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USC MVB - Week 2 Recap

After two hard-fought losses to Top 15-ranked teams, USC men's volleyball bounced back this week with an upset win over No. 3 Long Beach State. The Trojans couldn't hold on to their momentum, though, falling in three sets to No. 13 Cal State Northridge just three days later.

USC head coach Jeff Nygaard discussed the potential he saw in his team during the upset and dubbed senior outside hitter the team's "work horse" in his Week 2 recap.

Upset City

USC men's volleyball bounced back from two straight losses to upset Long Beach State at the Galen Center last night.

Click here for the full recap!

The unranked Trojans hosted the No. 3 49ers in their home opener, and pulled off a four-set win (25-19, 25-20, 22-25, 25-22). Senior outside hitter Lucas Yoder racked up 28 kills and 6 digs to lead the way along with teammate Andy Benesh, who hit .526 with 12 kills, 5 digs and 4 blocks.

After the match, USC head coach Jeff Nygaard insisted the Trojans could beat anybody. Watch his full post-game interview here!

The Trojans gear up for another upset opportunity when No. 13 Cal State Northridge comes to town on Saturday at 7 p.m. Click here for tickets!

One Down

Aiming to improve on last year's losing season, the USC men's volleyball team opened 2017 up with a 3-1 win over Concordia last night.

Click here for the full recap!

Freshman OH Aaron Strange made a statement in his debut as a Trojan, racking up 13 kills and hitting .667 with only 1 hitting error in 18 swings.

USC came from behind to win the first set, 30-28, but dropped the second set, 23-25, before hitting its stride and winning the last two sets, 25-13 and 25-18 to earn the 29th season-opening win in program history.

The win marks an immediate improvement from last season, when the Trojans under first-year head coach Jeff Nygaard opened up the season with six straight losses.

The Trojans also got big contributions from Lucas Yoder (9 kills, 5 digs), Andy Benesh (6 blocks) and Gert Lisha (3 aces).

USC has no time to celebrate, as the team heads straight to Columbus, OH for the AVCA Showcase Big Ten/Pac-12 Challenge. The Trojans face defending national champion Ohio State on Friday before taking on Penn State the next day.

The tournament will be a huge step in determining how far the team has come since going 7-19 last year.

Click here for a full season preview!

Four More New Trojans

USC men's volleyball added four local recruits to their class of 2017 yesterday.

Click here for the full release!

Sam Lewis, a 6-foot-10 middle blocker from Long Beach Poly, plus 6-foot-7 middle blocker Mitch Haly of Corona del Mar, 5-foot-10 libero Cole Paxson of Laguna Beach High and 6-foot-6 outside hitter Noah Franklin of Huntington Beach High all signed national letters of intent for USC yesterday.

All four have Junior Olympics experience and hope to contribute immediately during the 2017 season. In the meantime, though, they'll watch this year's team tackle the 2016-17 schedule. The Trojans are coming off a rebuilding year in which they finished 7-19. They'll get a fresh start in their first match of the regular season, on Jan. 3 against Concordia (Irvine).


Trojan Tune-Up

USC men's volleyball is gearing up to host a nine-team preseason tournament this Saturday at USC's Galen Center Pavilion.

Click here for the full preview.

The Trojans will split into two teams ("Cardinal" and "Gold") and will compete against Long Beach State, Pepperdine, UC Santa Barbara, Cal State Northridge, Cal Baptist, Grand Canyon and Concordia.

USC hopes to get back into the mix this season after going 7-19 in its first year under head coach Jeff Nygaard.

The team kicks off competition at 8:45 a.m. on Saturday on the upstairs courts at the Galen Center Pavilion, which is adjacent to the Galen Center. Admission to the event is free.


21 Pilots

Heading into the 2016-17 season, representatives from each of USC's 21 sports met on top of the AT&T Center for the annual "All 21" photo shoot. The AT&T Center, just two miles from campus, overlooks the skyline of downtown Los Angeles, where the Trojans call home.

