saturday, freshman Patrick Mulcare (below) secured USC's first 200y back title in nearly two decades while junior Steven Stumph repeated as 200y breast champion to round out the group of successful Pac-12 title-winning Trojan swimmers. 

"We knew winning this year was going to be a tough battle and it certainly was," said head coach Dave Salo after the meet. "Overall, a second-place finish in the Pac-12 is certainly something to be proud of. When we started this season we were tabbed as no better than 20th in the country. Along the way we showed that we certainly are a much better team than many expected."

The Trojans now turn their attention to the NCAA Championships, held March 24-26 in Atlanta.


Vegas Baby, Vegas

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Let the madness begin!

USC men's basketball will tip off its postseason on Wednesday in Las Vegas as the Trojans are the No. 7 seed in the Pac-12 Tournament at the MGM Grand. First up, USC will take its crosstown rivalry on the road by playing No. 10 UCLA at 6 p.m. inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

With a win, the Trojans would face No. 2 Utah in the quarterfinals on Thursday at 6 p.m. PT. Both games will be broadcast on Pac-12 Network.

In his latest "Bracketology", ESPN's Joe Lunardi projects USC as a 10-seed in the NCAA Tournament, so the Trojans are in good shape to make the "Big Dance" for the first time since 2011, especially if they can knock off the Bruins for a third time this season.

Be sure to follow @USC_Hoops on Twitter and @uschoops on Instagram for behind-the-scenes coverage of the tournament as well as live game updates.


Opening Weekend Ws

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Tasked with facing four Top 10 teams in less than two days last weekend at the Pepperdine Kick Off, the top-ranked USC women's beach volleyball team emerged on Sunday victorious, but not perfect. The Women of Troy fell to No. 2 Pepperdine, but defeated No. 3 Hawaii, No. 4 Long Beach State and No. 6 UCLA to begin the 2016 season 3-1.

On Saturday, defending pairs' national champions Kelly Claes and Sara Hughes got the ball rolling for the Trojans, winning their match, 21-11, 21-17, to claim the first point against the Wahine. Three more USC pairs would follow suite, giving the Women of Troy a 4-1 victory to start the weekend.

Up against a tough Pepperdine team later that day, the Trojans fell 3-2, snapping their program-long 29-match winning streak. Despite scoring the first point of the dual thanks to a 21-11, 21-17 win by Claes and Hughes, the Women of Troy could not outlast the Waves, losing on courts two, four and five, en route to their first loss of the season.

In need of a rebound performance on Sunday morning, USC came out firing, sweeping crosstown rival UCLA, 5-0, while securing 10 more points in the Crosstown Cup standings. The pair of Sophie Bukovec and Alexa Strange alongside Nicolette Martin and Allie Wheeler secured two quick victories on courts two and three to give the Trojans the head start. Claes and Hughes finished last, defeating UCLA's top pair, 21-19, 27-29, 15-6, to secure the sweep. To watch the rapid reaction following the rivalry match, click here.

The Trojans finished the weekend with another close dual, this time on the winning end of a 3-2 decision against Long Beach State. Tied at two, the match was ultimately decided on court three where juniors Martin and Wheeler gutted out a three-set match, winning 21-10, 16-21, 15-8 to give USC it's third victory this season.

The Women of Troy will play their first matches at home this Thursday and Friday as they host Arizona State, Florida State and Loyola Marymount. The match against the Sun Devils will begin at 6 p.m. at Merle Norman Stadium on Thursday.

Check out all the John McGillen photos from USC's victory on Sunday...

The Steady Hand

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Since 1984, Tim Tessalone has steered the USC Sports Information Department, experiencing every story that college athletics has to offer. Always the calm inside the storm, Tessalone is now being honored for his body of work as one of the newest inductees into the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA) Hall of Fame.

Click here for the complete release.

"I have worked with virtually every SID in America over the last 30 years, and Tim is the best," said USC athletic director Pat Haden. "This is a well deserved honor for one of the most loyal servants to our athletic department and university."

