No. 6 USC Men Take Aim At ITA National Team Indoor Action

    Nick Crystal earned a spot on the All-Tournament Team at last year's ITA National Indoor Championships.
    Feb. 10, 2016

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    The No. 6 Trojans are off to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships once again and are looking to make another deep run at this year’s event, which is being held in Charlottesville, Va. USC has reached the past four title matches at the competitive tournament, and this year the Trojans are seeded No. 4 in the 16-team draw. USC (5-0) will open up against No. 13-seeded South Florida in the Round of 16 at 3:30 p.m. ET on Friday (Feb. 12).  A win that day would advance the Trojans into the quarterfinals against either No. 5 seed TCU or No. 11 seed Illinois the following day (Feb. 13). Semifinals will be held on Sunday (Feb. 14) and the championship match is set for Monday (Feb. 15) — all at Virginia’s Boar’s Head Sports Club in Charlottesville.
    The Trojans started off the spring as the No. 8 team in the land in the first team rankings of 2016. This week, USC has moved up to stand at No. 6 in the latest round of national rankings (Feb. 3). The USC men — with Peter Smith at the helm — also have a solid set of newcomers helping to drive the Trojans into 2016. NCAA Quarterfinalists last season, the 2016 Trojans have four players standing out in the latest set of individual rankings (Feb. 10). Junior Nick Crystal leads them all with a career-best singles ranking of #33. USC’s veteran talent is balanced out with two freshmen also on the list. Freshman Logan Smith is USC’s second-highest ranked player at #43 in the land, and fellow freshman Jake DeVine has secured a spot at #104. The USC men do not have any ranked doubles pairs to start out 2016.
    The No. 13 Bulls are 3-1 overall after beating Minnesota 7-0 and losing to Texas A&M 4-3 last week. USF has two players nationally ranked in singles: #7 Roberto Cid and #26 Dominic Cotrone. In doubles, USF has #40 Cotrone/Roberts. This will be the first-ever meeting between USC and South Florida.
    The 2016 ITA National Team Indoor Championships boasts a field of the top-16 ranked teams in the nation. Defending champion Ohio State enters as the No. 6 seeded team in the draw (and ranked No. 8 in the nation). Following top-seeded Virginia (No. 1) are No. 2 Texas A&M (3), No. 3 North Carolina (7), No. 4 USC (6) and No. 5 TCU (2). Following defending champ Ohio State’s sixth seed is No. 7 UCLA (9). The other eight teams include No. 8 seed Oklahoma (5), No. 9 Wake Forest (10), No. 10 Georgia (11), No. 11 Baylor (4), No. 12 Illinois (12), No. 13 South Florida (13), No. 14 Texas Tech (14), No. 15 Columbia (15) and No. 16 seed San Diego (16).
    Last year in Chicago, top-seeded USC worked its way through to the title match of the 2015 ITA National Team Indoor Championships for the fourth straight season. Opening up against No. 22 Penn State in their Round of 16 match, the Trojans swept through to a 4-0 win to advance. That pushed USC into a quarterfinal clash against Ohio State, which had beaten the Trojans in last year’s championship match. USC found revenge in this year’s matchup. The clincher came from top gun Yannick Hanfmann for the second straight match, with the senior’s win on court one wrapping up a 4-1 victory for the Trojans to advance. In the semis, USC tangled with No. 4 Georgia for the second time in two weeks, having silenced the Bulldogs in Athens to start the month. This time, Georgia was able to grab the doubles point, but the Trojans charged back with four singles wins, capped by the clincher from senior Roberto Quiroz for the 4-1 comeback. That earned the Trojans yet another championship rematch, pitting USC against Oklahoma for the first time since the Trojans beat the Sooners in last year’s NCAA Championship. This time, the Sooners took a 2-0 lead on the Trojans before senior Eric Johnson continued his winning ways with yet another singles victory to cut the margin down to 2-1. Oklahoma got ahead 3-1 next before Nick Crystal pulled off a three-set comeback win on court six to keep USC within reach, only to see the Sooners get the clincher with a three-setter on court five to ring up a 4-2 victory over the Trojans. After the close of the event, USC landed several Trojans on the ITA All-Tournament Team for their powerful efforts in Chicago. In singles, Hanfmann was named to the No. 1 spot, Eric Johnson picked up the No. 4 singles spot, and Crystal earned his place at No. 6. In doubles, Max de Vroome and Johnson were tabbed on the All-Tourney Team at No. 2 doubles.
