May 3, 2006
The 18th-ranked University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (17-8) earned a bid in the NCAA Division I Championship for the 15th time in the last 16 seasons and will head to College Station, Texas, for first- and second-round action, it was announced Wednesday evening. The Irish will take on Ivy League champion Brown (20-9) in opening-round action next Friday at 2 p.m. (CT) at the George P. Mitchell Tennis Center. The host and No. 16 overall seed in the tournament, 19th-ranked Texas A&M (14-10), will face Texas-Arlington (13-8) later that day, with the winners playing on Saturday, May 13 at 4 p.m.
Notre Dame, runner-up in the BIG EAST Conference, earned one of the 33 at-large bids to the NCAAs, as did the Aggies. The Bears and Mavericks were automatic qualifiers.
The winner of the second-round match will advance to Stanford, Calif., which will play host to the final four rounds of the tournament at the Taube Tennis Center from May 20-23. The team emerging from College Station will face the team from the Athens, Ga., subregional that features top-seeded and undefeated Georgia, as well as Georgia Tech, Alabama, and Furman.
Brown, ranked 63rd in the nation, shared the regular-season title in the Ivy League with Penn, but the Bears avenged an earlier 4-3 defeat against the Quakers with a 4-3 victory in the conference playoff match to determine which team would gain the league’s automatic bid to the NCAAs. The Aggies tied for fourth place in the Big 12 Conference with a 4-3 record and then lost in the quarterfinals of the league championship. UT-Arlington shared the regular-season Southland Conference title with Texas A&M-Corpus Christi and Southeastern Louisiana with a 5-1 record, but knocked off surprising UT-San Antonio by a 4-2 score in the title match of the league tournament to earn an automatic bid.
The Irish have been invited to 15 of the last 16 NCAA tournaments, making them one of just 12 schools to have accomplished that feat, along with Duke, Florida, Georgia, LSU, Mississippi State, Pepperdine, Stanford, Texas, TCU, UCLA, and USC. Bayliss is one of only three Division I coaches – along with Georgia’s Manuel Diaz and Duke’s Jay Lapidus – to have led his current team to at least 15 NCAA bids in the last 16 years. Notre Dame has reached the round of 16 in the NCAAs on five occasions, highlighted by a 1993 quarterfinal result and a runner-up finish in `92. The Irish lost in the opening round in both 2004 and ’05 and missed the event in ’03.
This will be Notre Dame’s second trip to College Station for the NCAAs, having lost to Illinois there in the round of 16 of the 2002 tournament.
Notre Dame has never faced Brown or Texas-Arlington in men’s tennis.
The Aggies and Irish played at the same venue on March 26. Notre Dame was without freshman Brett Helgeson (Overland Park, Kan./Blue Valley West H.S.) – who normally plays No. 3 singles – but the match still came down to a quartet of three-set singles matches before Texas A&M prevailed 5-1. That was the first time the schools had played in College Station. A&M holds a 3-1 edge in the all-time series.
Of the 24 teams faced by Notre Dame this spring, half of them earned berths in the NCAA Championship: Texas (No. 3 overall seed), Duke (No. 4), Ohio State (No. 6), Virginia (No. 8), Illinois (No. 7), North Carolina (No. 11), VCU (No. 12), Boise State, Florida State, Louisville, Michigan, and Texas A&M. The Irish went 5-8 against those teams.
For the seventh consecutive year, the NCAA Championship features a field of 64 teams, consisting of 31 automatic-qualifying conference champions and 33 at-large selections. The first and second rounds will take place May 12-14 at 16 campus sites.
The draws for the NCAA Singles & Doubles Championships will be released Thursday on www.ncaasports.com. They will take place May 24-29 at Stanford, with 64 singles players and 32 doubles teams competing. Since 1989, Notre Dame competitors have garnered 20 invitations to the national singles tournament and 12 to the doubles event.
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