Junior Samantha Bricio and sophomore Ebony Nwanebu stand at the core of the 2014 squad. They are one of the nation's most talented offensive duos.
The big hitters will be setup by a pair of returning setters in senior Hayley Crone and sophomore Alice Pizzasegola. And, the middle will be occupied by veterans Hannah Schraer and Alicia Ogoms.
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The question lies in defense where Natalie Hagglund, always the smallest Trojan on the court, leaves behind the biggest hole as a departed three-time All-American libero. But, head coach Mick Haley has a plan for that.
"We had previously designed our defense to accent Natalie," said Haley. "We've since changed that in order to put less pressure on the position. We will replace Natalie by committee. We'll change what we have the blockers do a little bit, and we'll cover the court starting at the net a little more. We'll have to wait to see who steps up so we can best construct our lineup. Once we get that, it's about developing a role for every player, and people knowing what's expected of them, so that they can contribute to the team effort. Organization will be the other part. We need to be better organized."
The plan goes into action starting August 29 as the Women of Troy open the season in Stockton at the Community Bankers Volleyball Classic. USC opens its home account with Texas A&M on September 11 and Florida on September 12.
Here is the official women's volleyball poster, which you can click to enlarge and download:
The Women of Troy sent five representatives playing for three different countries to the 2014 FINA World Cup in Russia, and they all came back with hardware. Team USA featuring recent graduate Kaleigh Gilchrist and two-time Olympian Kami Craig took home the biggest prize defeating Australia in the Gold Medal Game.
The Aussies' silver medal squad included former USC All-American Hannah Buckling and current student-athlete Jayde Appel. Spain occupied the final spot on the podium as 2013 national championship hero Anni Espar helped her country collect the bronze.
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Here are the John McGillen photos:
- The Trojans simulated a preseason game tonight complete with special teams situations and physicality throughout. They survived the scrimmage with minimal injuries, although OG Khaliel Rodgers' knee will undergo further tests. Also, Tre Madden (turf toe), LB Michael Hutchings (ice on shoulder) and LB Anthony Sarao (ice on ankle) were removed before the end.
- USC is actually getting healthier as star defensive linemen Leonard Williams and Antwaun Woods participated in full contact tonight albeit for about a dozen plays. "Obviously, you'd love to play those guys as much as you can," said defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox. "Those guys will be ready to play."
- The scrimmage started with the first teams going against the second teams and both top units dominated. Offensively, FB Soma Vainuku showed off his agility and power on a catch-and-run making a defender miss before plowing through another. The drive ended with Tre Madden's rushing touchdown. On the next first team offensive series, Cody Kessler hit TE Randall Telfer down field to setup a Buck Allen rush TD.
- Kessler on the first team offense: "I felt like we made huge strides. From where we were last time to now, scrimmage-wise, we did a great job."
- The defensive first team made short work of the second team offense with OLB Scott Felix (formerly Starr) standing out. In the first matchup of ones vs. ones, the defense held the offense after giving up a couple first downs. Felix actually hit Kessler on a pass rush, for which he quickly apologized, and then Delvon Simmons batted a pass in the air which RT Zach Banner caught for a considerable loss.
- The first team offense did get its payback in a short field drill capping a 40-yard scoring drive with a Kessler TD pass to Allen.
- Head coach Steve Sarkisian on the first team: "I was encouraged by
the fact that our ones really dominated the twos. Not that our twos
aren't good players, but I thought that the execution on both sides from
the ones was really good when it was ones versus the twos."
- On the second and third teams, RB James Toland IV had a highlight run, and S Matt Lopes picked off Max Browne for the only turnover of the day.
- The biggest highlights of the scrimmage came on special teams as two freshmen displayed jaw-dropping athleticism. First, Adoree' Jackson had an electrifying punt return for a TD and then JuJu Smith showed an incredible burst of speed on a kick return for six.
- Jackson did struggle a little at cornerback with two penalties, one for pass interference and another for holding, and Wilcox noted that the college referees are emphasizing coverage penalties just like the NFL this year.
- The offensive line saw some shuffling tonight. When Rodgers went down, freshman Damien Mama was pushed into the first team. And, Aundrey Walker is starting to round into form, so the coaches tried him at right tackle for the first time this Fall Camp, but he is also an option at guard. Sarkisian said that he is planning on rotating offensive linemen within games this season.
- Once again, WR Nelson Agholor was held out of the scrimmage for precautionary reasons despite being healthy. Sarkisian sees the wide receiver position as a little undefined outside of Agholor. The unit has "a lot of bodies" and different guys have flashed in "spurts," said the head coach. He would like to see more from Steven Mitchell, and he expects the young receivers to be "wide-eyed" early on.
