Pac-12 Title Up For Grabs As No. 6 USC Men Visit No. 8 Rival UCLA

    April 18, 2017

    USC Men's Tennis Release Get Acrobat Reader

    THIS WEEK
    The No. 6 Trojans (22-4, 5-1 Pac-12) can snag a share of the Pac-12 regular season championship this week if they can beat crosstown rival UCLA (16-4, 5-0) on the Bruins’ home courts. This 2017 rubber match also will determine the top seed in the coming conference tournament, and it all goes down at 3 p.m. on Friday (April 21) in Westwood.

    THE LAST MEETING
    UCLA1
    USC4
    March 9, 2017
    Marks Stadium
    No. 14 USC Men Stand Tall In 4-1 Win Over No. 13 Rival UCLA
    The No. 14 USC men's tennis team jumped out ahead of crosstown rival No. 13 UCLA and closed out a 4-1 win over the visiting Bruins with a gutsy clincher coming from sophomore Logan Smith on court three. Smith had trailed in his second set against Evan Zhu but hit the gas at the right time to claim a 6-4, 7-5 win that wrapped up the victory for the Trojans, snapping a three-match skid against the Bruins. In avenging a February loss to UCLA, the Trojans improve to 13-2 overall on the year.

    ORACLE/ITA RANKINGS UPDATES
    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 (April 18), USC sits at No. 6 in the land after spending previous weeks at No. 8, 9, 12, 10, 14, 7 and 5. The latest individual rankings of 2017 (released April 18) has two Trojans ranked in singles and two ranked doubles teams. In this latest round of rankings, freshman Brandon Holt remains at the top of the list for the Trojans as he sits at No. 22 in the nation in singles. Sophomore Logan Smith is next in line, now slotted at No. 79 in singles. In doubles, USC’s freshman duo of Holt and Riley Smith has their highest rank to date, now at No. 10 in the nation. Senior Nick Crystal and sophomore Laurens Verboven weigh in this week at No. 85 in the land.

    SCOUTING UCLA
    The No. 8 Bruins start the week at 16-4 overall and 5-0 in Pac-12 play with a nonconference match set for this Wednesday against Cal Lutheran before Friday’s crosstown showdown against USC. Last week, UCLA beat Utah 4-2 and Arizona 4-0. UCLA has two players nationally ranked in singles: #21 Gage Brymer and #57 Martin Redlicki. In doubles, UCLA has #12 Redlicki/Zhu in the national rankings. USC is 94-108 all-time against the Bruins in a series that dates back to 1927. USC and UCLA have split in nonconference meetings this year, with the Bruins claiming a 4-3 win in the ITA National Team Indoors Round of 16 in February before the Trojans notched a 4-1 win over UCLA in a March matchup at Marks Stadium. Last season, UCLA beat USC 5-2 in nonconference play and also won 4-2 in the Pac-12 clash at USC.

    SWEET 600
    USC head coach Peter Smith notched his 600th career win as a head coach on March 31. Eager to lock in the historic victory, two Trojans punched up wins almost simultaneously to top off the match as a 5-0 finish over No. 23 Oregon at Marks Stadium. In the photo finish, it was sophomore Jack Jaede who clinched it from court four just a half-second before Thibault Forget won his match at the No. 5 spot. Already with five NCAA Championships claimed at the helm of the USC program, Smith’s 600th career win puts another indelible mark next to his name in the history books of collegiate tennis. Now in his 15th season at USC, Smith has matched the total time he spent at the helm of the Long Beach State, Fresno State and Pepperdine programs combined. With USC’s 22-4 overall record in 2017, Smith’s total career record now stands at 604-221, while the Trojans boast their 10th 20-win season in the past 11 years.