Top row, from left to right: Nick Bell (men's water polo), Nina Kelty (lacrosse), Rebekah Ent (cross country), Anika  Apostalon (women's swimming), Eric Sloan (men's track & field), Courtney Jaco (women's basketball), Karen Chung (women's golf), Lucas Yoder (men's volleyball), Reed Malone (men's swimming), Brianna Daboub (women's water polo), Sara Hughes (beach volleyball), Jeremy Martinez (baseball)

Bottom row, from left to right: Zach Banner (football), Zoe Katz (women's tennis), Jordan McLaughlin (men's basketball), Amalie Iuel (women's track & field), Madara Strautmane (rowing), Nick Crystal (men's tennis), Collin Pollard (men's diving), Taylor Whittingham (women's volleyball), Savannah Levin (women's soccer), Sean Crocker (men's golf), Madison Witt (women's diving)

Seven More for SC

Allyson.jpgUSC athletes added seven more Olympic medals to their tally over the weekend, bringing the Trojans' total count at Rio 2016 to 21.

Allyson Felix bolstered her place among the best track and field athletes of all-time by winning two medals on Friday and Saturday evening. Felix won gold in both the 4x100 relay and the 4x400 relay in addition to her silver medal in the 400m last week. Felix's nine total Olympic medals ties Merlene Ottey (Jamaica & Slovenia) for most medals all-time by a female Olympic track and field athlete.

Trojan track stars Aaron Brown and Andre De Grasse, representing Canada, also medaled in the 4x100 relay on Friday evening. Team Canada finished the race in fourth, but upon Team USA's disqualification, Brown and De Grasse were awarded bronze medals. It was Brown's first-ever Olympic medal and De Grasse's third, having won bronze in the 100m and silver in the 200m earlier in the week.

On Sunday, three more Trojans brought home medals.

Micah Christensen and Murphy Troy, playing volleyball for Team USA, earned bronze medals in a five-set win over Russia. They came back from two sets down, mirroring their fight throughout the whole Olympics --- Team USA lost its first two matches, but went on a winning streak against No. 1 Brazil, No. 11 France, No. 26 Mexico and No. 2 Poland before losing to No. 4 Italy to end up in the bronze medal match.

DeMar DeRozan capped off a successful Olympics for USC by earning a gold medal in men's basketball. Team USA topped Serbia, 96-66, thanks in part to DeRozan's six points, two rebounds, two assists and a block.

USC now boasts 309 Olympic medals, including 144 golds.


Torch Bearers

USC men's volleyball legend Celso Kalache and his wife Lucy, a 1972 Olympic swimmer for Brazil, participated in the Olympic Torch Relay on Monday in Cabo Frio, a town just outside of Rio.

Kalache led the Trojans to the program's first NCAA title in 1977 after competing for Brazil in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. The couple met at the 1975 Pan American Games and have a daughter, Tatiana, who played women's volleyball at USC.


#USC2RIO: Murphy Troy

The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Murphy Troy

Country: United States of America

Event: Men's Indoor Volleyball

Troy led a men's volleyball resurgence at USC, earning AVCA National Player of the Year in 2011 and captaining the Trojans to the NCAA Championship match. Since then, he's enjoyed a stellar professional career in Europe.

Now, Troy is ready for his first shot at the Olympics, competing for playing time as an opposite hitter on Team USA. He has become a key player for his country, helping the Americans win the 2015 FIVB World Cup and qualify for Rio 2016.

Troy is one of two Trojans on Team USA, joining Micah Christenson, but the pair missed each other by a year in college. USC men's volleyball previously has produced 12 Olympians who have participated in 18 Games, including gold medalists Dusty Dvorak (1984), Pat Powers (1984), Steve Timmons (1984, 1988) and Gabe Gardner (2008) and bronze medalists Timmons (1992), Nick Becker (1992), Dan Greenbaum (1992) and Bryan Ivie (1992).


#USC2RIO: Micah Christenson

The countdown is on to the 2016 Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, and once again, USC will be represented by a roster of Trojans that would match most countries. Time to unveil your USC Olympians...

Name: Micah Christenson

Country: United States of America

Event: Men's Indoor Volleyball

Christenson, 23, began his Team USA career while he was still running the show at USC as the nation's best setter. Now, he is a mainstay in the side, headed to his first Olympics.

He is at the core of a young roster ready to represent in Rio. "I think we just approach the match being aggressive with as much energy and fire as possible," said Christenson. "We know that whatever lineup we put out there we're always going to compete."