Tessalone graduated from USC in 1978 and then started as an assistant SID in 1979 before taking over the head job five years later. He won the 2013 Bert McGrane Award, given annually by the Football Writers Association of America to an FWAA member who has performed great service to the organization and/or the writing profession. Under Tessalone, USC is a five-time winner of the "Super 11" award, which recognizes the best sports information departments in college football (FBS). 

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See-Saw Series

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

No. 22 USC baseball faced tough, nationally-ranked opponents this weekend in the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic, dropping two of three games in back-and-forth battles that were decided by one run or extra innings. The Trojans have now had seven games decided by one run and are 3-4 in those contests.

The weekend began on a high note with a 5-4 victory over Oklahoma that came down to the final inning when reliever Brad Wegman came in with runners in scoring position and got a 5-4-3 double play on just one pitch.

Click here for a full recap from Friday's dramatic, down-to-the-wire victory.

However, the next two games did not fall in the Trojans' favor as they lost to No. 20 Mississippi State and UCLA in dramatic fashion.

On Saturday against the Bulldogs, USC had the game-tying run on third with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, but it couldn't convert leaving yet another runner on base, an area where the team has really struggled to start the season. The Trojans have stranded 90 runners, a key stat when looking at the amount of one-run games so far this season.

Click here for a recap from Saturday's close loss to Mississippi State.

Sunday was even more gut-wrenching for the Trojans who lost yet another instant classic against crosstown rival UCLA at Dodger Stadium. The game lasted 14 innings, the longest ever in this rivalry's history, but the Bruins finally broke the stalemate in the top of the 14th on a single and a fielding error. USC looked like it might tie things up again in the bottom of the 14th with the tying runs in scoring position and only one out, but the Trojans could not convert in the clutch again, stranding both runners to end the game.

Click here for a full recap from Sunday's heartbreaking 14-inning loss.

In all three games this weekend, USC jumped out to an early lead, but struggled to maintain these leads late in the game against tough opponents. The competitive stretch of the season continues for the Trojans as they head to Fort Worth this weekend to face the No. 11 TCU Horned Frogs.

Here are the John McGillen photos from the Dodger Stadium Classic:

Bested by the Beavers

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Up against top-seeded Oregon State in the second round of the Pac-12 Tournament on Friday, the USC's women's basketball team put up a good fight, but ultimately fell, 63-53, to end their tournament run with a 19-13 overall record. The Trojans now await a possible postseason bid.

Led by Sadie Edwards (20 points) and Temi Fagbenle (10 points), the Women of Troy battled back from a 12-point deficit to cut the Beavers' lead to three just before the half. But Oregon State dominated the second half offensively, finishing with a 60 percent mark from the three-point line and out-rebounding USC 40-25. Despite forcing 21 turnovers in the game, the Trojans could not keep pace with the top seed, shooting just 38.3 percent from the field.

Fagbenle, who led USC in scoring and rebounding this year, recorded her 24th double digit performance this season in what may be her last game in Cardinal & Gold. The Women of Troy have a week to wait before finding out if they will receive an at-large bid to the 2016 NCAA Tournament on Selection Sunday (March 13). 

Here are the SnappyTV highlights from Friday's game...

3-Points: Oregon 76, USC 66

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Written by Caroline Deisley and Max Holm, USC blog contributors

In the final regular season of the 2015-16 season, the Trojans fall to the No. 9 Oregon Ducks, 76-66, after a hard-fought battle at the Galen Center. USC now turns its attention to the Pac-12 Tournament, which begins in Las Vegas on Wednesday.


Hit Them With Their Best Shot

The ball just didn't bounce the Trojans' way on Saturday as they tried to upset the best team in the Pac-12 heading into the conference tournament. There were moments when it looked like USC was going to pull off the upset, but down the stretch, the Trojans went cold, from the field and the free throw line, when it mattered most. Saturday's loss was just the sixth time the Trojans scored less than 70 points this season, and they were just 1-5 in those games.

