April 20, 2002
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The top-seeded and 10th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team advanced to the final of the BIG EAST Championship for the seventh straight year after a 4-0 victory over Rutgers Saturday morning in semifinal action. The Irish won the doubles point and captured victories in the first three singles matches off the court to clinch the victory.
Notre Dame improves to 20-6, marking the first time the Irish have won 20 or more matches in a season since 1994. The Irish will attempt to win their third BIG EAST crown on Sunday at noon (EDT), taking on third seed and 43rd-ranked Miami. The Hurricanes won their final two singles matches in third-set tiebreakers to pull out a 4-3 upset win over second seed and No. 35 Virginia Tech.
Notre Dame won the doubles point on Saturday despite fielding a very different doubles lineup than head coach Bob Bayliss has used all season. Sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, P.R.) and freshman Brent D’Amico (Centennial, Colo.), playing together for just the second time, got the Irish off to a good start with an 8-2 win at No. 3. Senior Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) and sophomore Matthew Scott (Paris, France) then clinched the doubles point with an 8-4 win at No. 1. Taborga and Scott were playing together for the first time in their careers, while the other doubles pair for Notre Dame on Saturday, seniors Ashok Raju (Morgantown, W. Va.) and Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.), has played together just twice before, losing two matches as a team in the fall of 1998, their first seasons playing at Notre Dame.
The bottom half of the Irish lineup came through with wins to secure the victory. Senior Andrew Laflin (Tampa, Fla.) wasted no time, winning without dropping a game 6-0, 6-0 at No. 5. Laflin improves to 21-1 this season, including 15-1 in spring action. He has won 35 of his last 38 matches and has now registered eight victories this season in which he has lost four or fewer games. Saturday also marked the third time in the Irish senior’s career that he turned in a shutout victory.
D’Amico gave Notre Dame a 3-0 lead with a 6-1, 6-2 victory at No. 6, registering his first singles win in dual-match play. Scott clinched the Irish victory with a 6-2, 6-2 triumph at No. 4. He improved to 30-4 overall and 22-2 in dual matches. Scott’s campaign is the 18th time under Bayliss that an Irish player won 30 or more matches in a season.
Taborga and Talarico also won the first sets in their matches before they were abandoned.
On Saturday, the Irish had to do without the services of senior captain Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.), who plays No. 2 singles and is half of the fourth-ranked doubles team in the nation. Smith spent Saturday morning and afternoon taking the Medical College Admissions Test at the University of Miami. The MCAT is a mandatory test for students applying to medical school. The Irish senior is a double major in preprofessional studies and sociology in the College of Arts and Letters at Notre Dame.
Notre Dame continued its success in the BIG EAST Championship since joining the league seven years ago. The Irish have been the top-seeded team in the tournament six times (every year except 2000) and compiled a 14-4 overall record, posting shutouts in every non-final match (second round and semifinals). Five times, Rutgers and Notre Dame have faced off in the semifinals, with the Irish winning 4-0 each time (1996, 1997, 1999, 2001, 2002). Notre Dame has faced Miami each of the past six years in the title match, winning in 1996 and 1999.
The winner of Sunday’s championship match will receive the BIG EAST’s automatic berth into the NCAA Championships, which begin at campus sites on Saturday, May 11. The full 64-team tournament field will be announced May 2. Notre Dame is looking for its 12th consecutive berth in the NCAA tournament and will be considered as one of the 16 host sites for the first and second rounds on May 11-12. It would mark the first time the Irish have served as a host site since the tournament expanded to its current 64-team format in 1999. Notre Dame played host to NCAA action four times previously, in 1994, 1995, 1996 and 1998, including serving as the host site of the NCAA Championship in 1994.
#10 Notre Dame 4, Rutgers 0
No. 1: #14 Javier Taborga (ND) vs. Akshay Jagdale (R) 6-2, 4-1, abandoned
No. 2: Aaron Talarico (ND) vs. Greg Schweitzer (R) 6-4, 1-2, abandoned
No. 3: Luis Haddock-Morales (ND) vs. Marten Vissers (R) 5-7, 1-0, abandoned
No. 4: *#85 Matthew Scott (ND) d. Kevin Bielen (R) 6-2, 6-2
No. 5: Andrew Laflin (ND) d. Brook Deming (R) 6-0, 6-0
No. 6: Brent D’Amico (ND) d. Takashi Zetsu (R) 6-1, 6-2
No. 1: *Scott/Taborga (ND) d. Jagdale/Schweitzer (R) 8-4
No. 2: Ashok Raju/Talarico (ND) vs. Bielen/Vissers (R) 5-6, abandoned
No. 3: D’Amico/Haddock-Morales (ND) d. Pavan Gramminger/Chris Kushner (R) 8-2
* indicates clinching victory
— ND —