A 2014 and 2015 All-American first teamer at USC, Christenson set the U.S. to the 2015 FIVB World Cup gold medal as well as the 2014 FIVB World League gold medal and a bronze in 2015. The USA Men's Volleyball Team will have podium aspirations as a Top 5 ranked squad in the world coming into the competition.


#FightOnForever: Ernie Hix

Ernie Hix, known as "The Father of USC Men's Volleyball", died on Saturday, June 4, at the age of 80. The two-time national champion head coach is credited with building the Trojans into a national power over his eight-year tenure from 1974-81.

Click here for his complete obituary.

"It was with great sadness that I learned of the passing of Coach Ernie Hix, a Trojan legend," said current USC men's volleyball head coach Jeff Nygaard. "He singlehandedly grew USC Men's Volleyball from its infancy into an NCAA championship-winning program, and along the way he had a deep impact on those who played for him. I have profound respect and admiration for the Father of USC Men's Volleyball, and I am in awe witnessing his continued impact through the outpouring of love from those who knew him best."

Hix fostered the careers of some of the sport's great players, including All-Americans Tim Hovland, Dusty Dvorak, Celso Kalache and Bob Yoder (pictured left to right with Hix, center, below). He won 73.8% of his matches at USC, with an overall record of 138-49.

In lieu of flowers, the family has requested donations be made in Hix's name to the USC Men's Volleyball Alumni and Boosters Club, c/o USC Men's Volleyball, Galen Center, 3400 So. Figueroa St., Los Angeles, Calif. 90089-2360.


Spring Smarts

After a phenomenal spring seasons in the water and on the court, beach, track and field, six USC teams closed the book on a successful academic semester as well, collecting postseason academic awards at both the conference and national levels.

Announced last week, eleven members of the conference-winning USC women's lacrosse team, five men's volleyball players and five members of the women's water polo team, which posted it's third-highest team GPA this semester, earned MPSF All-Academic recognition. 

After winning the program's first-ever NCAA national championship, four members of the USC beach volleyball team - Nicolette Martin, Jenna Belton, Jo Kremer and Sophie Bukovec (pictured) - secured spots on the first-ever Pac-12 Beach Volleyball All-Academic teams. Martin received First Team honors, Belton and Kremer were named to the Second Team, while Bukovec garnered honorable mention. 

Three women's rowers, Sara Bilimoria, Kaelyn Ibold and Ida Gortz Jacobsen, received Collegiate Rowing Coaches Association National Scholar-Athlete recognition

And rounding out the group of talented USC spring student-atheltes, USC senior Jaide Stepter, now headed to the NCAA Championships in the 400m hurdles, earned CoSIDA Academic All-District honors for her combined success on the track and in the classroom.


Senior Salute

Written by Max Holm, USC blog contributor

USC men's volleyball lost its last home game of the season Sunday against No. 14 UC Irvine, but celebrated four special seniors after the match. The four seniors include captains Alex Slaught and Brooks Varni (pictured), as well as Josh Kirchner and Tommy Leonard.

Click here for a full recap of senior night.

The Trojans dropped the first set 25-21, the second set 25-15 and the final set 25-23. Troy fell to 7-17 on the year and 5-15 in the MPSF. Josh Kirchner led all Trojans with seven kills, hitting .417, while Slaught added five kills in his final home match, and Leonard finished with three kills in the loss.

The last home game for the two captains saw an end to a pair of wonderful USC careers. Varni and Slaught have played in over 50 games for the Cardinal & Gold and the former has been a captain for the past two seasons.

Unfortunately, the loss eliminated the Trojans from the eight-team MPSF Tournament, but their season isn't finished quite yet. USC heads on the road to face No. 3 BYU for its final matches of the season this weekend, first on Friday at 6 p.m. PT and then on Saturday at 6 p.m. PT.  


Marathon Men

In a 27-hour span, unranked USC men's volleyball engaged in what seemed like a never-ending battle with No. 5 Hawaii, dropping the first of two matches on Monday, but emerging victorious to upset the Warriors in the second on Tuesday. The two teams played a total of 10 sets in back-to-back days and the resulting Trojan victory reveals endurance and resilience in first year head coach Jeff Nygaard's maturing squad.

