No. 1 Trojans Fall To Illinois, 3-1-1, In NCAA Match Play Quarterfinals|
May 30, 2017
No. 1 USC's 2016-17 season came to an emotional and abrupt end as the six-seeded Trojans fell to third-seed Illinois, 3-1-1, in the NCAA Championships quarterfinals on Tuesday (May 30) at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
USC, in its third straight NCAA match play bracket and among just seven schools with at least four appearances in NCAA match play, is still without a national crown despite a great run this season.
The Trojans, with five tournament wins this season, led three matches at the turn today but the Illini came back on the front side and edged ahead on three matches over the final holes.
USC was still alive as senior Rico Hoey lined up a par putt on 18 to extend his and the Trojans' season, but his four-footer pushed right and he fell to Illinois' Nick Hardy, 1down as the Illini clinched the match.
Senior Andrew Levitt fell 1down minutes earlier. He had led 2up at the turn, fell behind by a hole on 4 before evening the match on 7, but Illinois' Giovanni Tadiotto won 8 with a par and clinched it by halving 9.
Junior Sean Crocker was the first Trojan to fall, also losing 1down after halving 9. It appeared he had a par putt to extend the match but Illini Edoardo Lipparelli sank his 10-footer to win.
Trojan freshman Cheng Jin, who lost his 4-hole front 9 lead between the first and fourth holes, came back to win his match over Michael Feagles, 2&1, as Hoey's match ended.
Trojan sophomore Justin Suh, who had a 3up lead at the turn, was on 8, squared with Dylan Meyer, when Hoey fell.
USC's quarterfinal run and national tie for fifth gives it three top 10 finishes in a row for the first time since since five straight top 7 results between 1973-77. The Trojans were runners up in 2015 (including a semifinal win over Illinois by the same score as today) , a semifinalist in 2016.
The loss ends the careers for Hoey, Levitt as well as Crocker, who is turning pro. Hoey became USC's second four-time All-Pac-12 first teamer this year and his tie for sixth yesterday in stroke play made him the first Trojan with back-to-back top 10 NCAA finishes in more than 20 years.
Crocker ends his career among USC's greats as well, including possessing two of Troy's all-time best stroke average seasons, while Levitt finishes a career that started as a walk-on but flipped into a two-year starter at the NCAAs.