Oct. 28, 2001
EAST LANSING, Mich. – The doubles team of seniors Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) and Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) reached the semifinals before bowing to the top-seeded team in a highly competitive match Sunday in the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships at the Michigan State Indoor Tennis Facility. Taborga was also eliminated in the singles quarterfinals Sunday.
The Irish pair, ranked 34th and seeded third, fell 8-6 to Illinois’ team of Mike Calkins and Amer Delic, ranked 14th nationally, in a semifinal matfch that was a showcase of collegiate doubles at its highest level. The Illinois pair broke serve early and took a 5-2 lead, but the Irish would rally, putting the match back on serve.
With the Illini leading 7-6 and Taborga serving, Illinois put together a brilliant return game that proved to be the difference. Calkins led it off with a crosscourt forehand return winner. After a Taborga double fault, Calkins hit another strong return that Smith was unable to handle at the net. Down Love-40, the Irish staged a comeback. Taborga won the next point with a backhand volley winner down the line and Smith crushed an overhead that bounced into the stands to pull the Irish to within 30-40. On the third Illinois match point, it was Delic who came up with an outstanding return crosscourt that Taborga could barely get a racket on, giving the Illini the win and a trip to the final.
Sunday marked the second time these doubles teams had matched up this season. Smith and Taborga were victorious 9-7 in the consolation semifinals of the ITA All-American Championships earlier this month. In that match, Calkins and Delic led 7-4 and had a pair of match points before the Irish won five consecutive games to clinch victory.
Earlier in the day, Smith and Taborga defeated the ninth-seeded pair of Laith Al-Agba and Carl McCafferty from Purdue 9-7 in quarterfinal action. It was also the second time this season that these two doubles teams had met with the Irish pair notching an 8-2 win at the Tom Fallon Invitational last month. The team of Al-Agba and McCafferty had experienced previous success against the Irish, defeating Smith and Luis Haddock-Morales (Caguas, Puerto Rico) twice last season, including eliminating the Notre Dame team from the Region IV Championships with an 8-3 victory in the second round. Smith and Taborga became the first Irish doubles team to reach the semifinals at the Region IV Championships since Brian Patterson and Jakub Pietrowski won the title in 1997.
In singles action on Sunday, 76th-ranked and 13th-seeded Taborga fell 6-0, 6-1 in quarterfinal action to the third seed, Harsh Mankad of Minnesota. Mankad, ranked 22nd in the nation played for India in Davis Cup qualifying action earlier this month, falling to American Andy Roddick in straight sets.
Taborga reached the quarterfinals for the second time in three years at this tournament. In 1999, he advanced to the quarters before losing to his top-seeded teammate Ryan Sachire. Last season, Taborga lost in the round of 16.
Six Irish players competed in singles at the Region IV Championships. Haddock-Morales, the 19th seed, reached the round of 16 before falling to top-seeded Delic 7-5, 7-6 (7-3). Haddock-Morales knocked off the 14th seed, 84th-ranked Jackie Jenkins of Northwestern, 7-6 (7-4), 6-1 in the third round. Matthew Scott (Paris, France) lost in the third round to the 20th seed, Brandon Currie, one day after upsetting the highest-ranked player in the tournament. In Friday’s second round, Scott beat second-seeded and 12th-ranked Phil Metz of Ohio State 4-6, 6-3, 6-2. Also advancing to the third round was Aaron Talarico (Laguna Beach, Calif.), the 18th seed. He then fell to the fourth seed, 27th-ranked Phil Stolt of Illinois. Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga.) won his first match before losing to the eighth seed, Milan Rakvica of Indiana, in the second round and Casey Smith, ranked 38th nationally and seeded fifth in the tournament, also fell in the second round.
In other doubles action, Haddock-Morales and Talarico were seeded sixth and advanced to the round of 16 before losing to the 10th seed, Tom Hanus and Jackie Jenkins of Northwestern. The team of Ashok Raju (Morgantown, W. Va.) and Paul McNaughton (Hinsdale, Ill.) lost in the first round to another Wildcat pair, Joost Hol and Ryan Edlefsen.
This year’s tournament stopped a streak of disappointing doubles results for Notre Dame at the Region IV Championships. In each of the past two seasons, Notre Dame had all three doubles teams lose their first match in the draw despite earning the top seed a season ago, as well as the fifth and seventh seeds in 1999. Smith and Taborga’s second-round victory Saturday snapped a nine-match losing streak for Irish doubles teams in the event, dating back to 1998.
The Omni Hotels Region IV Championships consist of a 96-player singles draw and a 48-team doubles draw, both featuring the best players in the midwest taking part in indoor action. 24 singles players and 12 doubles teams are seeded. This year’s tournament had a very strong field, including 15 ranked singles players and seven ranked doubles teams. Seven of the top 40 singles players in the nation participated in the championships. The singles finalists and the doubles champion of the main draw of each regional championship advance to the Nov. 8-11 Omni Hotels National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in Dallas, Texas, the premiere indoor collegiate tennis event of the season. The singles semifinals, as well as the singles and doubles finals are scheduled for Monday.
The tournament was the final full-team event on the Irish fall schedule. Notre Dame could have some players participating in the Omni Hotels National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships from Nov. 8-11 in Dallas, Texas. The field will be announced later this week. Other than that possibility, the Irish are off until they begin dual-match play Saturday, January 19, 2002 at the Eck Tennis Pavilion. Notre Dame will take on Cal-Irvine at 9:00 a.m. and Furman at 4:00 p.m.
Omni Hotels Region IV Championships
(3) #22 Harsh Mankad (Minnesota) d. (13) #76 Javier Taborga (ND) 6-0, 6-1
(3) #34 Smith/Taborga (ND) d. (9) Laith Al-Agba/Carl McCafferty (Purdue) 9-7
(1) #14 Mike Calkins/Amer Delic (Illinois) d. (3) #34 Smith/Taborga (ND) 8-6
Note: Numbers in parentheses indicate tournament seeding. Numbers preceding names are ITA national rankings.