Click here for a complete recap of USC's victory.

After falling to the Warriors in five sets on Monday (25-15, 22-25, 19-25, 25-19, 15-10), USC snapped it's three-match losing streak with an epic fifth set performance in its win at the Galen Center on Tuesday (25-18, 20-25, 21-25, 26-24, 17-15). The Trojans were led by junior Lucas Yoder, who put up a clutch 21 kills, including three in the fifth set, and 11 digs in the match. Alex Slaught added 15 kills and nine digs, while Jon Rivera (11 kills) and Jack Yoder (10 digs) also posted double-digit kill marks.

The Trojans, now 3-11 overall and 3-9 in MPSF play, have an eight-day break before traveling to face UC Santa Barbara on February 24 (7 p.m. PT).

Check out the celebration and rapid reaction from Tuesday's exhilarating win...

Trojans in Business: Dr. William Stetson

Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

Name: Dr. William Stetson

Resume: Orthopedic Surgeon at Stetson & Powell

Sport at USC: Men's Volleyball

Caroline Deisley (CD): Did you always know that you wanted to be a surgeon and go into medicine?

Bill Stetson (BS): I knew I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon since I was 12. I really did. I did my first research paper when I was 13 on meniscus tears. So, I've always had a passion for medicine. My dad was a general practitioner and I liked what he did, the relationships he had with the community and the ability to help people. But, he worked really hard, he really did. His friends who were the orthopedic surgeons were far and away the happiest that I met. I said, there's got to be something to this so I started looking into it. Then, my mom started working for one of the orthopedic surgeons and we got to be good friends with him. I started spending time in the office, watching surgery and I just found the passion.

CD: How hard was it, once you got to USC and were here playing volleyball, to balance a Pre-Med workload?

BS: It was very challenging, as you can imagine. For volleyball, we started practice the first week in September. Now, I think they have a different schedule. We used to start the first week in September, five to six days a week, three to four hours a day. We practiced the entire year up until the NCAA Finals, which was in early May.

CD: That's a lot! How were you able to balance?

BS: It's a commitment. It just took a lot of sacrifice and time management as you can imagine. I knew I  was just a driven kid. I knew I wanted to be the best volleyball player that I could, but I also knew that there was going to be life after volleyball. So, I committed to getting the best grades that I could so I could go to medical school. I wanted to go to medical school at USC so it was a great combination.

CD: What was it like to be a student-athlete here in the '80s? It was somewhat of the "glory days" for many of USC's teams with a lot going on for athletes.

BS: It was pretty amazing if you think about it. For the volleyball team, we were very successful. We went to four Final Fours and won a national championship during that time. The women's volleyball team was also successful. We had some fantastic football teams, some great track & field teams and swimming teams. It was really quite something. I guess we really assumed that every team was going to be a champion but as we know that doesn't always happen.

CD: Now you've stayed somewhat with the volleyball tradition, you get to work with the U.S. volleyball teams as a team doctor. What's it like to still be around volleyball while combining it with your other true passion?

BS: It's really been a nice adventure I would say. I got involved with USA Volleyball about 15 years ago. They used to be based in Colorado Springs and then when they moved to Anaheim it just made it easy for me to take care of them. So, I take care of both the women and the men's national teams. I was able to accompany them to the London Olympics in 2012.

CD: And what was that experience like?

BS: It was quite something, but it was a lot of time away from my family. I have a young family and being away was a little difficult. But, my wife and I made that commitment and we made the sacrifice for it and so did my family, but it was really something, a great experience.

CD: How do you feel now that you are able to combine your knowledge of being an athlete with the work you do with professional athletes? Does that help you?

BS: I think it does give me an advantage and hopefully a little bit of an edge. I understand where they're coming from and for most of them, their sport is their passion. They will do anything they can to get back on that court, get back on that field. I understand that, but I also understand the medical part and the orthopedic part. I need to help them get back as quickly but as safely as possible.

CD: Now that you did take some time off to go through medical school, what was it like getting back into volleyball?