USC started strong with a little spark from the team's only senior Strahinja Gavrilovic, who scored the first four points of the game in his first start this season on Senior Day. The Trojans managed to cut a double-digit first half Oregon lead to seven entering the locker room, and started the second half on a 13-4 run courtesy of tremendous play from freshman Bennie Boatwright. The fast start climaxed with an insane dunk from the human highlight reel Julian Jacobs, but the Ducks demonstrated why they've won 11 of their last 13 games by eventually pulling away in the final minutes to win by 10.

"I think it's good that we know we can battle against Top 10 teams in the country," said redshirt junior Katin Reinhardt, who co-led the team in scoring with 12 points. The last time the Trojans' beat a Top 10 team was on January 9 when they beat the then No. 7 Arizona Wildcats, 103-101, in an instant classic quadruple overtime game.

What A Difference A Year Makes

This time last season, USC finished the regular season with just three conference wins. Just one year later, the team is heading into the Pac-12 Tournament with an even 9-9 record in conference play. This is also the program's first 20-win season since 2009. At this point last year, the Trojans headed to Vegas with the pressure of needing to win it all to secure an NCAA tournament bid, whereas this season the possibility for some March Madness action is extremely viable already, demonstrating just how far this team has come.

"Two years ago when we came here we came with the goal to improve from year-to-year," said junior Nikola Jovanovic. "Prior to this season, we had a tough two years, but we all learned and grew from it. This year [the goal] was to make a statement."

Time to Roll the Dice

The Trojans will leave for Las Vegas on Tuesday with a quest for the program's first Pac-12 title on their minds. After Saturday's loss, USC will either be a six- or seven-seed depending on the result of the UCLA/Oregon State game. As a six-seed, the Trojans will face Arizona State in the first round of the tournament that begins on Wednesday, and as a seven-seed, they'll face UCLA in an epic, crosstown rivalry showdown in Sin City.

Check out the SnappyTV highlights from USC's loss including a monster dunk from Julian Jacobs...

The Lone Alpha

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Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor 

Tennis is one of the loneliest sports in the world. It takes a certain person, a certain animal, to face and thrive under the isolation and mental obstacles that come up during a match. In many ways, successful tennis players have to act like a lone alpha wolf, looking out for themselves and abiding by nature's primary rule: survival of the fittest. While the professionals are stuck in a career of isolation, college tennis teams function less like lone wolves and more like packs.

A lone alpha is to a pack of wolves as star senior Giuliana Olmos is to USC women's tennis. One of only two seniors on her team, this season when she looks around her locker room there are only two other players who are not underclassmen. 

"I had other people to look up to and now I guess I'm the one they're supposed to look up to," says Olmos with a laugh. "I'm the lonely one." 

Expectations may be sky high for the reigning Pac-12 champions, and for a player who finished last season ranked No. 15 in the country, but Olmos is still focused on enjoying the ride.


"I'm just trying to enjoy each match as much as I can. I'm just playing with my best friends out there," said the reminiscent Olmos. "It's a lot of fun. I've loved every minute of being here at SC and playing for them." 

She has loved every minute, but this season presents perhaps the biggest challenge of her career. Her young team has, in her own words, "gotten off to a bumpy start", with a  3-4 record including losses to California and Florida. If you know Olmos' story, however, you know the past two decades have prepared her for this very season. 

Olmos, who plays both singles and doubles for USC, started playing tennis before the age of six, and naturally became more and more committed. "Tennis was literally my life," recounted Olmos.

From training two hours a day at the age of eight, to being home schooled at age 14 so she could practice six-to-eight hours a day, Olmos prepared herself for a potentially long career in tennis. Without knowing so at the time, she was also preparing for her senior year.

At an early age, she idolized the aggression of tennis greats like Rafael Nadal and Serena Williams. As she grew, she learned the value of discipline - both mental and physical - and the focus it took to be one of the sport's elite. This past summer, while on her own in individual tournaments away from her teammates and coaches, she discovered even more the importance of mental strength.

"When I'm on the court I have to be my own best friend... Otherwise I'm going to be playing against myself," said Olmos. 

