Jan. 17, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team will open its 80th season with two dual matches Saturday at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish, ranked seventh nationally, will take on #75 UC-Irvine at 10 a.m. followed by a 4 p.m. match with #64 Furman.
Notre Dame returns eight letterwinners, including its top six players, from last year’s team that finished 17-7, were ranked in the national top 10 and won the Blue-Gray Classic. Notre Dame finished the season ranked 16th and advanced to the NCAA tournament for the 11th consecutive season. The Irish registered 11 victories over teams that reached the NCAA tournament and 15 over teams ranked in the final ITA top 75.
UC-Irvine was 10-12 a season ago, but won all three Big West Conference matches in which the Anteaters participated. This year’s team is tied for 75th in the preseason ITA rankings. Sophomore Jonathan Endrikat and freshman Brian Morton are ranked 27th in doubles after a strong fall season.
The Irish and Anteaters will meet for the third time, but the first time in 27 years. UC-Irvine captured both previous contests, defeating Notre Dame 7-2 in 1971 and 1974. The Anteaters are the only team on the 2002 Irish schedule that Notre Dame has never beaten. An Irish victory would make UC-Irvine the 162nd opponent defeated by Notre Dame in the 80-year history of the program. Only four schools (UCLA, Maryland, Mississippi and Stanford) have defeated Notre Dame three or more times without losing. The Anteaters will be the 90th opponent faced by Bob Bayliss in his 15 years at Notre Dame and would mark the 81st team the Irish have defeated under Bayliss.
Furman advanced to the NCAA tournament a season ago, posting a 19-10 record and gaining both regular-season and conference titles in the Southern Conference. The Paladins have captured 13 regular-season and 11 conference tournament championships. Furman finished the season ranked 61st and lost to eventual national champion Georgia in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Juniors James Cameron and John Chesworth are ranked 14th in doubles. That pair dropped an 8-5 decision to the Irish squad of seniors Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) and Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) in the consolation final of the ITA All-American Championships in October.
The Irish and Paladins will meet for just the second time Saturday. Notre Dame blanked Furman 9-0 in 1991 in the only previous contest. The Paladins are one of 101 schools that the Irish hold an undefeated record against, but the only one appearing on the 2002 schedule.
IRISH HEAD COACH: Bob Bayliss is in his 15th year at Notre Dame with a 261-121 (.683) record and his 33rd year as a collegiate coach with a 543-215 mark. His .716 winning percentage is fourth among active coaches and seventh on the all-time NCAA list. Bayliss was named ITA National Coach of the Year in 1992 after leading the Irish to the national title match. Bayliss is also a four-time Region IV coach of the year (including 2001) and has been honored as conference coach of the year six times (two BIG EAST, four Midwestern Collegiate Conference). He is second among all-time Irish coaches in wins, trailing only Hall-of-Famer Tom Fallon. Bayliss began his coaching career at Navy, where he coached for 11 years. He coached at MIT for three years before coming to Notre Dame in 1988.
ITA RANKINGS: Notre Dame enters the 2002 season ranked seventh among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association after finishing 2001 ranked 16th. It marks the highest ranking for the Irish since early in the 1993 season when Notre Dame was ranked sixth. This is also the highest preseason ranking since that year. 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.
DOUBLE TROUBLE: Smith and Taborga had an outstanding fall in doubles play, recording a 15-4 record including four wins over top-30 teams. The pair defeated the top-seeded team in advancing to the semifinals of the Omni Hotels National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships. The Irish team registered an 8-6 victory over UCLA?s Marcin Matkowski and Jean-Julien Rojer in the quarterfinals, snapping the 14-match winning streak of the now-unanimously-top-ranked Bruin team that captured the title at the ITA All-American Championships in October. Smith and Taborga also played well at the All-Americans, winning two qualifying matches to gain entry into the main draw before losing 8-6 to the top-seeded team of Scott Lipsky and David Martin of Stanford in the first round. Smith and Taborga rebounded to beat three top-30 doubles teams on their way to winning the consolation title. The Irish pair reached the semifinals at the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships before losing 8-6 to the top-seeded team of Mike Calkins and Amer Delic of Illinois, who Smith and Taborga beat 9-7 in the consolation semis at the All-Americans.
FALL RECAP: The Irish completed a strong fall season that vaulted them into the national top 10. Notre Dame competed in two tournaments as a team and sent representative to two national tournaments. The highlight of the fall was a 5-2 dual-match victory over USC, which is ranked 12th and advanced to the NCAA round of 16 last year. The Irish swept the bottom half of singles play to take a 3-0 lead, then lost the doubles point in a tiebreaker at No. 3 doubles. Haddock-Morales clinched the Irish victory by defeating then-63rd-ranked Damien Spizzo 6-1, 7-5 at No. 3 singles. After the outcome was decided, Taborga downed #97 Prakash Armitraj, while classmate Smith lost 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 to eighth-ranked Andrew Park at No. 1 singles.