- Here is Sarkisian on the biggest test of Fall Camp to date:
Here is Project Trojan episode two:
To that end, the Serbian was the Pac-12 All-Stars' leading scorer on the recently completed trip to China. In the three games, Jovanovic averaged 11 points per contest.
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Along with his basketball development, Jovanovic (center) was able to tour China, including Shanghai's Yu Garden with his Pac-12 teammates.
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"I never really let myself believe it was actually going to happen because I wanted it so bad," Ross said. "It was kind of weird how it happened, but I think we played really well this whole tournament and we battled. Even in that final until Brooke got hurt, we battled and I think we were going to take it."
Ross will have her name plaque on the pier alongside fellow Trojans Miki McFadden (the only other USC woman), Ron Lang, Tim Hovland and Adam Johnson.
"I'm humbled by the fact that I'm out there with Kerri and I'm going to be on the pier till the world ends."
With Fall Camp winding down, we checked in with soccer to see how the first training camp under new head coach Keidane McAlpine is bringing the team together.
On the eve of another two-a-day, the coaching staff was extremely impressed by the Trojans' performance as they continue to grind through the heart of Fall Camp.
- "These are kind of the dog days of training camp...It's easy to try and just survive a practice," said head coach Steve Sarkisian. "I thought the guys today had awesome energy. They were competing from the moment we started and competing at a high level. I was really proud of them."
- Sarkisian emphasized that the focus for the next two weeks will be all the little elements of the game. He said, "This isn't about implementing schemes. We've got a pretty good idea of who we are... Now it's about the details of the calls, the nuances of the calls. Those are the things that we are really trying to nail right now, the special scenarios."
- Entering his fifth season, senior TE Randall Telfer knows the importance of mastering the tiny details, something he preaches to the younger guys. "I feel like I bring some experience. I've been here for forever, it seems," laughed Telfer. "I've played in a lot of games and been in a lot of different situations. I've been up at the half, been down at the half, I've lost games during the season and won a lot of games too. I feel like I add that element for whenever guys get down on themselves, I can put things in perspective for them."
- As the most experienced member of the tight end group, Telfer recognizes the importance of his role on the team but is excited for the challenge. "It feels like it's been forever since last season," said the senior. "I'm just excited to get back out there. It's the first time in a while that I've been 100 percent. I feel ready to go. I try not to think about any pressure. I feel like there is a little bit just because I'm the older guy and there are a lot of young guys looking up to me. But I just try to put my head down and play the game."
- Telfer's leadership has dramatically impacted freshman TE Bryce Dixon (pictured) who has made tremendous strides since the start of camp. "Bryce is doing exceptionally well. I'm very proud of what he's done so far. He's picking up the playbook pretty well, especially for a freshman," praised Telfer. "I'm looking forward to what he can do for us this season."
- The senior tight end's presence is not only recognized by the freshmen, but by the coaching staff as well. "Telfer is very important not only to our tight end group but to our team," explained tight ends coach Marques Tuiasosopo. "He's a senior, he's been around and he has goals that he wants to accomplish still. He's a hard worker, he's one of the first guys out here catching balls each day. He's very patient with our young tight ends, he's teaching them and he's a great role model."
- The AP released its preseason rankings on Sunday with the Trojans coming in at No. 15. When asked of his reaction, Sarkisian described the news as 'totally irrelevant' saying that he's never talked about rankings with the team. Instead, the head coach focused on the team's main goals for the season. "What we can control is trying to win the PAC-12 South. If we can do that then we can compete for a PAC-12 Championship and then the ball's out of our court."
- Offensive injury report: OG Aundrey Walker continues to improve as the coaches were impressed with his performance in the last 48 hours, and OG Damien Mama is back after tweaking his ankle on Saturday. RB Justin Davis was sidelined due to an ankle injury he suffered in Saturday's practice but the coaches are not concerned with its severity.
- Defensive injury report: DT Cody Temple is recovering from a concussion so he was no contact on Sunday but should be back fully in the next couple of days. OLB J.R. Tavai is also back after rolling his ankle on Saturday. S Gerald Bowman was out sick so he did not practice. DE Leonard Williams and DT Antwaun Woods both were back in full pads, but ILB Lamar Dawson is still recovering from a knee injury. OLB Jabari Ruffin, who tore his ACL last week, scheduled his surgery for the end of this month but has already begun rehab.
- Much to the players' delight, Andre Heidari made a 40-yard field goal to help the Trojans end practice a little early and some members of the team even elected to jump off the high dive to cool off after another hot day.
- Here is Coach Sarkisian after practice...