No. 4 USC Men Take Tough Round of 16 Loss To NCAA Host Georgia

    May 18, 2017

    ATHENS, GA. — Up against the tournament hosts and a hometown crowd, the No. 4 USC men’s tennis team was edged out 4-3 in the NCAA Round of 16 by No. 13 seeded Georgia for the second straight season. The loss ends a run of 12 straight wins by the Trojans on the courts of Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga., and leaves USC with a 27-6 overall record.

    It was an all-out battle between USC head coach Peter Smith’s Trojans and the host Bulldogs from the very start. Doubles was a tense affair, coming down to a tiebreaker on court one by USC’s freshman pairing of Brandon Holt and Riley Smith, who upset the nation’s top-ranked pair to clinch the opening point for USC. As singles play unfolded, it would be those same two freshmen stepping up to tally singles wins for the Trojan cause, although Georgia was able to answer back each time and then move ahead and win it all on a pair of three-setters on courts four and two.

     “It’s an incredible environment that was out there, it’s often playing in that environment you really actually feel like they’re cheering for you a lot of times,” Peter Smith said of the atmosphere at Dan Magill Tennis Complex today. "They got us in a couple third sets. They played great, and they were tough down the stretch, and they get to move on, and we don’t.

    “No matter what ever happens here, there are amazing memories here, and that will never be taken away. This is an amazing place. It should be here more often than not. If it’s not here every other year, every year. It’s a special place. This is our place. Hats off to UGA, Dan Magill, Manny Diaz, and Matt Brachowski for doing such a great job. It’s an amazing place. The town’s amazing. The atmosphere’s amazing. The history’s amazing.”

    The Trojans and the Bulldogs were tangled up tight in doubles in the opening stretch, on serve down the line until a break got USC’s Nick Crystal and Laurens Verboven a leg up on court two. But on court three the Bulldogs dug in and responded to Rob Bellamy and Jack Jaede’s move to a 4-3 lead by breaking the Trojans right back. One final break would secure the first win of the day for the host Bulldogs, as Duncan/Montgomery edged out ahead for a 6-4 win over USC’s Bellamy/Jaede to snap a 14-match win streak held by the Trojan duo. Righting the ship for USC was Crystal and Verboven on court two. That Trojan pair maneuvered out in front of UGA’s Ponwith/Reinberg and held its ground for a 6-3 win that put the deciding action on court one. There, USC’s #19-ranked freshmen Brandon Holt and Riley Smith were in an all-out battle with Georgia’s top-ranked Loeb/Zielinski, as each duo held serve throughout to bring up a tiebreaker. The freshmen showed no fear whatsoever in the clincher, moving out ahead 4-1 with Holt’s service and then snaking two more points as Georgia misfired from the service line. With Smith serving, the Trojans clinched it on a 7-1 breaker to plug a crucial first point on the board for the Trojans. 

    Singles action saw the Bulldogs lock even again early with the Trojans on Walker Duncan’s 6-4, 6-1 win over USC’s Thibault Forget on court five. Georgia claimed first sets on four courts, heaping pressure on the higher seeded Trojans. In an all-freshman matchup on court one, USC’s #19 Brandon Holt held strong against Georgia’s #56 Nathan Ponwith and nudged USC back ahead with a 6-4, 6-4 win at the top spot. Not long after, Georgia knotted it up again when #59 Emil Reinberg logged a 6-3, 6-3 win over USC’s #88 Logan Smith, and the heat was back on with the match snarled at 2-2. 

    After falling in their first sets, Nick Crystal and Riley Smith both were able to force a third set in their respective matches on courts two and six. With his feet back under him, the freshman Smith managed a clutch final break of Robert Loeb at the No. 6 spot, tallying a 3-2 lead for his Trojans with a heroic 3-6, 6-4, 7-5 comeback. In the other two three-setters, however, the Bulldogs had managed to create some space on their USC opponents. On court four, UGA’s Jan Zielinski had worked ahead of USC’s Jack Jaede 5-1 in the third. Jaede fought back with a hold and a break, but the Bulldog was able to close it out and claim victory with a 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-3 decision that pulled things even once more at 3-3. On court two, USC senior Nick Crystal had come through in the clutch for a second set tiebreaker to force a third, but UGA’s #33 Wayne Montgomery was able to makeup ground in the third. The Bulldogs would get the clincher on that court with Montgomery’s 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-2 win over Crystal to wrap up the 4-3 win for Georgia. 

    Now that team action is over, it’s time for two Trojans to turn to NCAA Individual competition. Brandon Holt will compete in the NCAA Singles draw, and will team back up with Riley Smith in the NCAA Doubles competition. Individual action begins in Athens on May 24.

    2017 NCAA TEAM CHAMPIONSHIPS (Dan Magill Tennis Complex | Athens, Ga.)

    ROUND OF 16
    [13] Georgia 4, [4] USC 3
    May 18, 2017 - Dan Magill Tennis Complex (Athens, Ga.)
    (1) #14 Holt/R. Smith (USC) def. #1 Loeb/Zielinski (UGA) - 7-6 (1) 
    (2) Crystal/Verboven (USC) def. Ponwith/Reinberg (UGA) - 6-3
    (3) Duncan/Montgomery (UGA) def. Bellamy/Jaede (USC) - 6-4
    USC wins doubles point.
    Order of finish: 3, 2, 1
    (1) #19 Brandon Holt (USC) def. #56 Nathan Ponwith (UGA) - 6-4 6-4
    (2) #33 Wayne Montgomery (UGA) def. Nick Crystal (USC) - 7-5, 6-7 (3), 6-2*
    (3) #59 Emil Reinberg (UGA) def. #88 Logan Smith (USC) - 6-2, 7-5
    (4) Jan Zielinski (UGA) def. Jack Jaede (USC) - 6-7 (5), 6-3, 6-3
    (5) Walker Duncan (UGA) def. Thibault Forget (USC) - 6-4, 6-1
    (6) Riley Smith (USC) def. Robert Loeb (UGA) - 3-6, 6-4, 7-5
    Order of finish:  5, 1, 3, 6, 4, 2*