No. 8 USC Men Host ITA Kick-Off Weekend At Marks Stadium

    Jan. 25, 2017

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    The No. 8 Trojans set up camp at Marks Stadium again this weekend, tabbed as of 16 host sites for ITA Kick-Off Weekend. This is the ninth consecutive year of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend, and the Trojans have been winners at every edition of the event since it began in 2009. Coming to Troy for this weekend’s competition are East Tennessee State, San Diego and Virginia Tech. Action begins on Saturday (Jan. 28) with the opening match starting at 10 a.m. between San Diego (1-0) and Virginia Tech (0-0). At 1 p.m., No. 8 USC (3-0) will square off against  Virginia Tech (0-2). Competition on Sunday (Jan. 29) includes two more matches. At 10 a.m., Saturday’s losing teams will play each other in a consolation match. And at 1 p.m., Saturday’s winners will play in the championship match to fight for a ticket to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, which come up next month in Virginia.

    For the 10th straight season, the USC men’s tennis team kicked off the new year ranked in the nation’s top-10 of the Oracle/ITA rankings. The Trojans opened 2017 ranked No. 10 in the nation. As of the latest set of national team rankings (Jan. 25), USC has moved up to No. 8 in the land. The first individual rankings of 2017 (released Jan. 4) saw four Trojans ranked in singles and two ranked doubles teams. In that latest round of rankings, freshman Brandon Holt topped the list for the Trojans as he opens his USC career ranked No. 20 in the nation in singles. Sophomore Logan Smith now holds his highest career rank, slotted at No. 28 in singles. Senior Nick Crystal weighs in at No. 88, and junior Thibault Forget ranks No. 114 to kick off the new year. In doubles, USC has Forget and Logan Smith listed as the No. 35 doubles pair in the nation, with senior Rob Bellamy also paired with Smith at No. 49.

    The Bucs are 0-2 overall after falling to Wake Forest 6-1 and to Alabama 4-2 last week. ETSU has two players ranked nationally in singles: #43 David Biosca and #65 Diego Nunez. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and East Tennessee State.

    The Toreros are 1-0 overall after opening the year with a 6-1 win over Utah State. USD has no players ranked in singles or doubles. USC is 37-3 all-time against the Toreros with wins in the past 12 meetings. USC’s last loss to USD was a 4-3 defeat in 2006. The teams last faced off in 2015, with USC picking up a 5-2 at USD.

    This week will be the first dual-match action of the year for the Hokies. Virginia Tech has no players ranked in singles or doubles. USC is 1-0 all-time against the Hokies after picking up a 7-0 win when the teams first met in 2012 in Los Angeles.

    USC’s first dual-match action of 2017 saw the Trojans collect three wins at Marks Stadium last week. The Trojans set the scene for its 2017 campaign in opening the year with a 6-1 win over visiting UC Santa Cruz in a matchup on Monday. USC rattled off the doubles point first and then peeled out to victory in claiming five straight-set singles matches, with the clincher coming from freshman Riley Smith on court three. That weekend,the Trojans locked up two more wins in a well-rounded performance by the Trojans in a doubleheader at Marks Stadium. USC kicked off the day’s action with a 7-0 sweep of UC Riverside, with the clincher notched by Jens Sweaney in that one. A couple hours later, the Trojans took on UC Irvine and posted a 6-1 win, claiming the first six points of the match and seeing Jack Jaede tally the clinching victory during that run. 

    As dual match play unfolds, there are four Trojans who have already broken into the 10-win club on the singles scene this season. Freshman Brandon Holt leads the way with 19 wins to his name to date. Senior Rob Bellamy and junior Thibault Forget have each collected 15 singles wins so far, with junior Henry Ji now holding 11 while Logan Smith is freshly inked in the 10-win zone with 10 wins. In doubles, USC’s winningest pair is currently the talented freshman duo of Brandon Holt and Riley Smith with nine wins together to date.

    Brandon Holt was the star of the fall for the Trojans, posting a 17-3 record out of the gates while snagging the consolation title at the ITA All-American to earn a place at ITA National Indoors in New York, and while also winning the Southern California Intercollegiate crown. Logan Smith’s highlight for the fall was a run to the ITA Southwest Regional singles semifinals, while accumulating a 9-6 singles mark. Nick Crystal, meanwhile, had faced Holt in that Southern California Intercollegiate semi, and also competed at the ITA Oracle and ITA All-American events en route to a 6-5 fall singles record. Thibault Forget racked up 11 wins in the fall, going 11-4 while reaching the ITA Southwest Regional singles title match along the way. 

    The Trojans are on the cusp of the 2017 spring season, where they will be looking to open up another path to the NCAA Tournament. With five national championships claimed in the last eight years, Peter Smith’s Trojans are poised for another successful campaign. Coming off a 2016 journey to the NCAA Round of 16, the 2017 Trojans look to improve on that 17-7 record from last season. With the loss of just one senior from that team, USC has a powerful arrangement of young and experienced talent this year. The 2017 Oracle/ITA singles rankings are a reflection of that balance, as USC has a freshman (Brandon Holt), sophomore (Logan Smith), junior (Thibault Forget) and senior (Nick Crystal) nationally ranked to open 2017. •