April 19, 2012
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – Looking for its eighth BIG EAST title and first since 2008, the No. 28 Notre Dame men’s tennis team heads to Tampa, Fla., this weekend for the 2012 BIG EAST Championship.
The nine-team tournament, which will be held at the University of South Florida, gets underway on Thursday when No. 8 Villanova and No. 9 Connecticut battle for the right to meet the No. 1 seed Irish at 9 a.m. on Friday morning at the P.E. Courts. The Irish are the top seed for the 11th time since joining the league in 1996.
If Notre Dame gets past either the Wildcats or Huskies, it would meet the winner of the No. 4 USF Bulls and the No. 5 DePaul Blue Demons matchup. That semifinal match is scheduled for 12 p.m. on Saturday, with the finals slated for 9 a.m. on Sunday. No. 2 Louisville, No. 3 St. John’s, No. 6 Marquette and No. 7 Georgetown compose the other side of the bracket.
The Irish have reached the finals in 15 of their 16 years in the league, earning seven titles and seven runner-up finishes. In 2003, the finals were cancelled due to poor weather conditions. The lone time Notre Dame failed to make the finals was in 2008, which was coincidently the last time the tournament was in Tampa. Last year the Irish lost to Louisville 4-2 at Courtney Tennis Courts.
This year’s team enters the tournament with an 18-7 record, including a 3-1 record against BIG EAST foes. During the regular season, Notre Dame beat tournament teams Marquette (6-1), DePaul (7-0) and Louisville (5-2) and dropped a close 4-3 match in Tampa to USF.
Leading Notre Dame into the tournament this year is 2011 BIG EAST Freshman of the Year Greg Andrews, who is the highest ranked singles player nationally in the BIG EAST at No. 62. The Richland, Mich., native has put together a fine sophomore campaign, posting a 22-3 record during the spring season and a 31-8 record overall. Twenty of the 22 wins came at No. 2 singles.
Also leading the Irish is three-time all-BIG EAST selection Casey Watt. The senior has posted a 13-10 at No. 1 singles (14-10 overall) with five of those losses coming against foes ranked in the top-10 nationally.
Other regular starters include No. 3 singles player Sam Keeton (15-7), No. 4 Billy Pecor (11-6), No. 5 Niall Fitzgerald (13-7) and No. 6 Blas Moros (18-5). Wyatt McCoy (5-1) and Michael Moore (5-4) have also seen action at No. 6 singles.
In doubles, the veteran No. 1 team of Watt and Fitzgerald (8-9) enter the championship ranked No. 51 in the country, which is the highest ranked doubles duo in the league. Two and three doubles have offered steady play all year, as the teams of Andrews and Talmadge (14-5) and Pecor and Keeton (13-6) have given the Irish the opportunity to win the doubles point almost every match.
The Irish enter the tournament riding a six-match winning streak, including two straight wins over top-40 foes in then-No. 25 Texas A&M and then-No. 39 Louisville.
Admission to the BIG EAST Championship is free of charge, and directions can be found at the Championship Central page on the BIG EAST website. Fans that can’t make the trip can follow @bigeastchamps on Twitter for live updates of each match. Check out UND.com for a complete recap at the conclusion of each match.