USC sports thrive in the summer heat
For many, summer is a time to relax, get away from it all and take your mind off things. But for some USC athletes and teams, this summer was all about competition and, in some cases, the chance to win a national title. Just about every Trojan team that competed over the summer found success in national or conference tournaments. From the menâ€™s tennis team to track and field, hereâ€™s what you missed in the world of USC sports while you were away this summer.
The USC menâ€™s tennis team, although sometimes under the radar even with its 16 national titles going into the 2009 season, made some noise this summer at the NCAA Menâ€™s Tennis Championships.
Going in as the No. 8 seed, the Trojans eased through the first three rounds of the 64-team tournament to match up against No. 1 Virginia in the quarterfinals.
The Cavaliers, undefeated prior to the NCAAs, struggled against the Trojan attack, falling to USCâ€™s top singles players, senior Abdullah Magdas, junior Robert Farah and freshman Steve Johnson en route to a 4-0 sweep of the Cavs by the Trojans.
After continuing its run in the semifinals by defeating Texas 4-1, USC faced Ohio State in the national championship event on May 16.
Against the No. 3 Buckeyes, the Trojans pulled out the doubles point on the strength of victories by doubles teams Farah/Johnson and duo freshman Matt Kecki and sophomore Jaak Poldma.
USC (25-5) continued to surprise the Buckeyes in the singles matches as Magdas and freshman Daniel Nguyen delivered the Trojans their first two singles points. After Poldma fell to Buckeye Justin Kronauge, the Trojans clinched the national title with Farahâ€™s three-set victory, 5-7, 6-1, 6-4.
The championship is the Trojanâ€™s 17th in school history and first for coach Peter Smith.
The menâ€™s volleyball team, picked to finish sixth in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation entering the 2009 season, more than surpassed expectations by winning the MPSF tournament.
Facing defending national champion Penn State in the semifinals of the NCAA Championship, the No. 3 Trojans defeated the Nittany Lions, 3-1, with the help of freshman Murphy Troy. His 24 kills led the team and paced them for a .484 hitting percentage, which the Nittany Lions could not overcome.
USC faced UC Irvine in the final on May 9, a team that has traditionally given the Trojans nightmares on the volleyball court but whom the Trojans had blanked just 10 days before in the MPSF tournament in Irvine.
In the five-set match that saw USC (21-11) take an early 2-1 led after the first three sets, the Anteaters were able to answer with a blowout fourth set victory, 30-17. In the final set, the Trojans finished just short, falling 15-12 and finishing the season as national runner-up.
Womenâ€™s Water Polo
USC womenâ€™s water polo, ranked first in the nation for much of the season and with just one blemish on its 24-1 overall record, entered the 2009 Womenâ€™s Water Polo Championship as the favorite.
Breezing through their first two opponents, Cal Lutheran and the University of Hawaii by a combined score of 39-7, the Women of Troy were matched against third-ranked UCLA in the championship game on May 10.
After falling behind quickly in the first quarter 2-0, senior driver Michelle Stein scored two goals to even the score at 2-2. But a goal near the end of the period by UCLAâ€™s senior Anne Belden left the Women of Troy trailing after the first period.
Junior driver Alexandra Kiss quickly answered with another goal by the Bruins in the second quarter, but another goal by UCLA to close out the half was too much to overcome and a second half goal by junior Forel Davies was not enough to complete the comeback, as USC (26-2) fell to UCLA 5-4.
Womenâ€™s and Menâ€™s Golf
Both the menâ€™s and womenâ€™s golf teams participated in the NCAA Championships in late May with results that fell slightly short of expectations.
The Women of Troy, ranked third in the nation coming into the NCAA tournament, started the tournament hot and were sitting pretty in second place going into the final stages of the team stroke-play match.
The third round proved even more fruitful for the team, as they took the overall lead with just 18 holes remaining on the strength of a 6-over 294 and freshman Jennifer Songâ€™s individual 1-under-par 71. Yet on the final day, the team shot a 13-over-par 301 to finish just short of the championship in third place behind eventual champions Arizona State.
On the menâ€™s side, USC made it through the stroke-play event, which seeds teams for a match-play championship event. The Trojans, led by coach Chris Zambri, were unable to advance past the quarterfinal stage, bowing out to the University of Texas, 3-2.
The result was USCâ€™s third top-10 finish in the past five events. This yearâ€™s effort was propelled by a group that was missing All-American junior Jamie Lovemark, who succumbed to a season-ending injury that held him out of the national competition, making the result all the more surprising and encouraging.
Track and Field
USC also found success at the track this June, with both the menâ€™s and womenâ€™s teams finishing in the top 10 at the NCAA Track and Field Championships.
Helping lead the menâ€™s track and field team to a 10th-place overall finish was junior Ahmad Rashad, whose second place finish at the NCAAs in the 100-meter dash in a paltry 10.10 seconds was the fastest time in that event by a Trojan since 1985.
The Women of Troy found the points that helped them to an eighth place overall finish in freshman Dalilah Muhammad, whose 56.49 in the 400-meter hurdles was the third fastest in school history and was also good enough for second place at the NCAAs.
Out of the seven teams that competed into the summer months, USC logged a national championship, two national runner-up finishes and four national top-10 finishes to round off an impressive and eventful summer.