Her mental strength allows her to stay composed in her own matches and talk her teammates through adversity. She also says she's gotten better at being able to adapt to different players' styles, which is knowledge she can certainly pass on to younger players. 

Olmos loves leading her team, but soon it will be her turn to leave the pack. While it is bittersweet for the senior to leave behind the memories, championships and the Cardinal & Gold, she knows all of her hard work and dreaming is about to pay off.

"They've all helped me grow as a person and they've been so supportive here at my time at USC. They really are a family to me," said Olmos emotionally. "But I'm super excited to go out and play pro, and finally get to do what I've been training my whole life for."

But before this lone senior becomes a lone alpha in the professional tennis circuit, she has one last chance to lead the pack at USC. Her goals are to push herself to repeat as an All-American and her team as Pac-12 champions, work that continues with a new slate this weekend.

The path to win the Pac-12 starts Friday and Saturday at Marks Stadium against Washington and Washington State. The Women of Troy host the Huskies at 1:30 p.m. on Friday and take on the Cougars on Saturday at 12 p.m. Be sure to follow @USCWomenTennis for in-match updates and more all season long.

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Battle in Seattle

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The Women of Troy were victorious in opening round play of the Pac-12 Tournament held in Seattle, Washington on Thursday, defeating Washington State, 77-73, in a back-and-forth battle that waged until the final seconds. Led by Temi Fagbenle, who posted her 10th double-double of the season with 18 points and 17 rebounds, the Trojans withstood 19 lead changes in the game to emerge with the win and advance to the quarterfinals. 

USC shot just 36 percent in the first half and trailed the Cougars at the break, despite an astounding 12 lead changes in the game's first 20 minutes alone. But with their season on the line, the Trojans turned up the heat, shooting 60 percent in the game's final 20 minutes and posting 46 total rebounds. Courtney Jaco, who led her team with 19 points, moved to third on USC's all-time single-season three-point shooting list after nailing five threes in the win to bring her season total to 71. To hear what Jaco thought of her team's performance in the game, click here

Next up, USC faces Oregon State at 6 p.m. on Friday. The Trojans lost both of their games against the Beavers during the regular season, and will need to bring the same intensity and teamwork shown in the second half of Thursday's victory in order to win. The game will be broadcast on the Pac-12 Networks. Be sure to follow @USCWBB for in-game updates, photos and a behind-the-scenes look at the Trojans' Pac-12 Tournament journey.

Check out the highlights from USC's opening round win...

Not Your Average Tour

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More than 4,000 children flooded the USC campus last Sunday for USC's annual Day in Troy event which provides elementary and middle school students, and their families, the opportunity to experience a college environment. From campus tours led by student-athelets to an educational and activity session at the Galen Center to a personalized fan fest and tickets to the USC women's basketball game, it was a day to be remembered for the athletes and children alike.

"I think it's really important because the students get to see a little bit of what college life is like," said junior beach volleyball player Sara Hughes. "Just seeing a university like USC hopefully gives [kids] aspirations to work really hard."

Over 150 student-athletes participated in the day-long event either by leading tours, teaching the educational session or signing autographs and having fun at the carnival-style fan fest.

Check out the photos from Sunday...

Championship Checkpoint

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After two days of competition at the Pac-12 Championships in Federal Way, Washington, the USC men's swimming and diving team is one spot back from defending its 2015 title. The defending champions have 229 points, 46 behind Stanford which currently leads the meet. On Thursday, the Trojans claimed their first individual Pac-12 title as junior Reed Malone (below) became the fourth straight Trojan to win the 500y free at the conference meet. 

On Wednesday, No. 9 USC placed a close second in both of the opening night's events. First, the quartet of Ralf Tribuntsov, Carsten Vissering, Alex Valente and Kyle Grissom finished just .76 behind Arizona in the 200y medley relay. Shortly after that, Patrick Mulcare, Michael Domogala, Morten Klarskov and Malone touched the wall just .14 behind Cal in the 800y free relay. The narrow finishes gave the Trojans 68 points after day one. 

