Defending Champs Knocked Out Of NCAA Action With Loss To No. 2 Seed Baylor|
May 16, 2015
WACO, TEXAS -- The No. 7 seeded USC men's tennis team had a tough road in this year's NCAA Championship draw, coming up against No. 2 seeded host Baylor in the NCAA Quarterfinals today in Waco, Texas. On a windy day at the Hurd Tennis Center, the host Bears got wind in their sails in the late stages of the match to break a 2-2 lockup and forge a path to a 4-2 victory over the defending national champion Trojans. The loss wraps the year with USC holding a 25-5 overall record after making their ninth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Quarterfinals.
"I just really challenged them after doubles, because I didn't really feel that our efforts were worthy of quarterfinals," USC head coach Peter Smith said. "They really stepped up and played to the best of their ability in the singles and that's all I wanted.
"Baylor was just too good today. Some days that's sports and that's what makes sports so great. You don't win all the time and today we lost to a better team. We put ourselves in a position to extend the match and Baylor really came through when it counted."
The doubles point was a rager, with Baylor getting an early advantage on its home courts by going up a break on courts one and two. That leg up would prove crucial. While USC's Nick Crystal and Thibault Forget were right in stride with their Baylor opponents Rios/Schneider on court three, the Bears stayed just a step ahead on the other two courts. At the No. 1 spot, USC seniors Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz slipped behind a break and del back to trail Baylor's #8 Galeano/Lenz 7-3. The Trojans fended off match point to hold and cut it to 7-4, but the Bears pulled off the 8-4 decision with one last hold to give Baylor a boost. While Crystal/Forget were snarled up on court three, Baylor's Lupieri/Zsiga carried an early break through to the end. USC's Max de Vroome and Eric Johnson kicked back into gear, but couldn't break back as the Bears snagged an 8-5 victory to grab the 1-0 advantage in the match and send things on to singles play.
USC senior Eric Johnson -- who has been a member of the Trojans 2012 and 2014 NCAA Championship teams -- showed his NCAA savvy with a deft move to victory on court three. #85 Johnson whipped up a 6-3, 6-4 win over Baylor's Max Tchoutakian to pull the match even up at 1-1. On court five, though, junior Max de Vroome was unable to muster up the championship-clinching touch he displayed in last year's title match. The #94 de Vroome took an early break in each of his first sets against Baylor's #116 Mate Zsiga and stumbled in a 6-3, 6-3 decision that saw the host go back ahead 2-1.
That's when another USC senior shouldered the load to bring USC back level with the Bears. #25 Roberto Quiroz -- also a two-time NCAA team champ -- dug in his heels and stayed out ahead of Baylor's #35 Tony Lupieri for a 6-3, 6-3 victory that made it 2-2. That left the Trojans battling to force third sets on the remaining three courts. At the No. 1 spot, USC's #15 Yannick Hanfmann -- another member of two NCAA championship teams -- had staked a claim on the second set to force a third against Baylor's #2 Julian Lenz. Meanwhile, USC senior Jonny Wang and sophomore Nick Crystal, who both were playing in their first NCAA Quarterfinal match in the singles lineup, are pushing hard to extend their respective matches on courts four and six.
Both proved to be warriors. Wang fought hard to stay on serve against Baylor's Diego Galeano, and Crystal was in a similar rumble with Felipe Rios. Both Trojans would wind up in tiebreakers to decide the second set, needing to pull out the win in order to push on to a third set. With the home crowd in force, Crystal and Wang both fell behind in their breakers. Crystal trailed by three but found a day back. He'd face three match points, fighting back to within one, down 5-6, when Rios managed the winner to make it 3-2 Baylor on a 7-5, 7-6 (5) decision on court six. Wang's tiebreaker was even tougher. Galeano was able to build a hefty lead on #45 Wang, and wrapped up the clincher with a 6-3, 7-6 (0) decision that pushed the Bears on through to the NCAA Semifinals while putting a stop to the Trojans' team campaign. Hanfmann's match was suspended in a 5-7, 6-3, 1-1 snarl.
The Trojans will now divide and conquer when the NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships get underway, running May 20-25 in Waco, Texas. USc has Hanfmann, Quiroz and Wang locked into the singles draw, with Hanfmann and Quiroz teamed up in doubles play.
2015 NCAA CHAMPIONSHIPS (Hurd Tennis Center Waco, Texas)