Jan. 31, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The 10th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team will take on two Big 10 foes this weekend, with one match at home and one on the road. The Irish will play host to 24th-ranked Ohio State on Friday (start time changed to 4 p.m.) before traveling to Northwestern to take on the Wildcats Sunday at 3 p.m.
LAST WEEK’S ACTION: Notre Dame completed a three-match road trip with a pair of victories. Last Friday, the Irish suffered their first loss of the season, a 4-3 decision to 32nd-ranked Minnesota. Notre Dame trailed 3-1, but rallied to tie the match before Harsh Mankad won at No. 1 singles in the final match on court to give the Gophers the upset.
The following day, the Irish got back on the winning track, defeating #68 William & Mary 5-2 in Minneapolis, Minn. The Irish swept the doubles and won at the top four singles spots to win.
On Tuesday, Notre Dame traveled to Durham, N.C. to take on 10th-ranked Duke. The Irish rallied from a 2-0 deficit for a 4-3 win. Notre Dame lost the doubles point and at No. 1 singles before running off victories at Nos. 3, 2 and 5 singles to take a 3-2 lead. Sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico), trailing 4-2 in the third set at No. 4 singles, then won four straight games to win his match and clinch the Irish triumph.
THIS WEEK FOR THE IRISH: On Friday, Ohio State will visit the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Buckeyes have posted 7-0 victories in all three of their matches this spring and are ranked 24th. A season ago, Ohio State was 25-4, finished 22nd, and advanced to the second round of the NCAA tournament before losing to eventual national runner-up Tennessee. Three Buckeyes are ranked in singles: Phil Metz (16th), Jeremy Wurtzman (20th) and Adrian Bohane (72nd). Metz, who was the highest-ranked player in last fall’s Region IV Championships, suffered a straight-set second-round loss to Matthew Scott (Paris, France) in that tournament.
Northwestern will be dedicating its new indoor facility, the Combe Tennis Center, this weekend. The ceremony will be Friday night, followed by an exhibition match between Todd Martin and James Blake. The Wildcats will face Purdue Saturday afternoon and then the Irish on Sunday. Northwestern is 3-0 this season and ranked 46th. One of those victories was a 6-1 win over Furman, whom Notre Dame beat 7-0 this year. In 2001, the Wildcats were 13-9 and finished 48th.
IRISH vs. BUCKEYES: The Irish and the Buckeyes will meet for the 44th time with Notre Dame having taken each of the past 13 encounters. The last time Ohio State defeated the Irish was in 1988, Bob Bayliss’ first year, when the Buckeyes notched a 7-2 road victory. Since then, Bayliss has won every match with Ohio State. Notre Dame and the Buckeyes have met for the past 27 seasons, dating back to 1975, though the series began in the third year of Irish tennis, 1925, with Ohio State gaining a 5-1 win.
Last season, 33rd-ranked Notre Dame downed #32 Ohio State 5-2 in Columbus, Ohio. The Irish won the doubles point, but then fell behind 2-1 before taking the final four matches on the court. Two matches were decided in three sets with the Irish taking both. Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.), ranked 95th at the time, gained an 8-4 win over Chris Porter 5-7, 6-4, 7-5 at No. 1. Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) won 3-6, 6-1, 6-3 at No. 4 over Jonathaon Scale. Other winners for the Irish in singles were Matthew Scott (Paris, France) and Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga.), who provided the clinching win.
IRISH vs. WILDCATS: The Irish and the Wildcats will meet for the 70th time on Sunday, making Northwestern the most common opponent of Notre Dame throughout the 80 seasons of men’s tennis. Michigan State and the Irish have met 69 times, as well, and will face off on Feb. 20 for the 70th time. The all-time series is tied 34-34 with one tie. Notre Dame has won six of the last seven meetings against Northwestern, including three in a row. Bob Bayliss holds a 9-4 mark against the Wildcats. The two schools first met in 1927 with Notre Dame gaining a 4-3 win, and the teams have met in each of the last 12 seasons.
In 2001, the 26th-ranked Irish defeated #30 Northwestern 5-2 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The match was tied 2-2 before Notre Dame took the remaining three matches. The Irish won the doubles point and then won four singles matches, including three in three sets, to win the match. With the match knotted at 2-2, Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) registered a 6-4, 5-7, 6-1 win against Brad Erickson at No. 2 before Matthew Scott (Paris, France) won in a third-set tiebreaker over Josh Axler 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 (8-6). Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga.) then won a match involving three tiebreakers 6-7 (5-7), 7-6 (12-10), 7-6 (7-5) over Ryan Edlefsen at No. 6. Also winning for Notre Dame was Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.) at No. 4.
