Seniors instrumental in USC volleyball revival

first_imgThe No. 1 USC men’s volleyball team has fought through this season with vigor and focus borne from years of being close, but not quite there.Leading the way · Senior setter Riley McKibben, who has more than 1,000 assists this season, was the first recruit to commit to USC in 2008. – Tim Tran | Daily Trojan In 2008, the Trojans dropped a hard-fought NCAA tournament play-in game. In 2009, they fell hard in a five-set heartbreaker to UC Irvine in the national championship game. And in 2010, after starting the season as the No. 1 team in the country, the Trojans were unceremoniously eliminated from the NCAA tournament in the first round.But in 2011, the Trojans have won the close matches and dominated others with skill and poise spearheaded by the team’s eight senior leaders.During the last four seasons, these seniors have amassed 72 victories, notched two preseason No. 1 rankings, won both the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular season and tournament crowns and earned a trip to the NCAA championship match.Frankly, they have revived USC volleyball.“We wouldn’t be here without them,” said USC coach Bill Ferguson. “They embody what USC is supposed to be and helped put USC volleyball back on the map.”When Ferguson was hired in 2007, he took over a team stuck in a slump that included four-straight 11th place finishes in the 12-team Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.The year of Ferguson’s arrival spelled the beginning of a revival for USC volleyball, however, as USC racked up the most victories since 2001 (12) and made an appearance in the MPSF playoffs.“We weren’t good athletically or academically [when I first arrived],” Ferguson said.Although he lacked collegiate head coaching experience, the young coach was confident he could help put USC volleyball back on the map.“I knew how to recruit, put a team together and get things going,” Ferguson said. “I always said that if there were a school that could revive themselves, it would be USC.”Ferguson had an ambitious goal: He wanted not only the best athletes, but also top students and leaders who could be successful in all aspects.After a successful first season, Ferguson brought the top-ranked recruiting class to USC in 2008, setting the stage for success.“It is with no exaggeration when I say that they took over the team and changed the face of the program once they arrived on campus,” Ferguson said. “All of them have been great leaders in their own way.”Setter Riley McKibbin, who has been the Trojans’ co-captain for three consecutive years, was the first to commit to Ferguson’s plan for USC volleyball and then helped the coach pull in the talent he needed.“Right away, [McKibbin] asked for [senior middle blocker Austin] Zahn and [senior opposite Murphy] Troy’s phone numbers and promised me that he would get them to come to USC too,” Ferguson said.Now, four years later, that recruiting class has carried USC, already atop the polls for most of the season, nearing an NCAA title.Troy, who has led USC in kills in each of the last three seasons, has been the Trojans’ co-captain for two years, and last week, received MPSF Player of the Year honors.Others, such as Zahn and outside hitter Tri Bourne, have proved to be steady, reliable contributors, fixtures in USC’s starting lineup.“There’s plenty of great volleyball players out there, but not a lot of great USC players,” Ferguson said. “All of these guys have and will be successful, and not just in volleyball.”With their first MPSF tournament victory against No. 8 UCLA last Saturday, these seniors are primed to make one final run at a national title with a simple mentality: Winning one day, one match, one practice and one play at a time.“They’ve done everything we’ve asked as well as I could’ve hoped,” Ferguson said. “Every time someone has taken a shot at them, they’ve responded. They’ve done great to this point, but we have much more to do.”last_img read more

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Nigeria team rewarded after 30-year wait

first_imgThe Nigeria squad that won the first Fifa Under-16 World championship have been rewarded after a 30-year wait.New Nigeria president Muhammadu Buhari has made good on a promise to reward the players after the 1985 tournament when he was the military head of state.Nduka Ugbade, captain of the team who beat West Germany 2-0 in the final in Beijing, told BBC Sport: “I have finally received my money.”I am extremely delighted that our president has fulfilled his promise.”Buhari had promised the players a house, stock in the central bank and a scholarship and other incentives after their success but soon after he was ousted by another military regime and the country’s government never fulfilled his pledges.Following Buhari’s election as president last year he announced in January a 2m naira ($10,000; £7,000) reward for each of the players and 1.5m for the officials. “He’s truly a man of his word and on behalf of myself and the team I say a big ‘thank you’ to our president,” added Ugbade.”I would also like to thank the sports ministry, Alhassan Yakmut of the sports commission, the Nigerian Football Federation, both local and international media, and everyone involved in this great story.”–Follow Joy Sports on Twitter: @JoySportsGH. Our hashtag is #JoySportslast_img read more

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