Sophomore Estella Jaeger also competed in a three-set match in the first round, taking down freshman Elise Frigout of the University of Pacific 4-6, 6-3, 6-3. The Trojans are slated to play Thursday at the ITA Oracle Masters in Malibu, Calif. “We had great results from everyone representing USC at the tournament, and it’s exciting to begin the year by taking home a title in our first event,” Swain said. The USC women’s tennis team competed in the Milwaukee Tennis Classic this weekend to open their 2019 season, in addition to the Battle in the Bay tournament in San Francisco. The Trojans left Milwaukee with a singles title win from senior captain Angela Kulikov. The Trojans look to continue their success after a 20-8 2018 season that ended in a Round of 16 loss to South Carolina. After graduating only one senior, the program will continue to build and strengthen its roster with a blend of youth and experience. Kulikov’s teammates also enjoyed a successful weekend in Milwaukee. Sophomore Danielle Wilson reached the semifinals of the MTC, defeating three top 16 seeds before her 6-2, 6-2 loss to Achong. The program also features the promotion of Rachel Manasse to assistant coach, who served as a volunteer coach on the staff this past season. With the No. 7-ranked recruiting class in the nation according to the Tennis Recruiting Network, the new class comprised of players including Carson Branstine, Eryn Cateyano and four-star Payton Saca figures to be a strength for the Trojans in 2019 and beyond. “Angela came into the tournament prepared to compete and executed her game plan throughout the event,” Swain told USC Athletics. “It was tough to transition from indoors to outdoors throughout the weekend, but Angela handled it well and competed at an exceptionally high level.” Kulikov was seeded No. 13 in the singles draw for tournament, and her path to the championship was not easy. She defeated both the No. 3 and No. 7 seeds on the road to the final against No. 5-seeded sophomore Daevenia Achong of the University of Miami. “I’m very excited to be back this season as an assistant coach,” Manasse told USC Athletics. “It’s such an amazing opportunity. This team has so much potential, and I can’t wait to be a part of their continued success.” Milwaukee wasn’t the only destination for the women’s team this week, as several Trojans participated in the Battle of the Bay Classic in San Francisco. Senior Sydney Van Alphen defeated top-seeded sophomore Solymar Colling of the University of San Diego in three sets 1-6, 7-5, 6-3. Both Van Alphen and Jaeger advanced to the tournament’s quarterfinal, while freshman Payton Saca gained her first collegiate experience by winning an extra match 6-2, 6-3 against freshman Alicia Yue from the University of San Francisco. Jaeger and Van Alphen were also paired in the doubles bracket and lost 8-2 to Arizona graduate student Abby Amos and junior Talya Zandberg. Kulikov’s title earned her a wild card spot in the Oracle ITA National Fall Championships in Newport Beach this November. Wilson and Kulikov teamed up in the doubles bracket and reached the semifinals along with the duo of senior Constance Branstine and junior Ana Neffa, but both pairs fell short of the championship match. Kulikov narrowly defeated Achong 7-6, (5) in a close first set tiebreak. She went on to take the second set 6-4, securing the MTC title. Head coach Alison Swain believed Kulikov was well prepared heading into her matches and that she maintained an elite degree of focus. Editor’s note: This article published Wednesday misidentified a photo of Rianna Valdes as Angela Kulikov. The article has been updated online. The Daily Trojan regrets the error.
USC provided a vision of that ideal team with a nearly perfect first quarter. Freshman quarterback Kedon Slovis was absolutely dominant, throwing four touchdowns and breaking the team record for passing yards in a first quarter with 297. This included what is likely Slovis’ best throw of the season, a frozen rope that traveled 35 yards between three defenders before finding sophomore wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown’s hands en route to a 95-yard touchdown and a 28-7 lead. Aidan Berg is a junior writing about sports. He is also an associate managing editor for Daily Trojan. His column, “Berg is the Word,” runs every Monday. LSU is successful because its offense, defense and special teams deliver for four quarters game in and game out. It’s not easy to put it all together, but it’s what a program of USC’s caliber deserves. Yellen played in place of injured freshman starter Jayden Daniels, and it’s hard not to think that this would’ve been a Sun Devils victory had Daniels been able to go. Not that Helton has much of a chance to retain his position, but a loss to the team that fell to Colorado at home and which didn’t have its starting quarterback would have left a real sour taste at the end of Helton’s reign. Things really started to go wrong in the second quarter, when the offense was unable to punish Arizona State for two turnovers. It was an all-or-nothing half for the defense, which allowed a 62-yard touchdown to redshirt junior wide receiver Frank Darby. The defense, on the other hand, at times appeared unable to do anything to stop backup freshman quarterback Joey Yellen, who threw four touchdowns on the afternoon. It was alarming that a defense with as much talent as the Trojans’ wasn’t able to bottle up a signal-caller making his first collegiate start. Here are the results of the Trojans’ second-half drives: turnover on downs, field goal, fumble, punt, punt, punt. Only the field goal drive took up more than six plays, and the second-to-last possession would’ve ended in a Slovis pick-six if not for a holding call on ASU. Granted, Slovis departed the game with a leg cramp and redshirt junior Matt Fink took over on a few of those possessions, but it was startling just how incapable the offense was after appearing unstoppable for the first 15 minutes. Since then, USC has had four athletic directors, Sarkisian was fired in no small part due to alcohol-related incidents, Helton’s teams have regressed and Orgeron has built one of college football’s best programs in Baton Rouge. It must have hurt USC fans who, like me, had a second screen up to watch Orgeron go toe-to-toe with Alabama head coach Nick Saban and come out on top. A guy like that might be useful next year when the Trojans kick off their season against the Crimson Tide in Arlington, Texas. Take No. 2 LSU’s 46-41 win over No. 3 Alabama Saturday. It was fitting that these two games ran in the same time slot because it gave USC fans a glimpse of what they missed out on. Tigers head coach Ed Orgeron filled the same position for USC on an interim basis in 2013 before then-athletic director Pat Haden passed him over for the permanent role in favor of Steve Sarkisian. However, in the end, Helton was bailed out by his team’s talent. Redshirt senior defensive lineman Christian Rector, who has struggled with nagging injuries all year, made his first huge play of the season by deflecting a pass in front of him before laying out to cradle it for the game-sealing interception. It was a miraculous play, and, judging from the progress ASU was making on its final drive, a necessary one for the Trojans to emerge victorious. USC football’s 31-26 victory over Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz. Saturday displayed two truths of the soon-to-end tenure of head coach Clay Helton. As has been the case for a few years, the Trojans showcased elite individual talent that allowed the team to gain an advantage over ASU, but the team’s inability to put it all together for an extended period of time resulted in a lackluster performance. For now, Trojan fans can only look longingly to the past and wonder about the future because there’s no chance at reaching that level with the present staff. Before you keep reading, try to think of a game during the Helton era in which the whole team fired on all cylinders from beginning to end. It’s pretty difficult to name one that USC has dominated until the final whistle, a truly satisfying win in every facet. Victories over Stanford and Arizona earlier this season come to mind, but those were home matchups with pretty bad teams. The best teams — a level the Trojans aspire to reach — beat down on inferior competition but also take care of business against stronger foes by executing in every area for 60 minutes. Slovis and co. had so many plays where the sheer level of talent made me say “whoa.” The defense wasn’t far behind, forcing two Sun Devil punts and only allowing a touchdown because of a 97-yard kickoff return. But that lapse in discipline — or execution, whatever you want to call it — kept the Trojans from putting this game away in the early going.