    USC posted back-to-back 6-1 victories against Grand Canyon and LMU last weekend in a doubleheader at Marks Stadium. Against the Lopes in the morning match, USC’s David Laser and Logan Smith claimed the first win of the day as they triumphed 6-2 on court three. Shortly thereafter, Thibault Forget and Tanner Smith posted a 6-2 win to claim the doubles point, suspending the court one match for Nick Crystal and Laurens Verboven, who were leading 5-4. Singles play began and USC’s #41 Crystal was locked in on court one. He blasted through his match to claim a decisive win over his opponent Mitch Maroscher with a score of 6-2, 6-4. Not far behind was Forget on court four. Forget ran away with his match with a 6-3, 6-3 score over Grand Canyon’s Mathieu Rajaonah. As battles continued on the remaining courts, USC’s Jack Jaede would decide the match. On court five, Jaede’s 6-4, 6-4 victory over Meidy Chazeau clinched it for the Trojans. Although USC’s four points had already secured them the win, the rest of courts would continue to play out their matches. All of the matches were close and each court would have to compete in a 10-point tiebreaker to decide things. On court two,  #69 Logan Smith fought hard to nab his win for USC. After quickly defeating LMU’s Felix Schueller 6-2 in the first set, Smith fell 4-6 in the second. In the tiebreaker, Smith came out on top with a 10-8 win. On court three, USC’s Verboven lost his first set 3-6 to Alexander Roggenkamp, but came back to flip the score in the second set and win 6-3. Unfortunately, Verboven fell to Roggenkamp 10-8 in the third set tiebreaker to give the Lopes their only win of the day. USC’s Henry Ji would have the final word of the match. After collecting a close 7-6 (4) win in the first set, Adrian Legarreta sliced his way back to snag the second set 6-2. In the tiebreaker, Ji sprinted ahead to capture a 10-4 tiebreak win for Troy. After an hour-long break, it was game time once again as the Trojans took on Loyola Marymount. On court one, USC’s duo of de Vroome and Jaede hustled through their match to grab the first doubles win with a 6-2 score. Courts two and three were neck -and-neck and had almost identical scores throughout their respective matches. The Trojan pair of Laser and Tanner Smith closed out their match 6-4 on court three to nab the doubles point. Almost immediately after their win, USC’s Rob Bellamy and DeVine won their match 6-4. USC entered the singles portion of the match with a 1-0 advantage. USC’s Jaede took no prisoners on court six as he posted a decisive 6-0, 6-1 victory over LMU’s Alex Bourgeois. On court one,  #115 de Vroome wasted no time by blowing through his match with ease as he defeated LMU’s Cristobal Rivera 6-2, 6-2. The rest of the afternoon’s matches were hard-fought battles to three sets. After losing his first set to LMU’s Lukas Moenter, #69 Logan Smith battled back on court three to clinch the match for the Trojans with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 decision. Smith’s two singles wins today improved his winning streak to nine wins, currently the longest on the team. On court four, USC’s Verboven also fought back from a first-set deficit to beat LMU’s Luke Bohuslav 2-6, 6-3, 6-2. USC, now up 5-0 in the match, had two courts still in play. In true Trojan form, USC’s #83 DeVine also battled back to win his match after losing the first set. DeVine’s 5-7, 6-4, 6-4 comeback got USC a 6-0 advantage with one match remaining. USC’s Bellamy was entrenched in battle with his Lion opponent, Joat Farah, but fell short as Farah took the match 7-5, 6-7 (5), 1-0 (10-8).
    USC was able to get in just one of its two matches on the schedule for this year’s Pac-12/SEC Showdown. The Trojans posted a 4-3 win over No. 20 Florida in Westwood on Jan. 30 but had their next match against No. 6 Georgia cancelled due to rain. Against the Gators, USC sewed up the doubles point and had three young Trojans come through in the clutch in singles play to post a comeback win. The Trojans would snag the doubles point with wins at the No. 2 and 3 slots. The early winning momentum was sparked by Rob Bellamy and Jake DeVine’s quick 6-2 win over Perez-Blanco/Wardell on court three. At the No. 2 spot, USC’s senior-freshman combo pack of Max de Vroome and Jack Jaede whipped up a 7-5 upset of Florida’s #40 Lipman/Orkin to score the first point of the day in the Trojans’ column, suspending action on court one and bringing up singles play. USC kept chugging along in early singles action. At the No. 6 spot, sophomore Thibault Forget delivered a smooth 6-3, 6-0 win over Florida’s Jordan Belga to make it a 2-0 Trojan advantage. Freshman Logan Smith bumped his team farther ahead as USC took a 3-0 lead on #69 Smith’s 6-3, 6-1 win over #63 Chase Perez-Blanco. That’s when the Gators made the next move. On court one, #31 Diego Hidalgo managed a 6-4, 6-3 win over USC’s #115 de Vroome to notch a point on the board for Florida. Next, #49 Elliott Orkin topped USC’s #41 Nick Crystal on court two to carve USC’s advantage down to 3-2. The equalizer would come from court five. There, Florida’s Gordon Watson pulled off two tight sets against USC’s Jaede, posting a 7-6, 7-5 decision that leveled the match at 3-3. A similarly tense battle was raging on court three for the decider. USC freshman DeVine proved up to the challenge. After standing his ground in a first-set tiebreaker, #83 DeVine got the break he needed in the second to fend off Florida’s #91 Alfredo Perez for a 7-6 (6), 7-5 victory that clinched the win for the Trojans.
