I saw that the Ballroom doors were opened now, so I walked inside, put my stuff down on two front row seats and saw him. Friend Chimezie Metu (8/28/2015) was sitting on a back row seat. I immediately walked over to him, waited for two ladies to say hello and then smiled. I asked him if I could take a picture of him, and if he would sign some trading cards for my four grandsons. Chimezie did both! As he was signing the cards, I asked Chimezie what he is doing this summer. He said that he is going to take a Spanish class. A true student athlete! FIGHT ON, Chimezie!
As I walked to the back doors, a lady said that she sees me everywhere. If that is so, then I see her everywhere! Linda Ward, President of the Trojan Club of the Desert, told me that she came to Newport Beach to check out the event, since the Coaches Tour will come to her Trojan Club in Indian Wells next week. Linda's friend, Donna Noguchi, posed with her. Trojan Candy found out that both ladies are retired teachers, just like me!
As I walked out the Ballroom entry doors, Trojan Candy saw a very good friend. You can't miss him! He was talking to two men. As soon as he saw me, he turned, smiled down at me and said, "Hi, Miss Candy." Zach Banner (10/11/3012) has always called me that, from the day I met him. Zach told me that he stayed at USC to complete his eligibility because of Coach Clay Helton. I'm glad you stayed, Zach! I asked him what he is doing this summer. Zach said that he is working in Culver City for the third straight summer for Fox Sports West. He is working towards his Masters in Communication Management. Another true student athlete! FIGHT ON, Zach!
Seated behind our front row seats, Trojan Candy saw another familiar face. Don Wolter, a former President of the Long Beach Trojan Club, introduced me to his two friends, Michael and Harold Wellington.
Now it was almost time for the program to begin.
Zach told the audience that this season he will be playing for his fifth Offensive Line Coach. He said that he decided to stay because of Coach Clay Helton. Zach said that he just graduated last May with a degree in Communication Broadcasting. He will be a "Michael Strahan" eventually!
Next, Chimezie told everyone that he has gained fifteen pounds in the off season and that, hopefully, it is all muscle. He said that he wants to improve in his weaknesses. Next season, Chimezie said that it will take a "team effort."
Coach Andy Enfield took the stage next. He told us that he came so late because he played in a charity golf tournament. Coach Enfield spoke a little about our upcoming basketball schedule. He said that if our new Freshman come along, we'll be better than last year. That sounds great! Another fact that he told the audience was that the GPA average for all of the USC athletes is 2.9. That is the best by far in USC history. Outstanding!
Coach Clay Helton took the stage next. He spoke about his Assistant Coaches first. Coach Helton told us that Clancy Pendergast told him that USC is the only school that he would leave the NFL for. As for the football team, Coach Helton said that we want talent and physicality and we want to be the best and play the best. After all, we live in a "playoff world." Ending, Coach Helton said, "I'm a servant to the players, to you, and to the university." Coach Helton never stood still on the stage. It was very difficult to take a good picture of him. So, as soon as he finished, I followed him to the back of the ballroom and took this picture.
FIGHT ON, USC Basketball!
FIGHT ON, USC Football!
My sister Patti, brother-in-law Dudley Poon and I walked into the University Club where the Men's Volleyball Team Banquet was held. We found our table, and then Patti and I walked among the members of the Volleyball Team. Patti brought her past season tickets which had pictures of the players featured on them. She passed them out to the corresponding players to give to their parents.
Trojan Candy wanted to interview all of the Volleyball Seniors. I spotted Alex Slaught, but he was engrossed in conversation with other guests. I calmly waited for a few minutes. He didn't notice me because I am so short. When there was a break in the conversation, I reached up and tapped Alex on his shoulder. He turned, looked down and saw me. Not being shy, I asked if I could take his picture and interview him. Alex was obliging. He said that he majored in Policy, Planning and Development. In addition to playing Pairs Volleyball, Alex likes to play any outdoor sport. He even water skis! His favorite food is his mom's chicken and enchiladas. Alex's favorite movie is "Gladiator," and his favorite television show is "South Park." As for music, Alex doesn't like country music, but he loves Classic Rock and Reggae. His favorite music artists are the Rolling Stones and Jimi Hendrix. Alex told me that his dad, who played volleyball at Loyola Marymount, built a beach volleyball court in their backyard. No wonder Alex is such an outstanding volleyball player! FIGHT ON, Alex!
After Trojan Candy finished Alex's interview, I asked him to walk over to where his grandparents were sitting. I know his paternal grandmother Claire Slaught. She just joined the Trojan Guild of Los Angeles, of which I am the official photographer; so I have taken several pictures of Claire already and knew that her grandson played volleyball at USC. Alex posed for this picture with his grandfather Norman Slaught, his grandmother Claire and his maternal grandmother Bertha Hernandez. What a lovely family!
Next, I saw two players sitting at the table next to mine. I have taken other pictures of them at Women of Troy volleyball and beach volleyball games. For some reason, Trojan Candy thought they were both Seniors. So I asked them if I could interview them. Chris Orenic and Vinnie Rios said that I could.