Six Trojans finished in the top eight in the A finals of their events on Thursday, helping USC pull closer to Stanford, which finished in the top three of all four events on day two. Malone's first-place finish in the 500y free was a long time in the making considering the junior placed second at the meet behind former teammate Christian Quintero the last two years. Check out his interview with the Pac-12 Networks after the race

"We had some strong swims tonight and I'm especially excited for the win by Reed Malone in the 500. He swam a strong, tactical race to take the win and we are very proud of that being the fourth win in a row," said head coach Dave Salo. "We're hanging in there, but there is much work to do in the next two days."

The Trojans are back in the pool on Friday for the third day of competition which includes the 400y IM, 200y free and 400y medley relay. The meet finishes on Saturday night with the finals in six events including the 200y back, 100y free and 400y free relay. Be sure to follow @USCSwim as the Trojans chase their second straight Pac-12 championship. 


Eyes on the Prize

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Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

The USC women's basketball team begins its quest for its second Pac-12 championship on Thursday night at 6:00 p.m. at Key Arena in Seattle against Washington State. The Women of Troy split games against the Cougars during the regular season, dropping one on the road but redeemed themselves a few weeks later at the Galen Center. However, the Women of Troy are entering the conference tournament on a four-game losing streak, something they look to end on Thursday night.

Click here for a full preview of the Pac-12 tournament.

If the Trojans win on Thursday night, they will face the No. 1 Oregon State Beavers at 6:00 p.m. on Friday. USC's performance in the Pac-12 tournament is critical if if wants a chance at making the NCAA tournament.

Prepare for the Pac-12 tournament by checking out this preview including head coach Cynthia Cooper's outlook heading into the tournament...

3-Points: USC 81, OSU 70

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In true team fashion, USC rallied after last week's road trip to dominate the Oregon State Beavers at the Galen Center, securing win No. 20 on the season. Four Trojans finished in double figures including Jordan McLaughlin who led the team with 17 points and nine assists.


Home Sweet Home

After losing their most consecutive games this season in just over one week, and with their postseason hopes on the line, the Trojans needed to return to form at the Galen Center on Wednesday. Emotionally bolstered by the return of forward Darion Clark, USC came out with an energy and purpose that had been absent in the last month, scoring a season-high 56 points in the first half to shake off its recent dry spell. The Trojans led for over 35 minutes in the game, reaching a 23-point lead at the half. USC now stands at 16-1 at home after the win and 20-10 on the season. It is USC's first 20-win season since 2009, a remarkable accomplishment for a young team that won just 12 games (three in Pac-12 play) a season ago.

"The thing that has made me the most proud is that the players have developed as a unit and as individuals," said head coach Andy Enfield. "Players win games, and they have done outstanding this year winning 20. Credit to our players for the way they came out in the first half. They have turned this program around to get to 20 wins."

Winning As A Family

In front of their home crowd on #USCSocialNight, the Trojans could not have performed truer to their season motto "It Takes A Team". Four players - Jordan McLaughlin (17), Katin Reinhardt (15), Bennie Boatwright (13) and Nikola Jovanovic (10) - scored in double figures and the team accounted for 21 total assists, well above its season average of 14.9 per game. In the first half alone, USC had 15 assists on 21 made field goals. McLaughlin accounted for nine of his team's assists in the game and afterwards expressed his excitement in finally having fun as a group again on the court.  

"It felt great," said McLaughlin. "It felt like we got back to the team that won 19 games. This week in film we watched all our good games and then we watched film on the things we did bad playing on the road. We got our confidence back watching film of the team that won 19 games and then we translated it today."

March Mentality

USC had lost five of six coming into Wednesday's game, putting their chances of making its first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011 in jeopardy. But the calendar turned a page on Tuesday, and the Trojans are dead set on making March a month to remember. Wednesday's win reminded fans what this team looks like when it is clicking on all cylinders, an encouraging sight with the Pac-12 Tournament less than one week away and Selection Sunday fast approaching. The team however, refuses to talk about NCAA Tournament possibilities, choosing instead to focus on the tough task awaiting them on Saturday.