    LAST WEEK
    USC cleaned up with two more home wins last week, making it a perfect 15-0 mark at Marks Stadium so far in 2017. Against Arizona in a televised contest, USC poured out a stream of decisive wins to tack up a 4-0 sweep on a clincher from Riley Smith, whose win marked his 12th straight in singles play. Smith had a hand in USC’s first win of the day as well, as he and fellow freshman Brandon Holt — ranked #11 in the land as a doubles duo — paired up for a swift 6-2 win on court one in doubles. That takedown was followed by another doubles domination on court two by Trojans Nick Crystal and Laurens Verboven. The #76 Crystal/Verboven pinned up a 6-3 win at the No. spot, suspending action on court three with USC’s Jack Jaede and David Laser up 5-3. In singles play, Jaede — clincher of seven matches for the Trojans this season — hit the finish line first this time. The Aussie sophomore delivered a 6-1, 6-4 win to get USC a 2-0 advantage. Moments later, the scoreboard would show a 3-0 USC lead as #23 Holt surrendered only three games in a 6-2, 6-1 win on court one. USC had won first sets down the line, and while Arizona would snag a second set on court two, USC’s No. 5 and 6 slots were speeding toward the decider. Freshman Riley Smith closed the gap first, locking up the USC victory with his 6-4, 6-2 win and closing down the day’s action at Marks Stadium. The next day, the Trojans made their 2017 Senior Day a true team effort, with a clean sweep coming against Utah. All three USC seniors were in the lineup and were victorious. David Laser stepped into the doubles lineup alongside fellow senior Nick Crystal to secure the doubles point for their Trojans, while Crystal and Rob Bellamy also snagged singles wins to go along with their doubles successes on the day. All three courts were speeding toward the finish line in doubles with Trojans in control down the line, but it was the senior-anchored teams that collected the wins on Senior Day. On court two, senior Bellamy teamed up to great success once again with Jaede for the first win of the day on a 6-2 decision. In front of a raucous crowd on court three, all-senior tandem Crystal and Laser charged to a 6-3 finish, and the Trojans had that 1-0 lead locked on the board. Four Trojans clicked off fairly speedy first-set wins while two others stretched their opening sets into tiebreakers. By the time both Logan Smith and Jaede cleaned up their first sets, freshman Holt was solidly in stride on court one en route to drumming up the Trojans’ first singles win. #23 Holt won the first 10 games of his match and wound up registering a 6-0, 6-2 win to make it a 2-0 Trojan lead. At the No. 5 spot, Thibault Forget was similarly dominant, roaring to a 6-2, 6-1 win to take the Trojans to a 3-0 advantage. At that point, two USC seniors -- Crystal and Bellamy -- each had their eyes on the prize as they were in fast on the clinching point. Crystal clicked through with the decider with a 6-4, 6-2 win on court two to make it 4-0, and moments later Bellamy rounded out a 6-3, 6-4 win on court six to give USC a lift to 5-0. That left Smith and Jaede both looking in control of their respective matches on courts three and four after securing tiebreakers in their first sets. Jaede was the next Trojan to get a point on the board as he wrapped a 7-6 (1), 6-3 win, leaving Logan Smith to put the capper on the day’s action with his 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory.

    FRESHMAN FIRST
    It was going to be a season of firsts no matter what for Brandon Holt, who has stepped into a key role for the Trojans as a freshman. Rightly so, Holt was the first Trojan to be named Pac-12 Player of the Week after another winning week. USC leads the conference in all-time Pac-12 Player of the Week awards, having claimed its 49th on the men’s side with Holt’s selection on Feb. 27. In two tight 4-3 wins, Holt came through in the clutch with singles victories that gave USC a leg up in both matches. Against No. 33 Cal Poly, Holt and fellow freshman Riley Smith scored a win over #35 Donovan/Pang in doubles on court one. In singles, Holt tallied a straight-set victory over #57 Ben Donovan — again on court one — to push his Trojans out to a 23-2 lead in an eventual 4-3 victory over the visiting Mustangs. The next day against No. 35 Stanford, Holt was on his game once again. This time, the freshman took down Stanford’s #12-ranked Tom Fawcett with another decisive straight-set win, beating the Cardinal’s top gun 6-4, 6-2 to get a 2-1 lead for USC in a match that the Trojans would finally wrap as another 4-3 victory. Now ranked #23 in the nation in singles, Holt leads USC in singles and doubles wins this season. He’s currently 31-8 overall in singles and has paired with Riley Smith for a #11 national ranking in gathering a 22-5 record together to date.

    NO-FEAR FRESHMAN
    The USC men’s tennis team’s hottest hand right now belongs to freshman Riley Smith, who holds a 12-match singles win streak. Back on March 20, he rode a 10-match singles win streak to his first selection as Pac-12 Player of the Week. Smith collected four singles wins and four doubles victories during a stretch of five matches that week, including a perfect singles run at the BNP Paribas Collegiate Cup in Indian Wells. Smith’s selection as Pac-12 Player of the Week made him the second Trojan to win the award this season and brings the program its 50th all-time weekly honor from the conference on the men’s side — adding to the record count held by the Trojans. Smith’s winning week opened up with a hand in USC’s 7-0 sweep of Lehigh, as he and fellow freshman — and fellow Pac-12 Player of the Week honoree this year — Brandon Holt whipped up a 6-2 victory at the No. 1 doubles spot. Smith would not play singles in that one, but he’d step up as a crucial cog in the next four contests, winning all four of his singles matches to log either the first or second singles point in each match. In doubles, Smith and Holt took losses in the Texas Tech and Oklahoma matches, but came up with key wins against South Florida and Baylor to help the Trojans claim the doubles point. In singles, Smith continued his winning ways with a 6-1, 6-2 win over Jackson Cobb in USC’s 4-3 victory over Texas Tech at Marks Stadium. Out in Indian Wells, Smith captured a 6-0, 6-4 win over Pierre Luquet to anchor a 4-0 shutout of South Florida before snagging a 6-4, 6-3 win over Adrian Oetzbach in a 4-1 win over No. 9 Oklahoma. And in the championship match against No. 6 Baylor, Smith again reigned supreme on court six with a 7-5, 6-2 victory over Constantin Frantzen to lock up the freshman’s 10th consecutive singles win. Now with 11 straight singles wins, Smith is currently 21-6 overall in singles play while he and Holt hold a 21-5 record together in doubles play this season.

