How to be the Champ

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No. 1 USC women's tennis was paid a special visit this week before the Women of Troy embark on the final adventure of the season. USC's goal is to be the national champion, so who better to give an inspirational pep talk than the champ herself, Laila Ali.

The boxing great, who is married to USC All-American WR Curtis Conway, has the Trojans ready to fight for the NCAA title, starting Saturday against Youngstown State at Marks Stadium (Noon). A dual match victory would mean a second round encounter with either Virginia Tech or Long Beach State (Sunday at Noon).

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USC women's tennis is 21-2 on the season, having already claimed the Pac-12 crown. The Women of Troy are the No. 1 overall seed in the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1985, hoping to bring home the program's first national championship since that same year.


Secret to Success

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No. 7 USC men's tennis begins its quest for a sixth national championship in the last seven years on Friday against Idaho at Marks Stadium (1 p.m.). The Trojans are hosting the first and second rounds, so the winner of their dual match will play the winner of San Diego and San Diego State on Saturday at 3 p.m. for a spot in the Sweet 16 (May 14 in Waco, Texas).

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Head coach Peter Smith has always been able to strike the right balance between the physical and mental sides of tennis. As an example, the Trojans, both players and coaches, are often seen on Brittingham Field in shirts and skins competing in Ultimate Frisbee.

USC Sends Support to Nepal

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

On May 4, a six-person medical response team from USC's Keck School of Medicine departed for Nepal to deliver and assist with critical care for victims of the devastating earthquake that occurred on April 25. The USC athletic department was proud to provide bags for the team to transport medical aid supplies on its journey.

The response team is led by Keck School of Medicine Dean Carmen A. Puliafito and Demetrios Demetriades chief, division of trauma and surgical critical care in the Department of Surgery. Accompanying them are other members of the trauma and surgical critical care team. Their trip is scheduled for nine days.

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Photo Gallery: SCelebrate the Women of Troy

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Barbara Hedges, who helped create the Women of Troy, led the sendoff of this year's class at an event last week. After Hedges' remarks, the seniors introduced themselves and elaborated on their bright futures ahead.

Here are the photos from the evening at Bashor Lounge courtesy of John McGillen:

Two in the Too-Early

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

After two Trojans were taken in the first round of last week's NFL Draft, ESPN's Todd McShay thinks the same will be true in 2016. In his way-too-early mock draft for the upcoming season, the insider has junior linebacker Su'a Cravens going No. 19 and senior center Max Tuerk going No. 32 overall.

Regarding the 2014 All-Pac-12 first team center and now candidate for the Rimington Award, McShay writes, "Tuerk possesses excellent versatility, having started games at left tackle as a true freshman before starting the full season at left guard in 2013 and the full season at center in 2014."

Cravens still has two years of eligibility remaining at USC, but is an early candidate for the Bednarik and Nagurski Awards this season. McShay notes, "Cravens has the size (6-1, 225 pounds) of an in-the-box safety who can also play some weakside linebacker. He has trouble covering the quickest slot receivers, but he can hold up in coverage for the most part because of his length and instincts."


Nwanebu Leaving USC

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After long consideration, USC women's volleyball All-American Ebony Nwanebu has decided to leave the university. The 6-5 outside hitter was a first-team AVCA All-American selection and the National Freshman of the Year in 2013. While training with the U.S. Women's National Team in the summer of 2014, Nwanebu sustained a back injury from which she would spend most of the fall season recovering.

The time allowed her to consider and address personal issues with regards to expectations, injury, depression and anxiety, topics faced by student-athletes across the country. The Texas native recently expressed her thoughts in a candid blog post.

Click here to read the entire blog post.

Ebony writes that she is "leaving USC with a heavy heart," and although she doesn't know what her future holds, she appreciated her time at USC:  "I'd like to take a moment and thank my USC family and supporters. Thank you so much for these past two years. Your devotion and constant support has been one of the things that kept me rooted here. To my teammates, words cannot express how much I will love and miss you with everything I have. Thank you for being my second family and my sisters, and for accepting without (too much) judgement, the thousands of unnecessarily random hugs I annoyed you all with every practice. To my coaches, thank you for teaching me everything you know and for helping me grow so much."


Sand Volley Championship Video

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USC women's sand volleyball picked up the first national championship for the Trojans in the 2014-15 academic year and the 123rd in school history by completing its perfect season with an immaculate run through the AVCA Tournament in Gulf Shores, Alabama.

Here is the championship video:

Buckingham's Palace

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Thanks to the USC Marshall School of Business, Lloyd Greif Center for Entrepreneurial Studies and the Thornton School of Music, the Trojan Family was treated to a special performance featuring Fleetwood Mac's Lindsey Buckingham and the Trojan Marching Band.

Here are Buckingham and the Spirit of Troy doing "Tusk" and "Go Your Own Way":

Pac-12 Awards for Pac-12 Champs

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USC women's tennis head coach Richard Gallien and freshman Madison Westby were named the Pac-12 Coach and Freshman of the Year after leading the Women of Troy to a perfect 10-0 record in conference play. Gallien and Westby were not alone on the honor roll, junior Giuliana Olmos made All-Pac-12 first team, while seniors Sabrina Santamaria and Zoe Scandalis were placed on the second team.

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Gallien is the conference coach of the year for the fifth time in his 20 seasons in charge of the program. He has guided the Women of Troy to the No. 1 overall seed heading into this year's NCAA Tournament.

Westby (pictured) is the program's third conference freshman/newcomer of the year, joining Amanda Fink (2006) and Sarah Fansler (2007). She earned her stripes in the clutch this season, picking up six match-clinching singles victories, including the Pac-12 title decider over UCLA.


Future Four

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

Replacing seniors Hayley Crone, Hannah Schraer and Emily Young is no easy task for the USC women's volleyball team, but head coach Mick Haley feels confident in his quartet of talented, top 50 freshmen who will join the Women of Troy this season. The incoming class features Victoria Garrick, Baylee Johnson, Rachel Reed and Alyse Wallace-Ford.

Click here to read a full report on each of the new Trojans.

"We are excited to bring in this group of competitors," said Haley. "With these four, we've filled a number of holes left by our graduating class. Each of these signees are rated among the nation's top 50 recruits with Johnson and Wallace-Ford right at the top of the class."

Johnson enrolled at USC this spring and has already had a chance to begin practicing with the Women of Troy. As a setter playing for the Northern Kentucky Volleyball Club, she was ranked as the No. 28 Senior Ace by and was recently named one of Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50 players.

Wallace-Ford played outside hitter for Laguna Beach Volleyball Club, the same club that produced current Trojans Elise Ruddins and Taylor Whittingham. The incoming freshman was also named to Volleyball Magazine's Fab 50 list and is ranked the No. 16 Senior Ace by She was also the 2014 CIF Co-Player of the Year, helping to lead Mater Dei to the CIF final.

Reed, a middle blocker, led her high school team in Texas to back-to-back state championships and is ranked No. 48 among the Top 50 Senior Aces by Garrick is a libero who was a two-time High School All-American at Sacred Heart. A captain for two years, she helped lead her team to the Northern California championship.

(Garrick, Johnson, Reed, Wallace-Ford)