April 25, 1999
CORAL GABLES, Fla. – The 31st-ranked and top-seeded Notre Dame men’s tennis team rallied from a 3-2 deficit with a pair of wins at 7-5 in the third sets by freshmen Javier Taborga and Casey Smith to beat 52nd-ranked and second-seeded Miami 4-3 for its second BIG EAST championship on Sunday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Complex at the University of Miami. The match, which saw several players suffer cramps in the 90-degree heat, marked the fourth meeting between Irish and Hurricanes in the BIG EAST championship, with Notre Dame winning in its inaugural season in the BIG EAST in 1996 and Miami winning in 1997 and 1998. With the title, the Irish earn the conference’s automatic bid into the 64-team NCAA championship field, which will be announced May 5, their ninth consecutive appearance in the NCAA team championship.
The Irish, now 17-7 on the year after their sixth straight win, lost the doubles point but used singles wins by third-ranked Ryan Sachire at No. 1 singles, Matt Daly at No. 2 singles, Smith at No. 4 singles and Taborga at No. 6 singles. Notre Dame also beat the Hurricanes 5-2 in Coral Gables, Fla., on March 11, but was forced to face Miami on its home courts again without the services of senior captain and No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles player Brian Patterson, who did not make the trip to Miami because of an injury and had won 12 consecutive matches with a 16-2 record in 1999 heading into the championship.
“We were really focused in singles after losing the doubles,” said Irish head coach Bob Bayliss, who was named BIG EAST coach of the year for the second consecutive year. “To come down here and beat a tough Miami team to win the BIG EAST championship without Brian Patterson is quite an accomplishment for our team.”
Miami took an early 1-0 lead with a pair of 8-6 wins at Nos. 2 and 3 doubles before Daly knotted the match at 1-1 with a quick 6-1, 6-3 win over Jamin Thompson at No. 2 singles. The Hurricanes then went ahead 2-1 when Johan Lindqvist downed Irish freshman Andrew Laflin 6-2, 6-4 at No. 3 singles.
Sachire pulled Notre Dame even once again with his 7-5, 6-3 win over Arpad Odry at No. 1 singles to improve to 37-7 overall and 23-3 in dual matches this season. Sachire was named the BIG EAST championship most outstanding player, the first Irish player to win the award, as he went 3-0 in singles in Notre Dame’s wins over Boston College, Rutgers and Miami.
Miami then went ahead 3-2 when Mark Arrowsmith beat Andy Warford 7-5, 6-3 at No. 5 singles. The match then came down to four freshmen playing at Nos. 4 and 6 singles.
Smith knotted the match at 3-3 when he hung on for a 4-6, 7-5, 7-5 win over Jose Lieberman at No. 4 singles after Lieberman served for the match at 5-4 in the second set. Smith had been broken at 4-4 in the second set but broke right back and won the final three games of the set to level the match at one set each. He then raced to a 3-1 lead in the second set but Lieberman came back to tie the match at 3-3. After each player held serve, Smith saved three break points at 4-4 to lead 5-4. After Lieberman held for 5-5, Smith then traveled 0-40 on his serve before winning nine consecutive points to win the match, winning five straight points to win his service game and then breaking Lieberman at love for the win after losing to Lieberman 6-3, 6-3 in the earlier dual match.
In the deciding match at No. 6 singles, Taborga raced to a 6-2 win in the first set but quickly fell behind 4-1 in the second set against Joel Berman, who had lost to Taborga 7-5, 6-4 in the earlier dual match. Taborga rallied to tie the second set at 5-5 but then was broken at 5-6 as Berman tied the match. Taborga then went ahead early in the third set, led 3-1 and had a number of break points for a 4-1 lead. Berman held serve for 4-2 and later broke Taborga to tie the third set. The pair remained on serve until Taborga broke Berman at 5-5. He saved a break point at 30-40 at 6-5 to hold serve and clinch the BIG EAST championship for the Irish.
“It was very difficult to play out there with the match at 3-3 with the heat and we were both cramping,” said Taborga, who was playing in just his fourth dual match in 1999 and improved to 4-0. “It was really close in those last three games but I just hung in there. Coach Bayliss gave me a good strategy and it worked.”
#31 NOTRE DAME 4, #52 MIAMI 3
No. 1: #3 Ryan Sachire (ND) def. Arpad Odry (UM) 7-5, 6-3No. 2: Matt Daly (ND) def. Jamin Thompson (UM) 6-1, 6-3No. 3: Johan Lindqvist (UM) def. Andrew Laflin (ND) 6-2, 6-4No. 4: Casey Smith (ND) def. Jose Lieberman (UM) 4-6, 7-5, 7-5No. 5: Mark Arrowsmith (UM) def. Andy Warford (ND) 7-5, 6-3No. 6: Javier Taborga (ND) def. Joel Berman (UM) 6-2, 5-7, 7-5
No. 1: Sachire/Aaron Talarico (ND) vs. Arrowsmith/Thompson (UM) 6-5, abandonedNo. 2: Berman/Odry (UM) def. Trent Miller/Taborga (ND) 8-6No. 3: Ralph Hilt/Lieberman (UM) def. Daly/Smith (ND) 8-6