No. 7 USC Men Start Pac-12 Championships In Quarterfinals

    April 25, 2017

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    The No. 7 Trojans (22-5) have picked up the No. 3 seed for the 2017 Pac-12 Championships after a 5-2 finish during regular-season conference play. That lands USC in a quarterfinal match against either Utah or No. 48 Washington at 3 p.m. on Thursday (April 27) at Libbey Park in Ojai, Calif. A win there would launch the Trojans into a semifinal bout against No. 10 California at 3 p.m. on Friday (April 28) to fight for a spot in the 6 p.m. televised championship match on Saturday (April 29). The final will air live on Pac-12 Networks. USC has won the Pac-12 Tournament title twice before, in 2012 and 2015.

    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 25), USC sits at No. 7 in the land after spending previous weeks at No. 8, 9, 12, 10, 14, 7, 5 and 6. The latest individual rankings of 2017 (released April 25) 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. 23 in the nation in singles. Sophomore Logan Smith is next in line, now slotted at No. 82 in singles. In doubles, USC’s freshman duo of Holt and Riley Smith now sit at No. 11 in the nation. Senior Nick Crystal and sophomore Laurens Verboven weigh in this week at No. 80 in the land.

    PAC-12 PLAN
    For the sixth year, the Pac-12 is hosting a team men’s tennis tournament in Ojai, Calif., to determine the automatic qualifier for the NCAA Men’s Championships. Teams are seeded based on won-lost percentages during regular-season conference play. On Wednesday (April 26), a match between No. 5 seed Stanford and No. 8 seed Arizona opens play at 12 p.m., followed by a 3 p.m. matchup between No. 6 seed Utah and No. 7 seed Washington. No. 4 seed Oregon awaits the No. 5/8 winner at 12 p.m. on Thursday (April 27), with No. 3 seed USC awaiting the No. 6/7 winner at 3 p.m. Top-seeded UCLA and No. 2 seed Cal advance directly to the semifinal round on Friday (April 28). All men’s tournament matches will be played at Libbey Park, culminating with the team championship at 6 p.m. on Saturday (April 29), which will be televised on Pac-12 Network.

    The USC men were the No. 2 seed at the 2016 Pac-12 Tournament to go straight to the semifinals. The Trojans would face No. 3 seeded California in last year’s semis, and wound up with a 4-1 loss. USC lost the doubles point and then two singles matches to go down 3-0 before Nick Crystal got a win to get USC on the board. Cal responded with the clincher to steal a spot in the Pac-12 title match. USC had been ranked No. 8 in the nation and went to 15-6 overall with the loss, but still secured a No. 10 seed into the 2016 NCAA Championships.

    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 22-5 overall record in 2017, Smith’s total career record now stands at 604-222, while the Trojans boast their 10th 20-win season in the past 11 years.

    USC was making moves against No. 8 rival UCLA, but the Bruins were able to fend off the Trojans’ comeback hopes with a 4-1 victory in both teams’ regular-season finale last week in Westwood. The Bruins made the first move with a win on court one in doubles, as #12 Redlicki/Zhu topped the #10 Trojan tandem of Brandon Holt and Riley Smith 6-3. The Trojans battle back with the reliable Rob Bellamy and Jack Jaede drumming up a 6-2 win at the No. 3 spot over UCLA’s Cressy/Goldberg, but the Bruins were up a break on court two and would hold their ground. UCLA’s Rapp/Di Giulio finished off the doubles point for the Bruins with a 6-3 win over USC’s #85 Nick Crystal and Laurens Verboven, and it was on to singles with the hosts gripping a 1-0 advantage. In singles, USC wound up in a 2-0 hole when Evan Zhu managed a 6-2, 6-4 win over USC’s #79 Logan Smith on court two. The Bruins would maneuver into the driver’s seat next in taking a 3-0 lead with a 6-3, 6-4 win from Logan Staggs over USC’s Jack Jaede at the No. 4 spot. From there, however, the Trojans dug in and started to work to shift the momentum in the match. On court five, USC’s Thibault Forget cruised along to a 6-2, 6-4 victory over UCLA’s Austin Rapp to lodge a point on the board for the Trojans. Down 3-1, USC looked to extend matches on courts one and two, while court six also was bending toward a potential third set. At the top spot, USC’s #22 freshman Brandon Holt had successfully rallied his match against #21 Gage Brymer into a third set after dropping the first. On court two, senior Nick Crystal looked to be doing the same before getting tangled up in yet another tiebreaker to decide the set. Crystal had taken #57 Martin Redlicki down to the wire in the first set before falling 11-9 in the tiebreaker. In the second-set breaker, Redlicki dug in his heels and wound up locking in the clincher for the Bruins on a 7-6 (9), 7-6 (2) win over Crystal. That suspended action on court one and on court six, where Riley Smith had won his first set and was entering a tiebreaker of his own in the second against UCLA’s Joseph Di Giulio.

    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 #22 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 22-6 record together to date.

    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 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 12 straight singles wins, Smith is currently 21-6 overall in singles play while he and Holt hold a 22-6 record together in doubles play this season.

    As postseason play gets underway, 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 25 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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.

    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.