Jan. 22, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. & COLUMBUS, Ohio – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team, 27th in the preseason national rankings, will open its spring season this weekend, playing host to Indiana at 4:00 p.m. on Friday in the Eck Tennis Pavilion and then traveling to No. 24 Ohio State on Sunday. The Irish will be attempting to win their home opener for the eighth straight season and to beat the Buckeyes for the 15th straight time.
Notre Dame, originally scheduled to get a head start on the spring in last weekend’s National Collegiate Tennis Classic before the tournament was cancelled, returns four letterwinners from last year’s team that finished 23-7 and 14th in the nation. A year ago, the Irish won their third BIG EAST title, were ranked as high as fourth nationally, earned their 12th straight berth to the NCAA tournament and advanced to the round of 16 for the first time since 1994.
IRISH vs. HOOSIERS: Indiana is 1-0 this season, having topped Murray State 7-0 in its opener last weekend. A year ago, the Hoosiers were 47th in the preseason rankings and opened 5-1 before finishing 7-16. Indiana was 1-9 in the Big Ten and lost to Michigan in the first round of the conference tournament. The Hoosiers return nearly their entire lineup from that team. Ken Hydinger, the 19-year head coach of Indiana, is on administrative leave this spring so first-year assistant coach Matthew Pledger will serve as interim head coach this season.
The Hoosiers are the third-most common opponent in the 81-year history of the Irish men’s tennis program. The teams have faced off in each of the last 15 seasons and will meet for the 63rd time overall on Friday (second only to the 70 meetings with Michigan State and Northwestern). Notre Dame leads the all-time series 37-26. The Hoosiers were Notre Dame’s opponent in the first-ever varsity men’s tennis match in 1923 — a 6-0 Indiana win even though the Indiana program would not attain varsity status until 1930. In the Bayliss era, the Irish hold a 10-4 advantage, including an eight-match winning streak from 1992-99, though the Hoosiers have won three of seven matches at Notre Dame. Indiana has won two of the last three overall, triumphing in both 2000 and ’01.
Last season, the seventh-ranked Irish gained a 6-1 road win, though the Hoosiers registered two big upsets, with No. 109 Milan Rakvica topping No. 11 Javier Taborga 6-4, 6-4 at No. 1 singles and Zach Held and Ryan Recht downing No. 5 Casey Smith and Taborga at No. 1 doubles 8-3. The Irish won the doubles point when James Malhame and Ashok Raju gained a 9-7 victory at No. 2 in the final match on-court. Notre Dame then took each of the bottom five singles points, though winning in three sets at Nos. 3 and 4.
IRISH vs. BUCKEYES: Ohio State opened its season on Wednesday with a home doubleheader against Toledo and Butler. In 2002, the Buckeyes were 21-5 (9-1 Big Ten) and the conference runners-up in the regular season. Ohio State was ranked 24th in the preseason, moved as high as 12th during the year and finished 21st. The Buckeyes had a school-record 17-match winning streak snapped in the final regular-season match against conference champion Illinois. After a 20-3 regular season, the Buckeyes were upset by Minnesota 4-3 in the semifinals of the Big Ten tournament and then lost 4-3 in the first round of the NCAA tournament to Vanderbilt, splitting four three-set decisions. The only teams to defeat Ohio State during the regular season were Illinois, Notre Dame and eventual national runner-up Georgia. Taking over a program that was winless in the Big Ten, head coachTy Tucker has led Ohio State to its first three NCAA tournament berths in his three years in Columbus. Two Buckeyes are listed in the national singles rankings: Jeremy Wurtzman (7th) and Vince Ng (45th).
Notre Dame and Ohio State will meet for the 29th straight season (1975-2003), the longest current streak for the Irish against any opponent. Overall, the teams have met 44 times, with Notre Dame leading the series 26-18, including a current string of 14 consecutive victories, dating back to 1989. Sunday will mark the second time in the Bayliss era that the Irish will face a higher-ranked Buckeyes team, with No. 33 Notre Dame beating No. 32 Ohio State 5-2 on the road in 2001. Since that match, Ohio State is 24-1 in regular season matches at home, including a current 16-match winning streak.
In 2002, No. 10 Notre Dame gained a 6-1 win over No. 24 Ohio State in the Eck Tennis Pavilion. The Irish won the doubles point with Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) and Aaron Talarico pulling out a 9-7 decision at No. 3 in the last match on-court. Notre Dame won each of the top six singles matches, with Javier Taborga upsetting 20th-ranked Jeremy Wurtzman 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 and Talarico knocking off No. 16 Phil Metz 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2.