BS: After college, I actually continued to play volleyball. I spent a couple of years in Europe playing volleyball. I deferred my entrance to medical school for a year and played in Germany. Then I came back and continued to play in the United States. I was the assistant coach for USC when Bob Yoder was the head coach while I was in medical school, so that was a challenge. Bob's a great guy and was very understanding about my schedule. I also continued to play on the beach and indoors. We were the USA national champions for five years straight when I came back from Germany. Balancing volleyball and my medical studies is always something I've done.

CD: One thing that I always like to ask former athletes is when you look at college students right now who are trying to combine both their athletic careers and aspirations with their studies, what advice would you give them about having a more balanced life?

BS: I think that's really a great question and I see a lot of it in my practice where the kids are sacrificing some of their studies for the practice field. I think you have to balance both. Not all of us are going to be professional athletes, there's very few of us that are going to get a scholarship to college. I think you use sports to build character, be a part of a team, and build integrity. It's really about your studies. I would tell parents out there, 'Don't push your kids too hard in athletics. Create that balance for them. You don't want kids to burn out.' We see a lot of juniors and seniors in high school who have been playing sports since they were six because dad wanted them to be the next Sandy Koufax. You really need to create that balance and communicate that with your children.

CD: What do you think is the hardest part about realizing that maybe my career is done, that this is the time my body is telling me I can't do this anymore?

BS: That is a really tough one. We see it with a lot of athletes. I know I felt it myself. I played with no injuries up until I was 34. I was still playing volleyball at the time but the body just started breaking down. I had four knee surgeries in two years. It just happens. I think you just have to prepare yourself. Know that you're not going to play forever but keep yourself in the best shape possible because you can continue to play even after you stop playing competitively. Staying in shape is really important.

CD: For someone who has a list of accomplishments, what else is there for you? Is there anything that you are working on that you want to accomplish or are you just trying to do what you love every day?

BS: I really do love what I do every single day and the relationships that I have especially with my athletes. They have an injury and a lot of them are worried about if they are going to continue playing. I talk to them about what their plans are after athletics, after volleyball or after football. I think that's a very good conversation for them to have because sometimes no one has ever had that conversation with them and they are afraid to talk to other people about it. I enjoy that. I enjoy having that discussion with them and I tell them I'm always available to talk about different options after their careers. I've helped about a half dozen of my athletes after they have retired get interviews and jobs in the healthcare industry and other arenas.

Ups and Downs

The USC men's volleyball team secured its second win of the 2016 season on Saturday thanks to 12 kills from Alex Slaught and 11 kills apiece from Tommy Leonard and Jon Rivera. The Trojans took down UC San Diego on the road in four sets (25-19, 26-24, 19-25, 25-22), finishing with six aces and eight blocks.

Click here for a complete recap of the victorious match.

The Trojans are in the midst of a steep learning curve this year, currently possessing a 2-8 overall record and a 2-6 mark in conference play. As new head coach Jeff Nygaard works to instill a new mentality and new identity in his team, USC expects to endure more of both ups and downs this season.

Next up, the Trojans return to Galen Center to host Cal State Northridge on Wednesday (8 p.m. PT, Pac-12 Networks) and Long Beach State on Friday (7 p.m. PT). Follow @USCmensvolley for more on the USC's journey this season.

Century at the Net

Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

Kalache DDvorak Jersey Retire.jpg
The Pac-12 released its All-Century Men's Volleyball team on Wednesday with four Trojans earning a spot on the roster along with current USC head coach Jeff Nygaard, who was recognized for his playing career at UCLA. USC is represented by two-time All-American Dusty Dvorak (pictured above on the right), two-time National Player of the Year Bryan Ivie, NCAA tournament MVP Celso Kalache (pictured above on the left) and two-time All-American Pat Powers.

This honor is just one of many for these four talented Trojans, who established USC men's volleyball as an elite program. Kalache led the Trojans to their first NCAA title in 1977, earning All-American honors that season, while also playing for the Brazilian National Team in the 1972 and 1976 Olympics. Dvorak joined Kalache on the 1977 NCAA title team, while also aiding the Trojans to their second NCAA crown along with Powers in 1980. Both Dvorak and Powers also played together for the United States National Team, leading them to a gold medal at the 1984 Olympics. Once Powers retired from playing professionally, he became the USC head coach from 1997-2002. Finally, Ivie still owns several USC records, including career (2,380) and season kills (770), and career (661) and season blocks (199). He also represented the United States at the 1992 Olympics, where he earned a bronze medal, and the 1996 Olympics as well.

