No. 8 USC Men Head Northward For Pac-12 Openers|
March 22, 2016
The No. 8 Trojans hit the road for their first Pac-12 matches of the season this week. USC (10-3, 0-0 Pac-12) will first head to Seattle to take on No. 39 Washington (13-4, 0-0) in a 5 p.m. matchup on Friday (March 25). Then, USC goes to Eugene, Ore., to face No. 26 Oregon (13-1, 0-0) at 12 p.m. on Sunday (March 27).
ORACLE/ITA RANKINGS UPDATES
The Trojans started off the spring as the No. 8 team in the land in the first team rankings of 2016. After a brief stint at the No. 6 spot, USC is currently tabbed at No. 8 in the most recent round of ITA national rankings (March 22). The USC men — with Peter Smith at the helm — have a solid set of newcomers helping to drive the Trojans into 2016. NCAA Quarterfinalists last season, the 2016 Trojans have five players standing out in the latest set of individual rankings (March 22). Senior Max de Vroome is at the helm, ranked #25 in the land to boast his highest career singles ranking. He’s just ahead of #55 junior Nick Crystal and #58 freshman Logan Smith, while freshman Jake DeVine now ranks #109 in singles. USC also has one doubles in the latest rankings. Crystal and freshman Laurens Verboven now sit at #38 in the nation.
The No. 39 Huskies are 13-4 overall after a victorious doubleheader against Eastern Washington. Washington has #84 Mitch Stewart nationally ranked in singles. The Huskies have no doubles teams in the rankings. USC is 27-4 all-time against the Huskies after the Trojans posted a 6-1 win in Los Angeles in the teams’ Pac-12 meeting last year.
The No. 26 Ducks enter the week 13-1 overall after beating Fresno State 7-0 in their last action. Oregon will face Drake and UCLA before taking on the Trojans in Eugene. Oregon has #94 Daan Maasland nationally ranked in singles. In doubles, the Ducks have #20 Amos/Soemarno in the rankings. USC is 21-0 all-time against the Ducks after the Trojans posted a 6-1 win in Los Angeles in the teams’ Pac-12 meeting last year.
USC had a powerful winning weekend out in Indian Wells in pinning up 4-1 wins over No. 15 Oklahoma and No. 21 Baylor at the BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Challenge presented by Oracle. In a rematch of the 2014 NCAA Championship match — which the Trojans won to claim USC’s 100th NCAA team title — the Sooners were able to make the first move with a win on court one in doubles play, but the Trojans stepped up to the challenge. On court two, USC’s senior-freshman tandem of #80 Max de Vroome and Jake DeVine buckled down for a 7-5 win over Ghilea/Papa. Next, it was a young pairing of Trojans who sealed the deal. Freshman Jack Jaede and sophomore Tanner Smith shocked their Sooner opponents Biro/Mora by staying the course and finishing off a 7-5 win of their own to make it a 1-0 USC advantage. In singles the streaking sophomore #91 Thibault Forget would capture his ninth consecutive singles win with an authoritative 6-2, 6-1 win over #92 Max Mora on court five. At the No. 2 spot, #35 Nick Crystal had a straight-set victory of his own lying in wait, as the junior dished out a 6-3, 7-5 win over Alex Ghilea to make it a 3-0 USC advantage. Oklahoma would tack its first point on the board next and cut the USC lead down to 3-1 when Andre Biro made a comeback to beat USC freshman Laurens Verboten 1-6, 6-0, 6-3 on court six. His fellow freshman #113 Jake DeVine was there to patch things up with a comeback finish from court three. DeVine whipped up a 2-6, 6-4, 6-4 clincher over Spencer Papa to secure the Trojan victory at 4-1. That left the remaining singles matches suspended in three-setters. The very next morning, USC’s doubles winners from the Oklahoma match weren’t able to pull off victories in the opening stretch against Baylor, although USC’s #74 pairing of Crystal and Verboven turned the tide and whipped up a solid upset of #12 Lenz/Little for a bright spot in the doubles realm. Their 7-5 victory was the lone win, as the Bears emerged with the 1-0 lead on doubles wins at the No. 2 and No. 3 spots. In singles, USC’s #91 Forget stayed the course and strung up his 10th consecutive singles win with a swift 6-1, 6-1 decision over Baylor’s Jimmy Bendeck to pull the Trojans even with the Bears at 1-1. Senior de Vroome would step up next. The #32 Trojan had an impressive upset win in the books with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Baylor’s #17 Julian Lenz on court one, lifting USC into the lead with a 2-1 advantage. Then, it was freshman DeVine who tugged the Trojans within reach of victory as he dispatched Felipe Rios with a decisive 6-1, 6-3 win on court three. That set up his fellow freshman #40 Logan Smith for the heroics on the day. Smith hit the finish line against Will Little with a 6-3, 6-2 win for the clincher, beating out teammate Laurens Verboven on court six. Verboven was a game away from victory when Smith landed the winner to wrap the match as a 4-1 Trojan win. For his streaking singles work, sophomore Thibault Forget was tabbed as the Pac-12 Player of the Week for the first time in his Trojan career on March 21.
