Falyn Fonoimoana declared ineligible

The No. 2 USC women’s volleyball team, which begins its season Aug. 26, can take pride in last year’s impressive run to the Final Four and the return of several players who earned Pac-10 or All-American honors just a year ago.

On Friday, those feats were momentarily overshadowed by a huge loss.

Sophomore outside hitter Falyn Fonoimoana, last season’s Pac-10 Freshman of the Year, will not be joining her team on the court this year.

USC coach Mick Haley said in a statement Friday the former top recruit in the country had been ruled ineligible for the 2011 season.

“We exhausted all of our resources in order to help Falyn retain her eligibility,” Haley said. “We have very high expectations of our student-athletes, on and off the court, here at USC.”

No other players or coaches associated with the team were available for comment on this issue.

In her first season, Fonoimoana started 31 of the team’s 34 matches. One of six freshmen on the team, which made up the No. 1 recruiting class in the country, she recorded 398 kills and 468 points, ranking second on the team in both categories.

She was a member of the Pac-10 Conference All-Freshman Team and was named the AVCA/Pacific Region Freshman of the Year.

USC opens the season against No. 12 Minnesota in University Park, Pa. before squaring off against No. 1 Penn State on Aug. 27.


—Eleni Press


Former USC safety traded to Bengals

The San Francisco 49ers traded traded second-year safety Taylor Mays to the Cincinnati Bengals on Monday for an undisclosed draft pick, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

The trade comes two and a half weeks after the 49ers reportedly contacted the league’s other 31 teams, informing them that Mays was available.

A former All-American at USC from 2006-2009, Mays, who was selected No. 49 overall by the 49ers during the 2010 NFL draft, recorded 38 tackles and one forced fumble in six starts during his rookie season.

Most memorably, during an Oct. 3 contest against the Atlanta Falcons, the 49ers blocked a punt in Atlanta’s end zone and Mays scooped up the ball for a touchdown.

While playing for the Trojans, Mays earned All-American and All-Pac-10 honors three times and was also one of the three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award, given annually to the nation’s best defensive back, following the 2008 season.

On June 26, 2011, he was inducted into the Southern California Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.


—Joey Kaufman


Former Trojan cornerback lost for the season

In what was expected to be a Pro Bowl season, former USC Trojan football player Terrell Thomas was injured in Monday’s preseason game against the Chicago Bears.

The New York Giants announced Thomas had torn the ACL in his right knee and will likely miss the entire season.

With about 30 seconds left in the first half, Bears quarterback Jay Cutler threw a screen pass to running back Marion Barber. Thomas, who was in pursuit of Cutler, collided awkwardly with Bears defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul and crumpled to the ground.

Thomas, who started every game at cornerback for the Giants in 2010, recorded five interceptions, four forced fumbles and 101 tackles last season. He is in the final year of his contract with the Giants.


—Trevor Wong


USC’s Valeria Pulido competes, thrives at World University Games

After a strong freshman campaign last spring, sophomore Valeria Pulido continued to ride the momentum off her stellar season at the World University Games this summer.

Playing for Mexico, Pulido and partner Leticia Nazari Urbina ran the table against ranked opponents to make it to the semifinals of the World University Games.

Along the way, Pulido/Urbina bested the USA squad of Courtney Collins and Krista Damico (4-6, 6-3, 7-5), and knocked off the top-seeded pair Chinwei Chan and Wenhsin Hsu of Taipei with a 7-5, 6-3 victory.

In order to reach the semifinals, the Mexican squad took down the No. 5-seeded Polish team of Olga Brozda and Natalia Kolat (3-6, 6-4, 6-2), before falling to China’s Guo/Li in two sets, 7-6 (6), 6-3.

Although Pulido couldn’t match USC coach Richard Gallien’s gold medal count in these games (he took home gold for Team USA in 1983), her impressive performance is a positive sign for the Women of Troy in the coming year.

Pulido, playing in the No. 4 singles spot last spring, teamed up with junior Alison Ramos during the 2010-11 season, compiling an 18-10 record in doubles play last year. Pulido’s role on the team at USC only figures to increase with the departure of senior Maria Sanchez after this year.


—Jesse Paguaga


USC men’s water polo enter season as No. 1 in nation

During the last three years, few collegiate teams have enjoyed the success the USC men’s water polo team has.

Winners of three consecutive NCAA championships, it’s no surprise to see USC atop the 2011 national preseason rankings. Under the guidance of coach Jovan Vavic, the Trojans have also claimed three of the last four Mountain Pacific Sports Federation titles, and are again projected to finish first at season’s end.

USC returns all of its starters from last year’s national title team, led by All-American’s Matt Burton and Joel Dennerley as well as the leading scorer from a year ago in sophomore driver Nikola Vavic. Its returning veteran players, combined with the addition of a top-notch recruiting class, makes USC a heavy favorite to make history and become the first team to win four straight national titles.

Despite defeating California to earn the 2010 title, being ranked 1st in the preseason will be uncharted waters for many members of this USC squad.

Last season, the Trojans were selected fourth in the preseason poll before navigating a tough schedule on their way to the title.

The Trojans’ quest for an unprecedented fourth straight national championship begins Sept. 3 at the UC Irvine Inviational.


—Ross Dautel


Gemelos grabs gold at World University Games

USC guard Jacki Gemelos helped Team USA finish an undefeated run at the World University Games, giving her a gold medal and another honor to add to her long list of accomplishments.

Gemelos chipped in five points, two assists and a rebound in the championship game to help the USA defeat Taiwan 101-66, capping a dominant and impressive six-game run throughout the University Games.

On the way to the gold-medal game, Team USA defeated Brazil, Slovakia, Great Britain, Finland and Australia, winning each game by double-digits.

In the six games, Gemelos averaged 4.8 points, 2.5 rebounds and 1.8 assists in 15.7 minutes per game.

In her first full season playing with USC last year, Gemelos was the team’s third leading scorer, averaging 12.4 points per game, along with almost five rebounds and three assists.

Her stellar play was recognized when she received All-Pac-10 honorable mention, leading the conference in three-point field goal percentage.

She also played a prominent role in leading the Women of Troy to the Women’s National Invitational Tournament national championship game, where they fell short of the title to Toledo.


—Will Laws