McKibbin and Bourne work to restore USC's glory days


POSTED: Friday, January 16, 2009

Southern California's visit to Hawaii for the Outrigger Hotels Invitational last weekend was strictly a business trip.

However, it didn't stop sophomore setter Riley McKibbin (Punahou '07) from an early-morning session at one of his old high school hangout spots, Sandy Beach.

After leading the Trojans to a 2-1 record in the three-day tournament, including a hard-nosed, five-set loss to No. 1 Penn State, McKibbin had just enough time in the early hours Sunday morning to race out to Sandy's for a quick dive in the water before the team headed back to Los Angeles in the early afternoon.

“;I had to wake up real early, but definitely worth it,”; McKibbin said. “;Got to hit up Sandy's.”;

USC also played in a preseason tournament in November in Klum Gym, but last weekend was McKibbin's first trip back to play in the Stan Sheriff Center, where he led the Buffanblu to three straight state volleyball titles.

“;It was pretty unreal to play back at home,”; said McKibbin, who inherited the starting setting job this season and is already a team captain. “;It was perfect timing because a lot of my friends were home for Christmas, so a lot of people got to see me play.”;

McKibbin and teammate Tri Bourne (Academy of the Pacific '07) are two of a huge sophomore class recruited by coach Bill Ferguson who are turning the program around.

Ferguson took over a team in 2007 that had gone 36-111 in the previous five seasons. USC has yet to have a winning season since 2001, but its 13 wins last year were the most since that same '01 season.

“;Last year we had a bunch of seniors that were starting for four years,”; Bourne said. “;With our recruiting class we got in the last couple of years, we have better attitudes, we're physically stronger, have been playing volleyball longer, and I think we have a real good chance to do well.”;

Ferguson made just as much known in his opening statement to kick off the '09 season, saying “;We're ready to be relevant again on the national scene.”;

The Trojans showed that by sweeping No. 13 Hawaii and taking care of No. 10 Ohio State in four on back-to-back nights. Against top-ranked Penn State, USC committed 25 service errors and hit .188, but still managed to force a fifth set before losing.

“;What was encouraging was we made many mistakes that we usually don't make and we still took it to five,”; McKibbin said. “;If we eliminate those unforced mistakes, we could be pretty good.”;

McKibbin was recruited heavily coming out of Hawaii, but his family roots at USC run deep. His uncle, Owen, lettered four times and finished second in the NCAA tournament his junior and senior seasons. His aunt, Claudia, also played volleyball at USC, winning a national title in 1980.

With Manhattan Beach, a hot spot for beach volleyball, just a short drive away and the all-around package USC provides, the choice to become a Trojan was an easy one to make.

“;You get the whole package here,”; McKibbin said. “;The facilities are unreal, the football experience is amazing, and the academics are real good, too.

“;Everything just kind of fit here. You don't realize how good you have it here until you get here.”;

The choice was just as easy for Bourne, who never imagined he'd play volleyball at the collegiate level.

He went to high school at Academy of the Pacific, but played for Maryknoll since AOP doesn't have a team.

USC wasn't on his radar until a scout visited the islands to watch McKibbin play. McKibbin told a coach about Bourne, and they went to see Maryknoll play 'Iolani.

“;I ended up having a really good game and we beat 'Iolani,”; Bourne said. “;A couple of weeks later, they started to recruit me pretty heavily and once they said they'd help me financially, I couldn't pass it up.”;

Bourne appeared in 16 matches last season with 59 kills and is expected to compete at the outside-hitter spot this season.

McKibbin is firmly entrenched in the starting setter role and will be the catalyst for the Trojans as they try to put together their best season since they last finished first in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation in 2000.

“;We definitely have a lot to work on, but we have the personnel now,”; McKibbin said. “;We just have to develop and tighten up all the loose ends and fine-tune everything.”;

USC opens MPSF play next Friday at Stanford.