ITA NATIONAL TEAM INDOOR RECAP
Then ranked No. 6 in the nation, the Trojans were seeded No. 4 in the 2016 ITA National Team Indoor Championships draw in Charlottesville, Va., lining up against No. 13-ranked South Florida in the opening Round of 16. After the Bulls claimed the doubles point and then worked ahead 2-0, USC got a spark with a big upset win from Max de Vroome over USF’s #26 Dominic Cotrone. Freshman Logan Smith would level the match with another straight-set win from court four. USC’s young talent pulled through once more after the Trojans got behind 3-2. Freshman Jake DeVine ground out a 7-5, 7-6 win at the No. 3 spot to set up sophomore Thibault Forget for a three-set clincher on a 7-6, 1-2, 6-2 Trojan victory that pushed USC to a 4-3 win and on to the quarterfinals. There, the Trojans would tangle with the No. 2 team in the nation, TCU. USC got a leg up in that one in winning the doubles point, but the Horned Frogs fired back in singles. Once again, the decision would come down to the last match going. This time, it was on court two where de Vroome was entrenched in a three-setter against TCU’s #122 Alex Rybakov. That one would go to a third-set tiebreaker, and Rybakov was able to dig in and claim the win for the Horned Frogs on a 6-7, 7-5, 7-6 (3) victory over de Vroome. That put the Trojans in a consolation matchup against No. 10 Wake Forest. The Demon Deacons were ready for USC, snagging the double point and the firing off three singles wins to leave the Trojans with a 4-0 shutout loss and with back-to-back defeats for the first time since 2013.
BY THE NUMBERS
To date, there are four Trojans who have broken into the 20-win club on the singles scene this season. Riding a 10-match singles win streak, sophomore Thibault Forget leads the way with 23 wins to his name to date. Senior Max de Vroome and freshman Logan Smith have each collected 22 singles wins so far, with freshman Jake DeVine freshly inked in the 20-win zone with 21 wins. In doubles, USC’s winningest pair is currently Nick Crystal and Laurens Verboven with nine wins together. Meanwhile, the senior-freshman combo of de Vroome and Jack Jaede has claimed seven doubles wins as a team to date. In all, USC has utilized nine different doubles pairings during dual-match play to date.
THE MAX FACTOR
Senior Max de Vroome nabbed his second career selection as Pac-12 Player of the Week on March 14 after securing the first win of the day in doubles and then clinching the Trojans’ road win in singles, beating host #26 Tulsa in a shutout. In the tangle at Tulsa, de Vroome combined forces with freshman Jake DeVine in doubles and hammered out a 6-2 win from court two to help USC along to the doubles point. The #32 de Vroome showed no fear against Tulsa’s top gun #39 Or Ram-Harel on court one, grabbing the first set in a tiebreaker and then staying the course to a 7-6, 6-1 win that clinched the victory for the Trojans. Now ranked #25 in the nation in singles, de Vroome holds the highest singles ranking of his Trojan career.
CRYSTAL SHINES AS PAC-12 PICK
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.
THE NEW CLASS
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 Jaede, Logan 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.
MARKS STADIUM UPGRADE
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 moves back into a revamped and renovated home that is up-to-date and in line with the impressive accomplishments of both programs. The courts were open for action throughout construction, and a ribbon-cutting and dedication for the new facility was held on Feb. 16 to 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 welcomes 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 supports direct collaboration between coaches, staff and athletes on a daily basis. The teams also utilize and enjoy brand-new suites with lockers, showers, team meeting rooms and lounges. Both teams 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 have been added and a new elevator to the seating area has been 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. •