In addition to Smith and Taborga’s doubles success, a number of Irish players played well in singles. Haddock-Morales won his first nine matches for the second year in a row and finished with just one loss — a 7-5, 7-6 decision in the round of 16 to top-seeded Delic at the regional championships. Haddock-Morales knocked off the 84th-ranked and 14th-seeded Jackie Jenkins of Northwestern 7-6, 6-1 in the quarterfinals. Classmate Matthew Scott (Paris, France) also played well at the Region IV Championships. Scott upset the top-ranked player in the draw with a 4-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over the 12th-ranked second seed, Phil Metz of Ohio State. Scott finished the fall with an 8-2 singles mark. Junior Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga.) and senior Andrew Laflin (Tampa, Fla.) continued their dominance, combining for a 13-2 combined mark. Farrell was 7-2, while Laflin won all six of his matches. Freshman Paul McNaughton (Hinsdale, Ill.) was a key addition to the Irish doubles lineup this fall, while he won all three singles matches in which he played.
IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: The road to the 2002 NCAA Championship will be challenging for Notre Dame. Of the 18 dual-match opponents the Irish will face this season, 17 of them are in the top 75 of the ITA preseason rankings. Highlighting Notre Dame?s schedule are three matches with Top 10 foes ? at No. 10 Duke (Jan. 29), at sixth-ranked Illinois (March 7) and home against No. 9 SMU (April 6). The Irish will face 12 teams that advanced to the NCAA tournament a season ago. There are four round-of-16 participants on the slate, including national quarterfinalist Duke and SMU, which advanced to the 2001 final four.
LET’S TAKE THIS . . . INDOORS: The Irish will take part in the United States Tennis Association/Intercollegiate Tennis Association National Team Indoor Championships taking place Feb. 7-10 at the Louisville Tennis Club in Louisville, Ky. The 16-team field for the nation?s premier national indoor tournament was announced in December by the ITA with the Irish earning a bid for the first time since 1996. Five teams on Notre Dame?s 2002 dual-match schedule are in the field: Duke, Illinois, Indiana State, host Kentucky and SMU. Also making the tournament is Southern California, which the Irish defeated 5-2 in an exhibition match in October. Rounding out the field are Brown, California, NCAA champion Georgia, Mississippi, Pepperdine, Stanford, NCAA finalist Tennessee and UCLA. One more team will be added in January.
IRISH INK FIVE: Bob Bayliss recently announced the signing of five incoming freshman for the 2002-03 school year. Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif.), Shannon Buck (New Braunfels, Texas), Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y.), Sergey Leonyuk (Boca Raton, Fla.) and Steve Roszak (Shawnee Mission, Kan.) have signed national letters of intent to enroll at Notre Dame next year and join the Irish tennis team in the fall. Buchanan is ranked 43rd nationally among players 18 and under and is ranked 20th among high school seniors in the U.S. Buck was ranked fifth in the 16-and-under division last year and is 32nd in the 18s, ranking 13th among seniors. Langenkamp is 67th in the 18s and is the top-ranked high school senior in the Eastern section of the United States Tennis Association and is 33rd among all Americans entering college next year. Leonyuk is a native of Russia who has done well in International Tennis Federation junior tournaments and Bayliss expects him to play at the level of a top 10-to-20 junior in the U.S. Roszak was ranked 44th in the 16s last year and recently won a designated sectional tournament in the MVTA.
2001 REVIEW: The Irish are coming off a 2001 season in which they finished 17-7, were ranked in the national top 10 and won the Blue-Gray Classic. Notre Dame finished the season ranked 16th. The Irish registered 11 victories over teams that reached the NCAA tournament and 15 over teams ranked in the final ITA top 75. Six of Notre Dame?s seven losses came to schools ranked in the top 17 in last year?s final rankings.
Three of the seven Irish losses were by 4-3 scores and all came down to close third sets in the final match on the courts. Notre Dame lost a 7-5 third set at Southern Methodist to the Mustangs, who finished the season ranked sixth in the nation and advanced to the NCAA final four before falling to eventual national champion Georgia. One week earlier, the Irish dropped a third-set tiebreaker in the deciding match to lose at Miami (the ?Canes finished with a #11 ranking). The first Notre Dame loss of the season also came via a third-set tiebreaker in the final match when Indiana downed the Irish.
The Irish captured the Blue-Gray title in 2001 for the first time since 1993, defeating four NCAA participants in four days. Notre Dame posted shutout victories over Tulane and Rice before knocking off 18th-ranked Auburn 4-1 in the semifinals. The Irish dropped the doubles point, but then rallied to win four of five matches over defending-champion Fresno State to take the title 4-2.
Notre Dame reached the NCAA tournament for the 11th straight season, receiving a 17-21 seed despite being ranked #13 nationally. Notre Dame beat Harvard 4-0, but fell in the second round to 16th-seeded and 18th-ranked Washington.
The Irish, who put together a 10-match winning streak last year for the first time since 1990, had particular success in singles in 2001. The opponent won more singles matches than Notre Dame just three times in 24 matches. The bottom of the singles lineup was a particular strength for the Irish. The Nos. 4, 5, and 6 singles positions posted a combined 53-11 record in dual-match play, including a 21-2 mark at No. 4 singles.