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Trojans prep for final tests

By Billy Hull

LAST UPDATED: 1:48 a.m. HST, Apr 20, 2011

Normally, college students prefer to have as much free time as possible during finals week.

Tri Bourne and Riley McKibbin hope to take their last exams at Southern California during the most stressful week of their lives.

The two seniors hope to end their academic careers at the same time as their athletic careers as finals week coincides with the NCAA men’s volleyball final four May 5 and 7 in University Park, Pa.

“It would be a stressful time for sure, but that would be the ultimate ending,” McKibbin said. “I couldn’t think of a better way to end my career.”

The Trojans, who have held the No. 1 ranking all year, have clinched the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation regular-season title heading into this weekend’s two matches against No. 8 Hawaii at the Stan Sheriff Center.

Although they’ve been gone for four years and developed a new family of friends and teammates at USC, the trip home is still special for both players.

“It’s pretty much my last chance ever to play (in Hawaii), so we’re pumped up for sure,” Bourne said. “We grew up watching guys play there and it’s definitely a really big game for us.”

USC nearly has as many local players on its roster as Hawaii does. Riley’s brother, Maddison, a 2009 Punahou graduate, and freshman Henry Cassiday, a ’10 Buffanblu alumnus, give the Trojans four players from the islands who all contribute heavily.

Cassiday has won the starting libero spot and is one of the few new faces from last year’s team that didn’t live up to early-season expectations.

“We learned a lot from last year, basically as in what not to do,” said Bourne, a 6-foot-5 outside hitter who graduated from Academy of the Pacific.

“Henry Cassiday is the one new guy at libero who is real steady and consistent and has brought a lot to this team.”


>> Who: No. 1 USC (18-1, 17-1 Mountain Pacific Sports Federation)?at No. 8 Hawaii (14-11, 12-8)
>> Where: Stan Sheriff Center
>> When: Friday and Saturday, 7 p.m.
>> TV: KFVE, Ch. 5
>> Radio: KKEA, 1420-AM (Friday) and KHKA 1500-AM (Saturday)

USC was ranked No. 1 to start the year, but had its season end abruptly in the quarterfinals of the MPSF tournament. It was the exact opposite of the ’09 season when the relatively unknown Trojans made a run all the way to the NCAA tite game before losing to UC Irvine.

“I would attribute the majority of our success to going through those seasons and the experience and maturity we’ve gained from it,” said the 6-foot-2 McKibbin, who won three state titles at Punahou.

“We’re focused on the process this year of being the best in every single game we play in as opposed to last year when we took a lot of teams for granted.”

McKibbin’s in his third season starting at setter and is an All-American candidate, leading the team with 787 assists. For his career, McKibbin is 42 assists shy of 4,000 and has also totaled 640 digs and 145 blocks.

He’s followed in the footsteps of uncle Owen McKibbin, who played in three final fours for USC in the mid-1980s, and aunt Claudia McKibbin, who played on the Trojans’ 1980 women’s national championship team.

But even when he started getting recruiting letters from the school, he never imagined he’d end up there.

“I was stoked that a big college was recruiting me, but I always knew USC as the team that would come to Aloha Stadium every couple of years and just destroy UH,” he said. “I used to go to all the football games and just had a bad taste of them always stomping (Hawaii) but ultimately it’s all worked out and USC is a great school to go to.”

Both players plan to try out for the national team after the season if for no other reason than to avoid the alternative.

“I just don’t want to work,” Bourne said. “I’d ike to push that back as far as possible.”

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