No. 4 USC Men Open NCAA Campaign On Home Courts

    May 8, 2017

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    The No. 4 Trojans (25-5) are locked in for their 11th consecutive NCAA appearance as USC boasts the No. 4 seed into this 2017 NCAA Championship action. The highly seeded Trojans will start their postseason push with home-court advantage, hosting the NCAA First and Second Rounds this week (May 12-13) at Marks Stadium. Two wins would send USC off to Athens, Ga., next week for the NCAA Round of 16 and beyond, where the Trojans have an eye on pushing their national record count of NCAA team titles out to a 22nd trophy. But first, USC welcomes three teams to Troy for the opening rounds. On Friday (May 12) at 10 a.m., No. 30 Wisconsin (17-7) takes on No. 47 San Diego (17-10) in the NCAA First Round. At 1 p.m., USC will take the courts against Denver (13-12). The winners of Friday’s matches will push on to a NCAA Second Round clash at  1 p.m. on Saturday (May 13). That winning team will earn a trip to Athens, Ga., for the continuation of the NCAA Team Championships at the Dan Magill Tennis Complex, running May 18-23.
    USC is making its 11th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, and 39th overall appearance. Now carrying a 25-5 overall record, the No. 4-seeded Trojans are looking to extend their stretch of reaching at least the NCAA Round of 16 in the past 10 seasons. With five NCAA crowns claimed in the past eight years, USC continues to lead the nation with 21 national championships all-time, and holds a 100-32 overall record in the NCAA Tournament. USC’s No. 4 seed is a nice upgrade from last year’s No. 10 seed, which saw the Trojans reach the NCAA Round of 16. The last time USC entered the tourney as the No. 4 seed was in 2013, when the Trojans reached the NCAA Quarterfinals. During USC’s current 11-year run of NCAA appearances, USC has been seeded No. 1 (2012 & 2014), No. 2 (2011), No. 4 (2013 & 2017), No. 5 (2010), No. 7 (2015), No. 8 (2009), No. 10 (2016) and No. 12 (2007) — with NCAA titles captured in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012 and 2014. 

    The USC men are an automatic qualifier in the NCAA Tournament this year as Pac-12 Tournament Champions and ranked  No. 4 in the nation to also hold the No. 4 seed in this year’s tourney. Peter Smith’s 2017 Trojans have secured the program’s 10th 20-win season in the past 11 years and are fresh off their third Pac-12 Tournament crown. USC’s talented regular lineup includes two freshmen, three sophomores, one junior and two seniors. Those seniors — Rob Bellamy and Nick Crystal — won an NCAA Championship as freshmen in 2014, and are more than eager to finish off their USC careers with another title to share with their fellow Trojans. Freshman Brandon Holt leads the pack this year, playing at the No. 1 singles spot and the No. 1 doubles slot with fellow freshman Riley Smith. In all, USC has five Trojans holding at least 20 singles wins to date. Holt is ahead of the curve with 33 wins, with junior Thibault Forget next with 27. He carries a five-match win streak into the postseason. Next, freshman Riley Smith and sophomore Jack Jaede have each collected 23 wins to date, followed by junior Logan Smith’s 22 wins and 20 for senior Bellamy. In doubles, Holt and Riley Smith have punched up 24 wins, including 17 at the No. 1 spot. Crystal and Verboven have logged 21 wins, with 14 coming at the No. 2 slot. Bellamy and Jaede, meanwhile, boast 17 total doubles wins with 15 coming from position No. 3. The duo also boast a powerful win streak, having won 12 in a row as the Trojans now turn to NCAA action.

    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 (May 4), USC sits at No. 5 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 May 4) has two Trojans ranked in singles and one ranked doubles team. In this latest round of rankings, freshman Brandon Holt remains at the top of the list for the Trojans as he sits at No. 19 in the nation in singles. Sophomore Logan Smith is next in line, now slotted at No. 88 in singles. In doubles, USC’s freshman duo of Holt and Riley Smith now sit at No. 14 in the nation. 

    Denver (12-13) is making its sixth overall trip to the NCAA Tournament, having secured an automatic berth in winning the Summit League championship for the fourth straight season. Last year, Denver lost in the NCAA First Round. The Pioneers are coached by Ricardo Rubio, who is in his second season as head coach at DU. Denver has no players nationally ranked in singles or doubles. This will be the first-ever meeting between the Trojans and the Pioneers.

    Wisconsin (17-7) is ranked No. 30 in the nation, having earned an at-large berth out of the Big Ten to make its first NCAA appearance since 2010 and seventh overall. Wisconsin reached the Round of 16 in its last NCAA appearance in 2010. The Badgers are coached by Danny Westerman, who is in his second season as head coach at Wisconsin. The Badgers have no players nationally ranked in singles or doubles. USC is 2-0 all-time against Wisconsin. The teams’ last meeting was a 4-0 Trojan victory in the 2011 NCAA Round of 16.

    San Diego (17-10) is ranked No. 47 in the nation, having earned an automatic berth as the winner of the WCC Tournament for the fourth straight season. Last year, USD reached the NCAA Second Round. The Toreros are coached by Ryan Keckley, who is in his second season as head coach at USD. The Toreros have #93 Filip Vittek nationally ranked in singles and no ranked doubles teams. USC is 38-3 all-time against San Diego after a 6-1 win by the Trojans earlier this season at Marks Stadium.