    BY THE NUMBERS
    As dual match play continues to roll along, freshman Brandon Holt still leads the pack in the win column, now boasting 31 singles victories to date. Behind him, five Trojans now have broken ground on the 20-win club to date. Junior Thibault Forget weighs in with 24 victories to his name, followed by Jack Jaede (22 wins), Logan Smith (21), Riley Smith (21) and Rob Bellamy (20). Bellamy joined the club on Senior Day, and it’s the first 20-win season for the Trojan in his career. When it comes to streaks, Jaede boasts the longest win streak of the season, having posted 13 straight wins from Jan. 15-March 14. But Riley Smith is challenging that count, as the freshman is currently on a 12-match streak dating back to Feb. 9. In doubles, USC’s winningest pair is currently the talented freshman duo of Brandon Holt and Riley Smith with 22 wins together to date. Right behind them in the win column is senior-sophomore combo pack of Nick Crystal and Laurens Verboven, who have claimed 20 wins.

    HOT SHOTS IN INDIAN WELLS
    In mid-March, the Trojans spent their Spring Break out in Indian Wells to take part in the BNP Paribas Open Collegiate Challenge. There, USC opened up in cruise control with a 4-0 win over No. 32 South Florida as the Trojans drummed up the doubles point and got singles wins from Brandon Holt, Riley Smith and then Logan Smith to clinch a quick victory. That put USC in the semifinals the next day against No. 9 Oklahoma, and again USC grabbed the doubles point. Riley Smith picked up the first singles win, but Oklahoma fired back with a win on court four. USC would regroup and net a 3-1 lead from Logan Smith on court three and then the clincher from senior Nick Crystal at the No. 2 spot to tally a 4-1 win that put USC in the title match. Up against No. 6 Baylor for the second time this season, USC looked to be in early control, getting up 3-0 on the Bears before the momentum shifted. Baylor snagged wins on courts two, one and five to level it up at 3-3, and then #35 Max Tchoutakian managed a 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 comeback over USC’s #45 Logan Smith to clinch a 4-3 championship victory over the Trojans, avenging a 4-2 loss taken back in February at the ITA National Team Indoors.

    ITA INDOORS
    In its ninth straight trip to the ITA National Team Indoor Championships, USC wound up facing off against crosstown rival UCLA in the Round of 16 out in Charlottesville, Va. USC grabbed the opening point with a gutsy win in doubles, but the No. 7 Bruins were able to pull off a 4-3 win over the Trojans with a strong stand in singles. Relegated to consolation play from there, USC continued its success in doubles, and rang up a swift 5-0 win over Utah State the next day. In their final match at the event, the Trojans locked in on another doubles point and would hold off a tough No. 13 Baylor squad to wrap the trip with a 4-2 victory. The biggest winners on the weekend for USC were Jack Jaede, who collected three singles wins from his spot on court five, and the doubles pair of Nick Crystal and Laurens Verboven, who also drummed up three wins in three matches from court two.

    FALL STARS
    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.

    2017 TROJANS AT A GLANCE
    This spring, the USC men are 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 were a reflection of that balance, as USC had a freshman (Brandon Holt), sophomore (Logan Smith), junior (Thibault Forget) and senior (Nick Crystal) nationally ranked to open 2017.

    FIRST RANKINGS REPORT
    For the 10th straight season, USC men’s tennis 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. 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 held his highest career rank, slotted at No. 28 in singles. Senior Nick Crystal weighed in at No. 88, and junior Thibault Forget ranked No. 114 to kick off the new year. In doubles, USC had 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 to open the 2017 campaign.

    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 season, Trojan tennis enjoys its first full season in its revamped and renovated home that is now up-to-date and in line with the impressive accomplishments of both programs. The 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.

    --------------------- LAST SEASON 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. •

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    EDGING OUT THE GATORS 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.