Spring sports deserve attention


Enough about football, eh?

Just kidding, football never sleeps at this school. Football is king. Period. The End. And rightfully so, seeing as it is responsible for funding all of USC’s other athletic programs.

But football season is a long eight-plus months away, and so I present to you my spring sports primer. This isn’t every program competing this semester — spring is a far busier time than fall in terms of athletics — but it should give you a nice idea of what you might want to check out instead of doing homework.

Men’s basketball is, in theory, the No. 2 program at this school. The Trojans got off to a promising 9-4 start this year under new coach Andy Enfield, including 7-0 at the Galen Center. But conference play has not been kind to this team, as they have lost their first three games in the Pac-12 to drop to 9-7. Granted, two of those losses have been to UCLA and Arizona — two of the best teams in the conference — but the season does not look promising for USC. As Sports Illustrated writer Pete Thamel tweeted during the Trojans’ 107-73 shellacking at the hands of UCLA, “USC has maybe 2 [sic] Pac-12 [caliber] players.” I don’t know if it’s quite that bad, but Thamel is not the only one to think along those lines. Stephen Rodrick wrote in a Men’s Journal piece on Enfield that “there are not five players on his roster he’d have recruited himself.”

Women’s basketball is likewise a rebuilding program for new coach and former USC standout Cynthia Cooper-Dyke. This squad will be more competitive than the men, as shown by its 4-1 record in Pac-12 play, including an upset of then-No. 12 Colorado. One big difference from years past for both the men’s and women’s teams: their games aren’t sleep-inducing anymore. Coaches Enfield and Cooper-Dyke both favor a fast-paced, up-tempo style of play. I remember two years ago the men’s team lost a game to Cal Poly (embarrassing) by a score of 42-36 (doubly embarrassing). I talked to then-coach Kevin O’Neill about that game a week later, and he said his team’s biggest problem that night was defense. You just can’t make this stuff up.

Women’s lacrosse will enter its second season of competition after a fairly respectable showing in its inaugural 2013 campaign. The game you don’t want to miss: April 20 against Stanford at the Coliseum, in case you’re looking for something to do that afternoon…

Defending NCAA champion women’s water polo will open the new Uytengsu Aquatics Center on March 7, and both the MPSF and NCAA Championships will be held there this spring as the Women of Troy look to defend their title.

Both men’s and women’s tennis will open the season in the nation’s top 5, and Marks Stadium is one of the underrated gems of campus (in no small part because they have the best free food, often in the truck variety). Both squads boast top-15 singles players in No. 10 senior Ray Sarmiento and No. 13 junior Sabrina Santamaria.

Men’s volleyball is looking to bounce back from a disappointing and downright shocking 2013 campaign, which saw them go 6-18 after opening the season ranked No. 8 in the country. Volleyball has grown on me in my time at USC; the Trojans’ loss to UC Irvine in the 2012 NCAA Championship at Galen Center remains to this day the single best non-football USC athletic event I’ve attended in my time here. This year is looking to be more promising as the Trojans have started 4-0, including a gritty five-set win over the aforementioned Anteaters of Irvine on Tuesday.

And then there’s baseball. I have covered almost every USC home baseball game the last three years, which has not exactly been a great time (68 wins, 99 losses in total) for the most successful program in the history of the sport. I could write several columns on baseball alone (and I will), but that is for when I have more space. The 2014 season is supposed to be different than the last few, and I don’t think that is a ridiculous claim. But it’s also not ridiculous to want to see it to believe it.

So there you have it, your spring sports primer. Now here are the really important dates to keep in mind: football recruit signing day is Feb. 5, spring football practice starts March 11, football Pro Day is March 12 and the annual spring game is April 19.

I’m sure that’s all you really needed to know.

 

“Any Given Saturday” still runs on Thursdays. To comment on this story, visit dailytrojan.com or email Nick at burtonn@usc.edu.

  • Rob Dedeaux

    Nick, I think you’re asking too much of USC students. Everyone knows that LA “fans” only support their teams when they are playing excellent, and even then it is only for social status.