    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 25-5 overall record in 2017, Smith’s total career record now stands at 607-222, while the Trojans boast their 10th 20-win season in the past 11 years.

    USC was the No. 3 seed into this year’s Pac-12 Tournament and made a power move to take the conference crown in following up a 4-0 win over Utah with a 4-1 win over No. 2 seed Cal in the semis to arrange a rivalry rematch with top-seeded UCLA. The Trojans would win their third Pac-12 Tournament Championship in epic fashion in Ojai, getting one final break right when it mattered as freshman Brandon Holt emerged with a match-clinching three-set victory on court one to claim the conference crown for the Trojans over rival UCLA. The doubles point offered a taste of what was to come. Competition went down to the wire to decide the first point of the match, and it was the Trojans who came away with the clutch finish to grab the crucial 1-0 advantage. USC’s power couple on court three did what they do best, securing yet another win -- the 12th in a row for senior Rob Bellamy and sophomore Jack Jaede -- to get the Trojans some early momentum. Bellamy and Jaede ripped through to a 6-2 win for a key boost. At the top spot, the Bruins fired back when #7 Redlicki/Zhu managed a 7-5 win over USC’s #11 Holt and Riley Smith. That left it up to court two to decide, and USC’s Nick Crystal and Laurens Verboven proved up to the task. Crystal/Verboven dug in during the deciding tiebreaker, creating some space and finishing it off with a 7-6 (2) win, and USC had an all-important 1-0 lead on the board in Ojai. In singles, the Bruins got an early point on the board for themselves when #56 Martin Redlicki posted a 6-2, 6-3 win over Crystal on court two. On court three, though, USC’s #82 Logan Smith was ready to pounce, as the sophomore drummed up a 7-5, 6-1 to push the Trojans back ahead 2-1. At the No. 5 spot, junior Thibault Forget got the Trojans a little padding to work with, maneuvering USC into striking distance with a 3-1 lead on a 6-2, 7-5 win. The Bruins would not back down, however. On court six, Maxime Cressy was able to snap USC freshman Riley Smith’s 14-match win streak with a 7-6 (2), 6-4 decision that cut the Trojan lead down to 3-2. Then, UCLA leveled things with a three-set comeback on court four over USC’s Jack Jaede in a 3-6, 7-5, 6-0 win that snarled up the match at 3-3. At that point, both teams’ top guns were in a shootout on court one. USC’s #23 freshman Brandon Holt and UCLA’s #22 Gage Brymer were tangled up and holding serve in the third set to decide the match. Holt’s fifth hold of the set got him up 5-4 to face Brymer’s serve next. That’s where the USC freshman made his move and came through with a huge and deciding break of Brymer to lock in the win for the Trojans. Holt’s 7-5, 3-6, 6-4 win over Brymer was the championship clincher, and the Trojan celebration ensued immediately on the courts of Libbey Park in Ojai.

    USC has two Trojan freshmen who have earned themselves an extended stay in Athens, Ga., as they open their USC careers with spots secured in the NCAA Individual Championships. Freshman Brandon Holt pulls double duty with an at-large selection into the NCAA Singles bracket while also snagging an at-large position in the NCAA Doubles draw alongside fellow freshman Riley Smith. Brandon Holt has made a huge impact for the Trojans in his first season at USC. The first USC freshman to play at the No. 1 singles spot since 2003, Holt has held his ground at the top slot while working his way to a current ITA national ranking of #19 in singles. Earlier this season, he set a career best in holding a #13 national rank in singles. Holt rides a four-match singles win streak into No. 4 seeded USC’s 11th straight NCAA Team appearance while boasting the most wins on the team with a 33-8 singles record to date. Holt also has logged four wins over top-25 singles opponents. Most recently, he clinched a clutch win over rival UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament title match for the Trojans to improve his dual-match singles mark to 16-5. He was the first Trojan to pick up Pac-12 Player of the Week honors this season. The second was his trusty double teammate and fellow freshman Riley Smith. Holt and Smith have paired up to great success in their freshman campaign. The duo most the most doubles wins of any Trojan tandem to date with a 24-7 overall record, and have clocked in with a 17-5 mark at the No. 1 spot in dual matches. Holt and Smith will carry a #14 national ranking in doubles into this year’s NCAA action. So far, the pair has beaten four top-20 doubles opponents. The last USC freshmen to appear in NCAA Individual competition were Yannick Hanfmann and Roberto Quiroz, who scored singles and doubles spots, respectively, in the 2012 NCAA draws. That event also was held in Athens, Ga., where the Trojans would claim their fourth straight NCAA Team Championship that year.

    As NCAA action gets underway, freshman Brandon Holt still leads the pack in the win column, now boasting 33 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 27 victories to his name, followed by Jack Jaede (23 wins), Riley Smith (23), Logan Smith (22) 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 singles streaks, Riley Smith edged out Jaede’s previous top streak with the freshman’s 14th straight singles win during the Pac-12 tourney. Jaede has pieced together a 13-match win streak earlier this season from Jan. 15-March 14. Riley Smith’s  14-match rally ran from Feb. 9-April 28. In doubles, USC’s winningest pair is currently the talented freshman duo of Brandon Holt and Riley Smith with 24 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 21 wins. The longest active win streak is held by doubles duo Bellamy and Jaede, who have collected 12 straight wins dating back to March 14.

    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. 

    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 HoltRiley 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.

    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. 

    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. 

    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. 

    Back on March 20, freshman Riley Smith 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. 

    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.