"We're 16-1 at home," said Enfield. "Whatever magic we have on our home court, we need to bring it Saturday. Oregon is a tough team."

Echoing his head coach's thoughts, Reinhardt added, "Oregon is our last home game... We've really done something special this year at home and I think we've just got to protect our home court one more time."

The Trojans host the No. 9 Oregon Ducks on Saturday at 1 p.m. PT. The game will be broadcast on Pac-12 Networks and on the radio on ESPN 710 AM.

Check out the SnappyTV highlights from USC's 20th win!

Second Sweep

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For the second time this season, USC women's water polo swept the MPSF weekly honor roll as Stephania Haralabidis won MPSF Player of the Week and freshman Amanda Longan won MPSF Newcomer of the Week. The Trojans are 11-0 after winning the UCI Invitational last week.

Haralabidis totaled 12 goals at the invitational, including two game-winners and a career-high seven goals in a single game against UC Irvine. In USC's championship game against UCLA, the junior tallied a hat trick, helping the Trojans defeat the No. 2 Bruins, 10-7. She is now No. 9 on USC's all-time scoring list with 153 career goals. On the opposite end of the pool, Longan recorded 20 saves in two full outings for the Women of Troy. The freshman has now recorded double-digit saves in her past three appearances. 


Defending the Crown

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Winning a national championship is hard, but repeating is a far more difficult task.

USC beach volleyball head coach Anna Collier understands the challenge in front of her team as the Women of Troy begin their season this week with the Cardinal and Gold Alumni Match (Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at Merle Norman Stadium) and then play an elite tournament field in Malibu over the weekend featuring matches against No. 2 Pepperdine, No. 3 Hawaii, No. 4 Long Beach State and No. 6 UCLA.

Click here for the Pepperdine Kick Off preview.

Coming off an undefeated campaign, the Trojans know they will have a target on their back all season. Here is Collier on the road ahead:

Leave It To Levitt

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USC men's golfer Andrew Levitt is already hard at work making the most of his final season as a Trojan. On Tuesday, the senior put together a a 68 on the final round at the Southwestern Jones Invitational to pass teammates Jonah Texeira and clinch his first career collegiate victory. The Trojans won their second tournament of the season at 26-under 838, 20 better than the second place team.

Levitt (below) won the tournament at 8-under 208 (72-68-68), golfing a 3-under front 9 followed by a 1-under back to clinch the third round comeback. Texeira, who led for most of the three rounds, tied for second at 7-under (69-67-73). It was a career-best finish for the sophomore.

"Winning always feels good and I'm happy for all the guys on the team," USC head coach Chris Zambri said. "But I'm especially happy for Andrew, a senior who won his first collegiate tournament."

Next up, USC will play at the Southern Highlands Intercollegiate in Las Vegas from March 7-9. Follow @USCMensGolf for tournament updates, photos and more!


Rose Bowl Hero Bukich Dies

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Former USC and NFL quarterback Rudy Bukich, the 1953 Rose Bowl MVP who then played on an NFL championship team, died Monday in Del Mar of natural causes brought on by accelerated dementia. He was 85.

Click here for the complete obituary.

Bukich was named the Player of the Game in the 1953 Rose Bowl after he came off the bench and threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Al Carmichael for the only points in USC's 7-0 victory over Wisconsin. He was a second round pick in the 1953 NFL Draft by the Los Angeles Rams and then spent 14 years in the league, including winning the 1963 NFL championship with the Chicago Bears.

Nicknamed "Rifle Rudy" because of his arm strength, he was reportedly able to throw a football 100 yards. 

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All-Century Cheryl

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With one of the best women's basketball heritages in the conference, it's no surprise that USC headlined the Pac-12 Women's Basketball All-Century Team announced on Tuesday. Four-time All-American and three-time Naismith College Player of the Year winner Cheryl Miller received the well-deserved honor of Pac-12 Player of the Century and four fellow Trojan legends earned spots on the prestigious team.