    USC junior Nick Crystal became the first Trojan to pick up Pac-12 Player of the Week honors this season with his selection on Jan. 25 after grabbing two big wins for the Trojans to help USC defend its home court for the eight straight year as host of the ITA Kick-Off Weekend. In the championship match against a tough Tulane team, Crystal gave USC its first lead of the match with his comeback push from court two. Crystal shook off a shutout in the first set to give his team a lift to a 3-2 advantage in an eventual 4-3 comeback win for the Trojans. The previous day, Crystal played on court one and served up an upset of UC Davis’ #38-ranked player with a quick and decisive 6-1, 6-0 decision in USC’s sweep of the Aggies.It’s Crystal’s second career selection as Pac-12 Men’s Tennis Player of the Week. He first won the award last season for his work in getting the Trojans to two victories at the 2015 ITA Kick-Off Weekend.
    USC head coach Peter Smith has added some bright young talent to the roster for 2016. There are four Trojan freshmen this season, and all four have already made an impact. Jake DeVine recently clinched a 4-3 comeback victory for USC in a win over No. 20 Florida. Fellow freshmen Jack JaedeLogan Smith and Laurens Verboven also have wasted no time stepping up for the Trojans, as all four freshmen factor into the USC lineup. DeVine and Smith both had such successful falls that the two earned places in the national singles rankings to start 2016. Logan clocked in at #69 to open the spring, and DeVine weighed in at #83.
    Max de Vroome is USC’s lone senior on the roster this season. He was the hero of the day when last won an NCAA championship in 2014, providing the match-clinching victory from his spot on court four that year. Now juniors, Rob Bellamy and Nick Crystal were both freshman at Troy that season. Both de Vroome and Crystal earned All-Pac-12 Honorable Mention last season. 
    The USC men’s and women’s tennis teams have called the David X. Marks Tennis Stadium home since its construction in 1971. This year, Trojan tennis will move back into a revamped and renovated home that is up-to-date and in line with the impressive accomplishments of both programs. The courts have been open for action throughout construction, and now the ribbon-cutting and dedication for the new facility is set for Feb. 16 at 2 p.m. That day, the Trojan Family will officially unveil the newest additions to the Marks Tennis Stadium -- the Buntmann Family Tennis Center, Fritz B. Burns Center Court, Lisa and Douglas Goldman Family Student-Athlete Learning Center and Michael Uytengsu Tennis Pavilion -- the happy home of the USC men’s and women’s tennis teams. The Buntmann Family Tennis Center entrance and lobby will welcome fans and visitors and put on display the rich history of USC tennis. To improve the building functionality and support the tennis program operations, the new Lisa and Douglas Goldman Family Student-Athlete Learning Studio will support direct collaboration between coaches, staff and athletes on a daily basis. The teams will be able to utilize and enjoy brand-new suites with lockers, showers, team meeting rooms and lounges. Both teams will have access to a new training room, a stringing storage area and a large multi-purpose room. To better accommodate and enhance the spectator experience, new spectator shade canopies will be added, a new elevator to the seating area will be installed. In addition to the lead gift from the Buntmann family, the renovation has been made possible thanks to financial support from the Lisa and Douglas Goldman family, the Fritz B. Burns Foundation, John Shea and Michael Uytengsu.
    The 2015 Trojans made their ninth consecutive appearance in the NCAA Quarterfinals and finished out the year with a 25-5 overall record. The Trojans won the 2015 Pac-12 Tournament championship to secure the automatic berth into the NCAA tourney. USC went 6-1 in Pac-12 play during the regular season to finish in a first-place tie. At the close of the year, USC had three Trojans earn ITA All-American status. Senior doubles tandem Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz were All-Americans in addition to picking up honors as the Pac-12 Doubles Team of the Year. Senior Jonny Wang also earned ITA All-American status in 2015. •