Feb. 7, 2002
LOUISVILLE, Ky. – The 10th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team rallied from a 3-1 deficit to knock off #7 Pepperdine 4-3 in first-round action Thursday morning at the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships at the Louisville Tennis Club. The Irish won the doubles point, but lost the first three singles matches off the court before rallying to win the final three matches. Senior captain Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) broke serve at 4-4 in the third set of the final match on court to gain a 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 win over 54th-ranked Calle Hansen at No. 3 singles to clinch the victory.
“Pepperdine is a team I expect to be in the top 10 all year so we’re really excited to get the win,” said Irish head coach Bob Bayliss. “Casey really fought hard. At the end of the match, we basically had our best fighter out there against their best fighter. It was like two heavyweights trading punches.”
Notre Dame improves to 7-1 — the best Irish start since 1994. Pepperdine falls to 4-2, losing its second straight match to a top-10 team after dropping a 5-2 decision to sixth-ranked Illinois last Saturday. The Irish advance to the quarterfinals of the Team Indoors for the first time since 1994 and will face #1 Georgia Friday at 12:30 p.m.
The Irish rallied to win the final two matches on court to win the doubles point. Johan Berg and Al Garland of Pepperdine drew first blood with an 8-2 win at No. 2 doubles. Smith and classmate Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia), ranked sixth nationally, then notched an 8-5 victory at No. 1 over the 11th-ranked team of Sebastien Graeff and Stefan Suter. Senior Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.) and freshman Brent D’Amico (Centennial, Colo.) clinched the doubles point for the Irish with a 9-8 (7-4) win at No. 3, marking their first victory as a doubles team.
Pepperdine won the first three singles matches completed before the Irish took the final three points to gain the win. Graeff knotted the match with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 6 before Garland, ranked seventh nationally in singles, delivered a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 1. Suter, ranked 45th, then gave the Waves a 3-1 lead with a 6-2, 7-5 win at No. 2. Sophomore Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) started the Irish rally, notching a 7-6 (7-2), 7-6 (8-6) win at No. 4. Classmate Matthew Scott (Paris, France) then won 6-3, 6-3 at No. 5 to tie the match 3-3 and set up Smith’s victory. Haddock-Morales and Smith both improve to 16-2 this season in singles. Scott is 8-0 in dual-match action and has won 14 of his last 15 matches.
The Waves were the highest-ranked opponent to fall victim to Notre Dame since 1994 and are the second top-10 team the Irish have defeated this season. Notre Dame downed then-#10 Duke 4-3 on Jan. 29 of this year and knocked off the then-fourth-ranked Blue Devils by the same score in 1994. The Irish improve to 9-7 all-time in matches where both Notre Dame and its opponent are ranked in the top 10 in the country.
The win was the first for Notre Dame in three matches against Pepperdine. The Waves are the 82nd team the Irish have defeated under Bob Bayliss out of 90 opponents.
Tomorrow’s opponent, Georgia, is the defending national champion and notched a 4-1 win over Brown in opening-round play. The Bulldogs will enter the match having not lost in more than a year, winning their last 26 in a row, including nine over top-10 teams. This season, Georgia is 4-0.
“It’s always exciting to play the No. 1 team,” said Bayliss. “But our guys are looking forward to the challenge.”
Georgia is led by junior Matias Boeker, who was last year?s NCAA champion in both singles and doubles. Sophomore Bo Hodge was ranked as high as second in the nation last year as a freshman and was listed third in this season’s preseason rankings. Junior Lesley Joseph was ranked 15th in the preseason singles rankings. All three are not currently ranked because they did not play enough collegiate matches in the fall to be considered. But two other Bulldogs are ranked — junior Nicholas Boeker at No. 65 and junior Brandon Wagner, who is ranked eighth nationally after playing No. 6 singles for Georgia last season.
The Bulldogs lead the all-time series with the Irish 5-1. Notre Dame’s lone win came in the 1992 NCAA quarterfinals. The two teams have not met since 1996, when Georgia won 5-2 in the first round of the Team Indoors. The Bulldogs and Irish also met in the ’93 tournament with the same result.
Friday will be the first time since 1995 that Notre Dame has faced the top-ranked team in the nation. In that year’s Team Indoor Championships, #1 Stanford blanked Notre Dame 6-0. The last time Notre Dame defeated the top-ranked team in the nation was in the 1992 NCAA semifinals when the Irish downed USC 5-1.
#10 Notre Dame 4, #7 Pepperdine 3
No. 1: #7 Al Garland (P) d. #95 Javier Taborga (ND) 6-4, 6-2
No. 2: #45 Stefan Suter (P) d. Aaron Talarico (ND) 6-2, 7-5
No. 3: #88 Casey Smith (ND) d. #54 Calle Hansen (P) 6-4, 2-6, 6-4
No. 4: #83 Luis Haddock-Morales (ND) d. Johan Berg (P) 7-6 (7-2),7-6 (8-6)
No. 5: Matthew Scott (ND) d. Steve Racioppi (P) 6-3, 6-3
No. 6: Sebastien Graeff (P) d. Brian Farrell (ND) 6-4, 6-2
No. 1: #6 Smith/Taborga (ND) d. #11 Graeff/Suter (P) 8-5
No. 2: Berg/Garland (P) d. James Malhame/Ashok Raju (ND) 8-2
No. 3: Brent D’Amico/Talarico (ND) d. Hansen/Brian Wright (P) 9-8 (4)