USC Freshmen Brandon Holt & Riley Smith Set Up For NCAA Play

    May 23, 2017

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    Two Trojan freshmen have earned themselves an extended stay in Athens, Ga., as Brandon Holt and Riley Smith open their USC careers with spots secured in the NCAA Individual Championships. 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 Smith. Holt will make his NCAA Singles debut on Wednesday (May 24) with a 9 a.m. ET First Round matchup against Texas Tech’s Jolan Cailleau, offering up a rematch of a rare upset dealt to Holt by the Red Raider when the teams met back in March. On Thursday (May 25), Holt and Smith will open up against 5-8 seed Cash/Kadhe of Oklahoma State in the NCAA Doubles First Round. All the NCAA competition is being held at Georgia’s Dan Magill Tennis Complex in Athens, Ga.

    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 five-match singles win streak into his NCAA Singles debut after grabbing another win on court one in USC’s NCAA Round of 16 loss to host Georgia last week boast a 35-8 singles record to date. Holt also has logged four wins over top-25 singles opponents. He was the first Trojan to pick up Pac-12 Player of the Week honors this season. The second honoree was Holt’s trusty double teammate and fellow freshman Riley Smith. Holt and Smith have paired up to great success in their freshman campaign. The duo boast the most doubles wins of any Trojan tandem to date with a 25-7 overall record after upsetting the nation’s #1 pair in USC’s NCAA Round of 16 match at Georgia. Currently ranked #14 in the nation in doubles, the pair has beaten five 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 won their fourth straight NCAA Team Championship that year.

    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 27-6 finish in 2017, Smith’s total career record now stands at 609-223, while the Trojans have notched their 10th 20-win season in the past 11 years.

    Brandon Holt is no secret weapon any more for the USC men’s tennis team. The Trojans’ top gun in singles and doubles leads the team in wins in both realms. He’s also doubled up on awards from the ITA, now very much lodged on the radar of the collegiate tennis world as the ITA Southwest Region’s Rookie of the Year and Player to Watch. In his first season as a Trojan, Holt has secured himself a place in the NCAA Singles draw as well as the NCAA Doubles draw alongside fellow freshman Riley Smith. Ranked No. 19 in the nation in singles and No. 14 in doubles, Holt has collected 35 singles wins to date to go along with 25 doubles victories with Smith. Holt’s most recent heroics came with the match-clinching singles win from court one to claim a 4-3 win over rival UCLA in the Pac-12 Tournament Championship in Ojai. Holt is the second straight Trojan to be named the ITA Southwest Region Rookie of the Year, following in the footsteps of teammate Jake DeVine. Yannick Hanfmann also earned the same honor back in 2012. The last Trojan to be named the ITA Southwest Region Player to Watch was Roberto Quiroz in 2014 — the last year the Trojans won the NCAA Team Championship. Holt is the fourth Trojan to be honored as a regional Player to Watch.

    As NCAA individual action gets underway, freshman Brandon Holt still leads the pack in the win column, now boasting 35 singles victories to date. Behind him, five Trojans broke ground on the 20-win club in 2017. Thibault Forget finished up his junior season with 29 victories to his name, followed by Riley Smith (25 wins), Jack Jaede (24), Logan Smith (23) and Rob Bellamy (20). Bellamy joined the club on Senior Day, marking 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 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 the talented freshman duo of Brandon Holt and Riley Smith with 25 wins together to date. Right behind them in the win column is senior-sophomore combo pack of Nick Crystal and Laurens Verboven, who claimed 24 wins. The longest doubles win streak was held by doubles duo Bellamy and Jaede, who collected 14 straight wins from March 14 to May 18.

    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.

    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 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 made their 11th straight NCAA appearance, falling in the Round of 16 for the second straight season to Georgia. USC finished up with a 27-6 overall record to notch its 10th 20-win season in the past 11 years. USC had 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.

    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.