June 6, 2002
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Notre Dame seniors Casey Smith (Leawood, Kan.) and Javier Taborga (La Paz, Bolivia) earned spots on the 2002 Intercollegiate Tennis Association Division I Men’s Tennis All-American Team, announced earlier this week. Smith and Taborga became the fourth Notre Dame doubles team to be named All-Americans since the current system was adopted in 1977. Taborga also garnered recognition in singles, making him just the second player in school history to gain All-America status in both singles and doubles in the same season. Five-time All-American David DiLucia accomplished the feat in 1991 and ’92 before going on to a successful professional career.
Taborga finished the season 18th nationally in singles, while Smith/Taborga was eighth in the final set of Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings, released last week. Smith also finished the season carrying a singles ranking of 120th.
Notre Dame was listed 14th in the final team listing, marking the highest year-end ranking for the Irish since the 1993 squad finished 10th. Notre Dame finished the season 23-7, marking the most victories in a season for an Irish team since 1994. Notre Dame also advanced to the round of 16 of the NCAA Championship before falling to #3 Illinois in the first trip to the Sweet 16 for Notre Dame since ’94. The Irish notched victories over three teams that finished in the nation’s top five, downing #4 Illinois and #5 Pepperdine in regular-season action and registering a 5-2 win over national champion USC last fall in exhibition play. The Irish also won their third BIG EAST Conference Championship.
Notre Dame finished second in the final Midwest Region rankings, trailing only Illinois and marking the fifth time in the last six years the Irish were second in the region. The Irish have finished first or second in the Midwest Region 13 times in the 15-year tenure of head coach Bob Bayliss.
Smith and Taborga were two of 48 players earning All-America honors in 2002. There are six ways to earn the distinction: 1) Earn a top-16 seed in the NCAA Singles Championship; 2) Reach the round of 16 in the NCAA Singles Championship; 3) Finish in the top 20 of the final set of Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Singles Rankings; 4) Earn a top-eight seed in the NCAA Doubles Championship; 5) Reach the quarterfinals of the NCAA Doubles Championship; 6) Finish in the top 10 of the final set of Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Doubles Rankings. Taborga earned a No. 9-16 seed in the NCAA Singles Championship and finished in the top 20 in singles, while Smith and Taborga became doubles All-Americans due to their final national ranking.
Taborga became one of the nation’s most dominant players in 2002 after never playing No. 1 singles prior to this season. He was 28-12 in singles, including 19-5 at No. 1. Taborga was named the National Senior Player of the Year by the ITA last month and was the only player in college tennis to defeat both the nation’s No. 1 singles player and No. 1 doubles team. He notched 12 victories over ranked opponents and registered five wins over players who went on to earn singles All-America honors. Taborga was one of just three players to defeat Georgia’s Matias Boeker, who won the NCAA Singles title in each of the last two years. The Irish senior delivered three victories over All-American Amer Delic of Illinois, who finished the season ranked 12th nationally. He also defeated USC’s Prakash Armitraj, who went on to be named the Most Valuable Player of last month’s NCAA Team Championship. Taborga was ranked third in the Midwest Region behind Minnesota’s Harsh Mankad and Delic. The Bolivian was ranked as high as 11th in the nation this season, becoming just the third Irish player to be listed as high. Taborga was one of 10 players to be named an All-American in both singles and doubles this season.
Notre Dame has had a singles All-American in four of the last five years, with Ryan Sachire gaining the distinction in 1998, ’99 and 2000. Taborga is the fifth Irish player to earn singles All-America honors since the current system was adopted in 1977.
Smith and Taborga had one of the finest doubles seasons in school history. They finished with a 31-13 record, which included 10 wins over ranked players and four against pairs that earned doubles All-America honors. The victory total is the highest by an Irish doubles team under Bayliss (1988-present). Smith/Taborga was ranked as high as fourth in the nation, becoming just the second Notre Dame doubles pair to be ranked in the national top four. Taborga is one of two Irish players to earn three invitations to the NCAA Doubles Championship since the current format was adopted in 1977. He is also one of only four players in the Bayliss era to have registered 75 or more wins in both singles and doubles. Smith and Taborga had a strong fall season that vaulted them from their No. 34 preseason ranking into the national top 10, where they remained all spring. They advanced through qualifying and posted a 6-1 mark (losing only to top-seeded Lipsky/Martin of Stanford) at the ITA All-American Championships en route to capturing the consolation title. The Irish team reached the semifinals in the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships, which helped them earn an at-large bid to the National Indoor Championships. In that tournament, Smith and Taborga defeated the current national No. 1, UCLA’s Matkowski/Rojer, on their way to losing in a tiebreaker in the semifinals. Smith/Taborga were ranked second in the Midwest Region behind Delic and Michael Calkins of Illinois, who split four meetings with the Irish pair.
Only three times previously had an Irish pair earned doubles All-America recognition and none had done so since 1994. DiLucia and Coleman gained the distinction in 1991 and 1992, while Andy Zurcher and Todd Wilson did so in 1994.
Smith played mostly No. 2 singles for the Irish in 2002, posting a 19-16 record overall, including 10-6 at No. 2. He posted six victories over ranked players and delivered three-set victories as the last match on-court in Notre Dame’s two biggest victories of the season — 4-3 wins over Pepperdine and Illinois. The Irish captain finished 14th among singles players in the Midwest Region. Smith was 38th in the preseason singles rankings.
Three other Irish players earned final regional rankings. Seniors James Malhame (Douglaston, N.Y.) and Ashok Raju (Morgantown, W. Va.) were 13th in doubles, while sophomore Matthew Scott (Paris, France) was 21st in singles. Malhame/Raju was 9-8, playing together for the first two months of the season, mostly at No. 2 doubles. The Irish seniors posted an upset victory over the nation’s #27 team from UC-Irvine in the season opener and also notched a tiebreaker victory in the last match on-court to secure the doubles point in Notre Dame’s 4-3 win against Illinois.
Scott was 32-5, including 24-3 in dual matches, playing mostly at No. 5. He opened the spring with a 14-match winning streak to earn his first national ranking — 51st. He upset the tournament’s highest-ranked player, #12 Phil Metz of Ohio State, in the Omni Hotels Region IV Championships last fall. His 24 dual-match wins are tied for the third-highest season total during the Bayliss era and his .889 winning percentage in dual matches also shares that spot. Scott is 49-10 in singles in his two-year career and his .831 winning percentage is the best for players in the Bayliss era.
The Irish will lose seven seniors to graduation, including six of their top nine players. Notre Dame’s top three singles players and both of their top two doubles teams were seniors in 2002. Nonetheless, Bayliss will welcome a promising group of newcomers into the fold this fall.