Click here for the entire All-Century Team.

On the Board

USC men's volleyball has experienced the struggle of rebuilding under new head coach Jeff Nygaard so far this season, but the Trojans enjoyed a silver lining Tuesday night by defeating Pepperdine in five sets to pick up their first victory of the young campaign. After winning the first two sets, USC was forced to a decisive fifth set, ultimately overcoming the Waves, 15-11, thanks to a career-best 23 kills from sophomore Jon Rivera.

Click here for the recap.

Click here for the Rapid Reaction.

Nygaard's first career win as head coach came after six consecutive losses, the worst start to a USC season in program history. The Trojans remain home for an MPSF match on Sunday (Jan. 31) against No. 6 Stanford at 4 p.m. in the Galen Center, which will be televised live on Pac-12 Network.

Here are the highlights of the win over Pepperdine:

Nygaard's Era Begins

Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

A new era for USC men's volleyball begins in 2016 with head coach Jeff Nygaard taking over the reins after serving as an assistant coach for five years. The Trojans, with a new head coach for the first time in seven years, begin the season ranked No. 12 and are returning 11 players, including four starters and their libero. However, this 2016 team will be searching for players to step up and fill the void left by two-time All-American and Lloy Ball Award-winning setter Micah Christenson.

Click here for the men's volleyball 2016 season preview.

Nygaard will use his experience as an assistant coach, three-time Olympian and two-time College Player of the Year to lead this 2016 team back to the MPSF tournament where they lost in the semifinals last season, finishing seventh in the nation with a 19-9 overall record. The Trojans are going to rely heavily on junior Andy Benesh, who spent the summer competing for both the U.S. Men's Junior National Team and the U.S. Men's National team, along with seniors Brooks Varni and Alex Slaught to carry this team filled with a mixture of experience and youth. USC also boasts five freshmen who landed on the 2015 Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 list.

The Trojans began their season on Thursday night in a tough match-up against the No. 10 Penn State Nittany Lions, losing in straight sets (25-22, 28-26, 29-27). Sophomore Jon Rivera led USC with 14 kills and junior Lucas Yoder added 10 kills as well.

Click here for a recap of the men's volleyball season opener.

Next up, the USC men's volleyball team faces the No. 6 Ohio State Buckeyes on Friday at 2:00 p.m. in State College. Next week, the Trojans will open up MPSF play at Cal State Northridge on January 15 before finally returning to the Galen Center for their home opener on January 21 vs. No. 9 UC Santa Barbara.

Catch up with seniors Brooks Varni and Alex Slaught as they describe how they're gearing up for tough competition to start the season...

Trio of Trojans

Written by Caroline Deisley, USC blog contributor

The USC men's volleyball team added a trio of talent to its roster for next season with the addition of Sean Morrissey, Lucas Lossone and Jackson Wedbush on last week's National Signing Day.

Click here for more information on the new men's volleyball signees.

"We are extremely pleased with our newest additions to the men's volleyball family," said head coach Jeff Nygaard. "All three players come to the team with a history of success at the high school and club level. Sean Morrissey brings athleticism and explosiveness to the outside hitter position, while Lucas Lossone brings much needed height and physicality to the court. Jackson is a great all-around volleyball player with a live left arm."

Lossone joins the Trojan Family from a Trojan family, with his mom playing volleyball here in the early 90s earning All-American second team honors and first team All Pac-10 honors in 1992 as an outside hitter. Morrissey is a decorated high school athlete earning 2015 Orange County Register All-Orange County honorable mention honors and leading his high school to the CIF Division I and Southern California Division I championship titles. Finally, Wedbush, who plays both indoor and beach, is already incredibly accomplished as well making the 2015 South Bay Daily Breeze All-South Bay first team as a junior while also winning the 2015 U17 Open Junior Olympics with his club team alongside future USC teammates Lossone and Morrissey.

The USC men's volleyball team finished last season with a No. 7 ranking and a trip to the MPSF semifinals before falling to UC Irvine. The Trojans begin their quest for another title to add to their collection on January 7 at the Penn State tournament.

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