No. 10 Seed USC Men Breeze Into Tulsa For NCAA Round of 16 & Beyond|
May 17, 2016
The USC men have finished the season as either NCAA Champions or NCAA Quarterfinalists during their past nine trips to the NCAA tournaments. This year, the Trojans continue their stretch of trips to the NCAA Round of 16 as No. 10-seeded USC shoves off for Tulsa, Okla., this week. The Trojans (17-6) are set up to square off against No. 7 seed Georgia (22-4) in this year’s NCAA Round of 16 on Friday (May 20) at 5 p.m. ET at Tulsa’s Michael D. Case Tennis Center. A win there would put the Trojans back in the quarterfinals for the 10th straight season on Sunday (May 22). The men’s NCAA Semifinals are set for Monday (May 23) with the 2016 title match scheduled for Tuesday (May 24) — all in Tulsa. Once the team competition is complete, NCAA Individual Championships begin, with USC’s Nick Crystal and Max de Vroome both slotted for NCAA Singles action running May 25-30.
USC is making its 10th consecutive trip to the NCAA Tournament, and 38th overall appearance. Now carrying a 17-6 overall record after first- and second-round wins, the No. 10-seeded Trojans are looking to extend their stretch of reaching at least the NCAA Quarterfinals in the past nine seasons. With five NCAA crowns claimed in the past seven years, USC continues to lead the nation with 21 national championships all-time, and holds a 98-31 overall record in the NCAA Tournament. USC’s No. 10 seed is the lowest the Trojans have held since 2007, when the Trojans were No. 12 in their break back onto the NCAA scene after missing out in 2006. During USC’s current 10-year run of NCAA appearances, USC has been seeded No. 1 (2012 & 2014), No. 2 (2011), No. 4 (2013), 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.
TROJANS TO DATE
The USC men secured an at-large berth in the NCAA Tournament this year, currently ranked No. 11 in the nation and grabbing the No. 10 seed in this year’s tourney. Head coach Peter Smith is guiding his Trojans for the 14th season, with the team coming off a loss in the 2016 Pac-12 Tournament semifinals as it now preps for another NCAA journey. USC’s lone senior Max de Vroome is having a standout final season with the Trojans, ranked at #23 in the nation in singles as he leads USC at the top of the lineup. His NCAA knowledge is deep, too. As a sophomore, he clinched the Trojans’ 2014 NCAA Championship, and he’s been a key player in the NCAA lineup for USC every season. Now a junior, Nick Crystal was a freshman on that 2014 NCAA roster, and he enters his third NCAA journey ranked #41 in the nation in singles while taking his place as half of USC’s top doubles duo with freshman Laurens Verboven. Together, that pair ranks #46 in the land. Junior Rob Bellamy, sophomore Tanner Smith and #121-ranked sophomore Thibault Forget are the other Trojans on the roster with NCAA experience from last year’s journey to the quarterfinals. The rest of USC’s pool of talent is laden with freshmen. Topping out that crew in the rankings is #69 Logan Smith, with fellow freshman Jake DeVine weighing in at #102 in the national singles rankings. Another key freshman factor for the Trojan cause is Aussie import Jack Jaede.
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. 11 in the most recent round of ITA national rankings (May 5). The USC men — with head coach Peter Smith in command — have a solid set of newcomers helping to drive the Trojans in 2016. NCAA Quarterfinalists last season, the 2016 Trojans have five players standing out in the latest set of individual rankings (May 5). Senior Max de Vroome is at the helm, ranked #23 in the land. He’s joined in the top-100 by #41 junior Nick Crystal and #69 freshman Logan Smith. Freshman Jake DeVine now ranks #102 in singles, while sophomore Thibault Forget checks in at #121 this week. In doubles, USC has Crystal and freshman Laurens Verboven now sitting at #46 in the nation.
BY THE NUMBERS
To date, there are five Trojans who have broken through the 20-win zone on the singles scene this season, while sophomore Thibault Forget has staked recent claim on as the founding member of this season’s 30-win club. Forget held an 11-match win streak earlier this season to power up to lead the Trojans in the win column. Meanwhile, senior Max de Vroome follows the sophomore in grabbing 28 singles wins entering the NCAA Round of 16. Behind him, Logan Smith holds 27 wins, while fellow freshman Jake DeVine has 25 and Nick Crystal grips 24 to date.In doubles, USC’s winningest pair is currently Crystal and Laurens Verboven with 13 wins together. Meanwhile, the senior-freshman combo of de Vroome and Jack Jaede has claimed nine doubles wins as a team to date. In all, USC has utilized 12 different doubles pairings during dual-match play to date.
USC junior Nick Crystal and senior Max de Vroome have secured their first-ever NCAA Singles appearances thanks to their strong 2015-16 campaigns. Crystal and de Vroome were announced as selections for the 2016 NCAA Singles bracket and will settle into the courts at the Case Tennis Center in Tulsa, Okla., for individual action running May 25-30. Although neither Trojan has competed in the NCAA Singles draw before, both have experience on the NCAA scene. As a sophomore, de Vroome served up the match-clinching singles win to net the Trojans the 2014 NCAA Team Championship. Both Crystal and de Vroome also factored in significantly to USC’s 2015 NCAA run in which the Trojans reach the NCAA Team Quarterfinals. In his final season at USC, de Vroome has risen to his highest career singles ranking, having cracked the nation’s top-20 at #18 in the land while also stepping into the No. 1 singles spot for his team. He currently ranks #23 in the nation in singles, boasting a powerful 28-10 overall record as USC’s top gun. Crystal, too, is having a banner year in also moving up to the highest singles ranking of his career at #32 in the nation last month. Currently ranked #41 in singles, Crystal takes a 24-10 overall singles record into NCAA Round of 16 action this week. He also stands tall in the national doubles rankings, slotted at #46 alongside freshman teammate Laurens Verboven.
Two Trojans have landed high honors from the ITA as the postseason comes up this week, with ITA Southwest Region awards going to Max de Vroome (Senior Player of the Year) and Jake DeVine (Rookie of the Year). Max de Vroome has become just the sixth Trojan to be named the ITA Southwest Region Men’s Senior Player of the Year, following in the footsteps of last year’s winner, Yannick Hanfmann. Hanfmann, it turns out, also was the last Trojan to be named ITA Southwest Region Men’s Rookie of the Year — the award that freshman Jake DeVine has locked in on. In his final season at USC, de Vroome has risen to his highest career singles ranking, having cracked the nation’s top-20 at #18 in the land while also stepping into the No. 1 singles spot for his team. He currently ranks #23 in the nation in singles, boasting a powerful 28-9 overall record as USC’s top gun. He’s also secured his first-ever spot in the NCAA Singles bracket this season while leading the Trojans into their 10th consecutive NCAA Team Championship appearance. To date, de Vroome has clinched four matches from his No. 1 singles slot for the 15-6 Trojans. Jake DeVine also has had a big hand in guiding the Trojans through a strong 2016 campaign to get to the NCAA Tournament for the 10th straight season. The freshman was instrumental in netting USC the No. 10 seed in the tourney, dishing out three match-clinching victories for the Trojans while building up a 25-12 overall singles record. DeVine also boasts a national ranking of #102 in singles in his first year at USC.
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.
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.
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. This season, the captain climbed the ladder to his highest singles ranking of his career when he stepped into the #18 slot in the April 5 rankings.
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. In the April 5 rankings, the co-captain upgraded his career best singles ranking to #32 in the land.
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. •