Swim With Mike

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Written by Caroline Deisley and Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributors

The 34th annual Swim With Mike was another great success as USC raised over a million dollars on a beautiful Saturday at the brand new Uytengsu Aquatics Center.

The day concluded with the always-entertaining swim relay featuring the football team and the world famous USC Song Girls as quarterback Max Browne led his team to a come-from-behind victory. 

The fundraising efforts this year reached a historic milestone as Swim with Mike has now raised over $15 million for the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund which aids students who have overcome life-challenging accidents or illnesses.

Check out photos from Swim With Mike via John McGillen:

Swim with mike - Images by John McGillen

2014 Spring Practice #9: Notes

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The Trojans enjoyed a spirited and physical practice in front of a large crowd thanks to Swim With Mike being next door.
  • USC head coach Steve Sarkisian quoted Jim Harbaugh's favorite saying to sum up a beautiful day in Troy.  In a team meeting before practice, he asked the team, "Who has it better than us?"  The Trojans responded, "Noooobody."
  • Much like last Saturday, the Trojans had a live tackling portion of practice.  The defense dominated the run game, including JC transfer Claude Pelon recording a tackle-for-loss, but the offense opened up the passing game capped by a long TD catch by Nelson Agholor who made a nice adjustment on the ball.
  • Defensive coordinator Justin Wilcox is tasked with creating a physical defense despite few opportunities to live tackle due to depth concerns. "Our effort has been good. We've just got to get better," said Wilcox about tackling. "You can do it in drills all you want but there is nothing like a live tackling period, so we have to be able to transfer those things over and make it show."
  • Facing an uptempo offense in every practice, the defense has the habit of coming out on fire, but fading late. "We've got to continue emphasizing finishing practice because that is where you get up in the play count with plays 100 to 120," said Wilcox. "That's where we have not been as good."
  • Redshirt freshman CB Chris Hawkins came up with an interception during the scrimmage portion. "Chris is getting a lot of reps which has been good for him," said Wilcox. "He's got a real high football IQ. I think he's got good instincts. He just has to continue to develop as a technician."
  • Wilcox also praised OLB Scott Starr who is running with the first team as J.R. Tavai sits out with an injury. He likes his "hybrid body type" and said, "He's into football, which is important. I'm excited about Scott."
  • Here is Sarkisian's press conference which featured a lot of praise for offensive coordinator Clay Helton:

Dance Off!

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USC spring football has hit the midway point with 8 of 15 practices in the past.  Sensing it was time to shake things up, head coach Steve Sarkisian surprised the team with a Dance Off on Thursday.

Highlight Events at Swim With Mike

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The 34th annual Swim With Mike (this Saturday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Uytengsu Aquatics Center), benefiting the Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarship Fund, will be particularly entertaining this year.  The anticipated highlights include former USC running back and media personality Petros Papadakis racing former UCLA lineman and SWM scholarship recipient Nick Ekbatani as well as the 100x100 world record attempt and the football/Song Girl relay race.

Click here for more info on the entire event.

The football players will participate in spring practice on Howard Jones Field from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. and then hop the wall into the pool to take part in the festivities.  Starting at 9 a.m., Papadakis and Ekbatani will race for charity followed by the USC men's and women's swim teams attempting to establish a world record swimming as 100 swimmers will each swim 100 yards.

Swim With Mike is expecting to push its 34-year fundraising total over $15 million. Since 1981, the Swim With Mike swim-a-thon fundraiser has raised more than $14.2 million for 162 Physically Challenged Athletes Scholarships for students who have overcome life-challenging accidents or illnesses.  The fund is the only one of its kind allowing athletes to pursue both undergraduate and graduate degrees at USC and, beginning 13 years ago, at nearly 80 other college campuses.

Parking and admission are FREE for the event so come down and enjoy a beautiful day at the pool.


Photo Gallery: Sand Volley Sweeps UCLA

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No. 1 USC women's sand volleyball overwhelmed UCLA with talent and hustle Thursday in a 5-0 sweep to kickoff the Crosstown Rivalry on the beach. 

Click here for the recap.

Here are the John McGillen photos of the Women of Troy putting on a show in front of a packed Merle Norman Stadium:

SVB v UCLA Gallery - Images by John McGillen

Leinart Switches Seats

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Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart is accustomed to being interviewed, but now he is asking the questions for NBC's entertainment show "Extra".  In his first stint as a reporter, the former NFL quarterback quizzed the stars of the upcoming film "Draft Day" to test their gridiron knowledge.