BIG WIN: Notre Dame’s win over Duke on Tuesday was notable for a number of reasons. It was the first time the Irish defeated a top-10 team on the road since March of 1994 when they upset fourth-ranked Duke 4-3 in Durham, N.C. The match marked the 15th time in Notre Dame school history that the Irish, ranked in the top 10 at the time, took on another top-10 foe, but the first time since 1993 and the first time ever that the match occurred at the opponent’s home facility. Of the previous matches, all occurring during the 1992 and ’93 seasons, 13 were played at neutral sites and one was at Notre Dame. The Irish are now 8-7 when ranked in the national top 10 and facing another top-10 team. The victory snapped a 12-match losing streak for Notre Dame against top-10 opponents, dating back to 1997. Prior to Tuesday, the Irish had not defeated a top-10 team since downing #10 Virginia Commonwealth 4-3 in the second round of the ’97 Blue-Gray National Tennis Classic.
ITA RANKINGS: Notre Dame is ranked 10th in the latest Intercollegiate Tennis Association Top 75, released on Wednesday. The Irish dropped three spots from their No. 7 preseason ranking due to last Friday’s loss to Minnesota. Notre Dame’s win over then-No. 10 Duke on Tuesday is not included in the rankings, explaining the Blue Devils’ ranking of ninth in the new poll. Three Irish players are ranked in singles, as is one doubles team. Sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) is 83rd, the highest ranking of his career, while senior Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) is 88th and his classmate Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) is 95th. In doubles, Smith and Taborga are ranked sixth, which marks the highest ranking for a Notre Dame doubles team since Brian Patterson and Jakub Pietrowski were ranked fifth in 1995. Team rankings are released weekly during the season, while individual rankings are released on a less-frequent basis with the next occurring on Feb. 20.
GOING DEEP: The lower half of the singles lineup has been a strength for Notre Dame over the past two seasons. Last year, the Nos. 4, 5 and 6 spots compiled a combined 53-11 (.828) record in dual matches. Five of the six players responsible for that mark returned to the Irish fold this season and they figure to play in similar spots in the lineup since the top three players from last year’s lineup also returned. In 2002, the bottom half of the singles lineup is 9-3, making the spots a combined 65-14 (.823) over the past two seasons. At No. 4 singles, Irish players are 5-0 this year and 26-2 (.929) over the past two seasons.
VAMOS!: Senior Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) has played well near the top of the Irish lineup. He is 4-1 in dual matches, including a 2-0 record at No. 1. Taborga has won eight of his last 10 matches, dating back to fall action. That streak includes three wins over ranked opponents (#97 Prakash Armitraj of USC, #74 Jonathan Endrikat of UC-Irvine and #24 Michael Yani of Duke) and both losses were to ranked players (#22 Harsh Mankad of Minnesota and #78 Aleksey Zharinov of Minnesota). Taborga is 10-0 when winning the first set.
BUENO!: Sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) has played well in singles in 2001-02. Haddock-Morales won his first nine matches in the fall (for the second straight season), including knocking off two ranked players. His 9-1 fall earned him the highest ranking of any Irish player in singles — 83rd in the fall rankings. In dual-match play, Haddock-Morales is 4-1, including the match-clinching win over Alex Bose of Duke, in which he came back from a 4-2 deficit in the third set to clinch the Irish win. Haddock-Morales is 9-0 this season at home and is 25-0 in his career when winning the first set.
PERFECTION: Senior Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.) and sophomore Matthew Scott (Paris, France) are both 5-0 in singles dual-match play this season. Talarico has won all of his matches in straight sets, claiming two victories at No. 4 and one each at Nos. 2, 3 and 5. He has won seven of his last eight matches, dating back to the fall. Scott has claimed three wins at No. 5, as well as a pair at No. 4. He is 13-2 this season and has won 11 of his last 12 matches.
SUPER SENIORS: After not playing together at all in the fall season, seniors James Malhame (Douglaston, N.Y.) and Ashok Raju (Morgantown, W. Va.) have combined to be a formidable doubles team in the spring. The pair played at No. 1 doubles in the season opener and upset the 27th-ranked doubles team in the nation, Jonathan Endrikat and Brian Morton of UC-Irvine, 8-6. Malhame and Raju delivered the only Irish doubles win in the Minnesota match, gaining an 8-2 victory at No. 3. The seniors played at No. 2 in the last two matches, earning an 8-4 win against William & Mary and leading Duke 7-6 before the match was abandoned. Malhame and Raju were 1-5 as a team in their first two years before going 2-0 last year and 3-0 thus far this season.
DYNAMIC DEBUTS: Three Irish players made successful dual-match debuts in doubles in the season opener vs. UC-Irvine. Sophomore Ben Hatten (Potomac, Md.) and freshman Paul McNaughton (Hinsdale, Ill.) combined for a 9-8 victory at No. 3 doubles, while freshman Brent D’Amico (Centennial, Colo.) got an 8-3 win at No. 2. D’Amico made his dual-match singles debut last weekend vs. William & Mary.