Since Vinnie was sitting closer to me, I started with him. Vinnie is majoring in Human Biology and Global Medicine. He is earning a "Progressive Degree" and eventually wants to go to Medical School and have an internship in Orthopedic Surgery. Vinnie's older sister played on a "club" volleyball team, so that is how Vinnie started playing volleyball when he was ten years old. His favorite movie is "Interstellar," and his favorite television show is "Scooby Do." Since Vinnie commutes from Torrance every day, he likes to listen to any "top hits" on the radio. Vinnie's hobbies include being active, rock climbing and playing tennis. His favorite meal is mashed potatoes, asparagus and a good steak. Sounds delicious....but we're not having that for our banquet this afternoon! FIGHT ON, Vinnie!
I was going to interview Chris Orenic next, but Coach Nygaard started calling tables to go outside and get our food. Trojan Candy will get you next time, Chris. Thank goodness that you will play next year!
After lunch, Head Coach Jeff Nygaard came to the podium. He said that this team created a team culture of hard work and a competitive mind set. Our team never quit and they played for the Seniors.
Then Coach Nygaard presented three awards.
Congratulations to the three awardees!
Four underclassmen team members introduced each Senior. Christopher Orenic introduced Josh Kirchner, and Michael Mullahey introduced Tommy Leonard. Josh and Tommy, from Wisconson and Illinois respectively, thanked their "adopted California parents" for taking care of them here.
Andy Benesh introduced Alex Slaught. Alex teased to his teammates, "I'll miss spending time in the locker room and my place, even though I didn't invite you."
Connor Inlow introduced the last Senior Brooks Varni. Brooks thanked the new coaches and told the team, "I love you guys!"
Trojan Candy rushed inside to interview as many Seniors that I could. I found Tommy Leonard first. Tommy majored in Business Administration. Tommy said that in the 7th grade he was cut from the volleyball team, but that he came back...to play at USC. At USC, he was a member of Lambda Chi Alpha. His hobby is to hang around with friends. More personally, Tommy's favorite movie is "The Shooter." He likes country music the best, and his favorite food is pizza. Tommy will return home to Illinois to work at 3 Q Digital. Thanks for never giving up and FIGHT ON, Tommy!
Trojan Candy was on a roll now. I found another Senior to interview. Brooks Varni was standing right next to me. Brooks majored in Communication. He, like Vinnie, had an older sister who played volleyball. Brooks started playing on a club team when he was ten years old. Brooks has many hobbies. He likes to watch sports (like yours truly) and play basketball, baseball, and Dominoes, especially with Lucas Yoder. As for music, Brooks likes classic rock and any Tom Petty songs. His favorite movie is "Scent of a Woman." Brooks must have been especially happy today with our lunch menu for the banquet. His favorite food is tacos, rice and beans! FIGHT ON, Brooks!
By now, guests and players were leaving the University Club. I took two more pictures of players.
Trojan Candy really wanted to interview Jon, Andy and Lucas. When I asked if I could interview the three of them, they all said,"Yes" and they all waited patiently as I interviewed them one after another!
Jon Rivera was closest to me, so I started with him. Jon, who is from San Juan, Puerto Rico, will be a Junior next season. He is majoring in Web Development, Computer Programming and Economics. He has a website set up already. It is www.ELCTRNCA.com. More personally, Jon's favorite food is pizza. His favorite movie is "Pulp Fiction." Jon likes electronic music and house music. So glad that you liked Los Angeles on your recruiting trip and chose USC! FIGHT ON, Jon!
Next, I finally got to interview Andy Benesh. I took Andy's picture at last year's volleyball banquet, but I was so busy interviewing the Seniors, I didn't have time to interview Andy. I want to apologize to Senior Josh Kirchner. I couldn't find you before you left. Now, about Andy. Andy told me that his best friend since preschool is Matt Lopes. Matt and Andy played in many sports camps together. Andy said that he was "brain-washed" by Matt to be a Trojan! Way to go, Matt! For hobbies, Andy likes to play video games. His favorite is "Call of Duty." Andy's favorite food is bacon and pineapple pizza. As for music, he likes classic rock the best. His favorite movie is "Step Brothers" starring Trojan Will Ferrell. With a big smile, Andy told me that he likes Rick and Morty cartoons on television. This summer Andy will be interning with AFLAC. Yes, Andy says that he likes the duck! Have a great summer and FIGHT ON, Andy!
My last player, who waited for me to finish with Jon and Andy, was Lucas Yoder. It was so nice to meet his mom Karen. Lucas, like Andy, will be a Senior next year. He is majoring in Real Estate Development. Lucas started playing volleyball in the back yard on a grass court with his cousins and family when he was 8 or 9. Then he liked to shag balls at the beach but started playing indoor volleyball when he got to high school. Lucas has other hobbies also. He likes to play beach volleyball (too bad that USC doesn't have a Men's Beach Volleyball Team!) and surf. Lucas said that he would be very happy to just live on the beach! His favorite foods are Mexican and Italian food. Lucas must have enjoyed today's lunch. The television show "South Park" is his favorite show. Teammate Alex Slaught also likes "South Park." Lucas likes House Electronic and RAP music the most. He confessed to me that he likes to dance! FIGHT ON, Lucas!
Karen Yoder insisted that I take one of the table flower arrangements. Thank you!
As usual, Trojan Candy was one of the last guests to leave.
What a nice banquet!
FIGHT ON, Men's Volleyball!