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Sweet Sweep

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Written by Sarah Bergstrom, USC blog contributor

No. 1 USC women's sand volleyball defeated both LMU and UCLA 5-0 on Thursday afternoon for its third and fourth consecutive sweeps this season. It was the first ever USC-UCLA rivalry game in the history of the sport and the Trojans made sure to start off the new series on the right note. Seniors Mary Buckingham, Kirby Burnham, Brooke Fournier, Sam Hirschmann and Natasa Siljkovic played their final regular season game at home and celebrated Senior Night to the tune of back-to-back wins. 

"There's no better senior day than to get a win over UCLA. It always feels good to beat the Bruins. It's crazy that it's senior year and the last time playing on this court," explained All-American senior Kirby Burnham. "I've been playing with a few of the seniors since indoor, since I've got here, and we've grown a lot as players and as people here at USC. This is special. It was awesome to finish my career with this group."

Here are the SnappyTV highlights from the USC victory:

2014 Spring Practice #8: Notes

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USC WR Darreus Rogers was the big winner of practice in more ways than one.
  • During the one-on-one competitive portion of practice, the coaching staff held a surprise dance off.  The consensus champion was Darreus Rogers, who then dominated the red zone portion of practice with multiple touchdown catches.
  • Head coach Steve Sarkisian explained that it was time to shake things up.  "It was good competition. Guys have some moves, and some guys don't," Sarkisian joked. "I think some guys listen to country music and that wasn't there flavor today."
  • The assistant coaches got in on the act as well.  New defensive line coach Chris Wilson got the better of his offensive line counterpart Tim Drevno. 
  • Sarkisian also said that the players will participate in Swim With Mike Saturday.  "[It's] an unbelievable event that has been going on for a long time here. I'm really excited that we get to be a part of that and promote that," the head coach said about raising scholarship money for physically challenged athletes. "It's an opportunity for our players to understand their role here. They're not just guys that put on helmets and shoulder pads. They are student-athletes. They do a service to the university. It's an opportunity for them to give back."
  • Sarkisian provided a window into his play-calling strategy explaining that the goal of the uptempo offense is to wear the defense down and exploit mismatches on the outside with tired defenders. "We are a big match-up team. We are always trying to find favorable match-ups on offense," he said.
  • While the offense owned the red zone today, the defense played with exceptional tempo and forced two turnovers, according to Sarkisian.  LB Hayes Pullard gave credit to "those young guys playing d-tackle" saying, "It all starts up front."
  • DT Antwaun Woods, who has been a breakout star of spring practice, explained how the defensive line is developing. "Delvon [Simmons] is stepping up, becoming a good force in there and holding his gaps," he said. "With me, Delvon, and when Leonard [Williams] comes back, it will make it easy for [Pullard]. When everything is clogged up, they can just fly around."
  • In the back end of the defense, the numbers are limited.  Su'a Cravens and Leon McQuay are expected to start leaving Gerald Bowman as the primary backup at both spots. "As a unit, we have a lot of versatile players," said Bowman, who sat out last year with an injury. "That's one of our strengths, and we all just have to be ready."
  • The versatility at safety is aided by Justin Wilcox's scheme. "I can play either position. It's not really much of a difference. We don't really look at it as a strong or a free.  We look at it more as right and left. We adjust according to the formations," explained Bowman.
  • Here is Sarkisian on his team's depth and more after practice...

Every Court Counts

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USC men's tennis slipped from No. 1 to No. 2 in the latest rankings through no fault of its own.  The Trojans are 20-2 on the season, and they have won 11 consecutive dual matches.

While Yannick Hanfmann and Ray Sarmiento lead the team, USC's strength is in its numbers.  In collegiate tennis, a win on court one counts the same as a win on court six.  The Trojans have the highest winning percentage this season on courts three and six.

The No. 3 spot is typically manned by junior Roberto Quiroz who is 14-1 in dual matches, including 8-1 on court three.  The Ecuadorian has won 85% of his singles matches in his dual match career and owns a national championship ring from his freshman year.

The last court has rotated through five different Trojans this season with a mix of veterans (senior Michael Grant, juniors Jonny Wang and Eric Johnson) and rookies (freshmen Rob Bellamy and Nick Crystal).  The group has combined to go 17-2 in dual matches, tying court two for the most points earned this season.

If the Trojans are going to make another NCAA run this season, they know that they will need contributions up and down the lineup.  Here is a preview of this week's dual matches vs. Stanford (Friday at 1:30 p.m.) and Cal (Saturday at 1 p.m.) at Marks Stadium.

Throwback Thursday: Wild Bunch II

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For your viewing pleasure, we unearthed this classic photo of "The Wild Bunch II" rocking Wild, Wild West gear for a photo shoot back in 2003. In a word...EPIC.