Joining Miller are teammates Pam McGee and now-head coach Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. McGee remains the second-leading rebounder in school history (1,255), playing on both National Championship-winning Trojan teams in 1983 and 1984 alongside Miller and Cooper-Dyke. Former USC center Lisa Leslie, a three-time All-American and 1994 National Player of the Year, and forward Tina Thompson, a three-time All-American and four-time WBNA Champion, round out the talented group of women on the All-Century Team. 

1,000-Point Club

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Junior PF Nikola Jovanovic became the 36th Trojan to score 1,000 points or more in his USC men's basketball career after adding 21 points to his all-time total (1,004) against California on Sunday.

Jovanovic is a three-year starter, averaging 12.2 points per game this season. With a strong senior campaign, the Serbian big man could make a push to be Top 10 all-time in scoring at USC, but the program leader, Harold Miner, is out of sight as the only man to top 2,000 career points (2,048).

2016 NFL Combine Wrap

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The Trojans sprinted to the finish at the 2016 NFL Combine led by cornerback Kevon Seymour who ran a 4.39 40-yard dash, ranking eighth among all the athletes in Indianapolis.

Seymour was not the only star as LB Su'a Cravens thrived in field drills, showing off his elite cover skills.

Cody Kessler displayed his typical timing and accuracy during the pass drills, but his measurements stood out the most. Despite being the shortest quarterback at the Combine, he had the biggest hands, which is considered a greater indicator for NFL success than height.

It was not all good news for the Trojans as Antwaun Woods had to bow out after suffering an injury during the bench press. However, he vowed to be fully fit for USC Pro Day on March 23.

Click here to read the recap of Day 1 at the Combine featuring C Max Tuerk, RB Tre Madden and FB Soma Vainuku.

Winding Up for a Big Week

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No. 22 USC baseball sits at 4-3 on the young season after a 3-1 week, including a weekend series victory over Wake Forest. The week ahead will be the Trojans' biggest test yet as they travel to Long Beach State (tonight at 6 p.m.) before the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic featuring tilts against Oklahoma (Friday at 6 p.m. at Dedeaux Field), No. 20 Mississippi State (Saturday at 2 p.m. at Dedeaux Field) and No. 21 UCLA (Sunday at 3 p.m. at Dodger Stadium).

Click here for tickets to the Dodger Stadium College Baseball Classic.

If you're just catching up on the Trojans, here's what you missed last week:

Repeat Ready

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After completing one of the best dual meet seasons in program history, the No. 9 USC men's swimming and diving team is hungry to repeat last year's Pac-12 Championship-winning performance at the 2016 championship meet beginning on Wednesday in Federal Way, Washington. Senior divers Collin Pollard and Deon Reid, as well as sophomore Dashiell Enos, combined for seven A finals and two titles as the Trojans tallied 127 points in the diving portion of the meet last weekend. The head start has USC and Stanford tied for the very early lead in the meet.

USC just wrapped up one of its best dual meet seasons in program history, including its first sweep of both Cal and Stanford since 1997. Now, the team looks to secure back-to-back titles for the first time since the 1978 and 1979 seasons led by returning All-Americans Reed Malone, Morten Klarskov, Michael Domagala and Ralf Tribunstov. Freshmen have made a major splash for the Trojans this season, with Patrick Mulcare holding USC's top times in the 100y and 200y back and 400y IM and Kyle Grissom topping the 50y free. Fellow freshmen Alex Valente and Carsten Vissering own USC's best times in the 100y fly and 100y breast, respectively, as well. 

Events begin on Wednesday at 6 p.m. PT with finals in the 200y medley and 800y free relays. Finals continue over the next three days beginning at 6 p.m. with the meet concluding on Saturday night. For a complete Pac-12 Championships schedule, results and ticket information, click here

Be sure to follow @USCswim for meet updates, photos and more!

Check out the USC highlights and celebration from last year's Pac-12 Championships...