IRISH HEAD COACH: Bob Bayliss is in his 16th year at Notre Dame with a 284-128 (.689) record and his 34th year as a collegiate coach with a 566-222 (.718) mark. He ranks sixth among active NCAA Division I coaches in career victories and is one of just three coaches to have led his current team to the NCAA tournament in each of the last 12 seasons, a streak that also represents the longest of any sport at Notre Dame. Bayliss’ Irish have finished in the top 20 nine times in the past 13 years, advancing to the NCAA round of 16 on five occasions, highlighted by a quarterfinal appearance in 1993 and a national runner-up finish in ’92. Bayliss, named national coach of the year in 1980 and ’92, is a four-time midwest region coach of the year and has been honored as his conference’s top coach on 10 occasions, including three times in seven years in the BIG EAST. In his time at Notre Dame, Bayliss’ teams have won 10 conference titles, while his players have earned All-America honors 17 times, won eight national ITA awards, and earned 15 invitations to the NCAA singles championship and 11 to the NCAA doubles tournament. A member of the University of Richmond Athletics Hall of Fame, where he earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English while playing tennis and basketball, 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 2003 season ranked 27th among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association after finishing 2002 ranked 14th. The Irish have been ranked in the preseason national top 35 in each of the last 13 years. A pair of junior tri-captains earned mention in the fall national singles rankings. Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) is listed a career-high 72nd, while Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris), Notre Dame’s only player ranked in the preseason poll released in September, is tied for 119th. In the midwest region singles rankings released at the end of the fall season, Haddock and Scott were 10th and 13th, respectively, in singles, while Scott and sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) were14th in doubles.
FALL RECAP: Notre Dame participated in four tournaments in the fall: the Homewood Suites Fall Tribe Classic, the Tom Fallon Invitational, the Harvard Fall Invitational, and Omni Hotels Midwest Championships.
Leading the Irish in singles was junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.), who was 11-3 with three wins over opponents ranked in the national top 75. Haddock also was the only Irish player to advance to the singles quarterfinals in the Midwest Championships. Two Notre Dame freshmen were impressive in their first collegiate semesters. Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) won his first six matches of the fall and finished 8-7 after going 1-5 in match tiebreakers, while Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) was second on the team in singles wins, posting a 9-6 record. Sophomore Peter Graham (Luxembourg/International School of Luxembourg) was 6-1, but will miss the entire spring season after suffering an injury in late fall. Junior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) was 5-8, including an 0-4 mark in match tiebreakers, but reached the round of 16 in the Midwest Championships.
In doubles, Bob Bayliss used 22 different combinations in trying to find teams that would work well together. Haddock and Scott were 5-2 as a team, while the Puerto Rican led the Irish with a 9-3 overall mark in partnered play. Junior Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista), who transferred from Bowling Green State for his final season of eligibility after the Falcon tennis program was dropped, was 8-5 in doubles. Senior Jake Cram (Littleton, Colo./Columbine H.S.) also had success in doubles, posting a 6-2 record.
START ME UP: Notre Dame has won six of its last seven season-opening matches, as well as seven straight home openers. The only time the Irish started 0-1 since 1996 was the 2000 season, when Notre Dame fell to Washington on neutral turf. The last time Notre Dame lost its first home match of the season was a 4-3 defeat to Minnesota to begin the 1995 campaign. In his time at Notre Dame, Bob Bayliss’ teams are 9-6 in season-opening matches, 12-3 in home openers and 11-4 in road openers.
IRISH FACE TOUGH SLATE: The road to the 2003 NCAA Championship will be challenging for Notre Dame. Of the 17 dual-match opponents the Irish will face this season, 13 of them earned berths to last year’s NCAA tournament and are in the top 50 of this year’s ITA preseason rankings, including six in the top 30. Highlighting Notre Dame’s schedule are five matches with Top 25 foes – at No. 24 Ohio State (Jan. 26), vs. No. 2 Illinois (Jan. 29), vs. No. 11 Duke (Feb. 9), vs. No. 19 Minnesota (March 22), and at No. 9 Kentucky (April 13). Illinois and Kentucky each advanced to the NCAA quarterfinals a year ago. In addition to the 17 scheduled matches, the Irish will compete in the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic, in which Notre Dame has faced at least one top-25 team in each of the last 12 years.
CHANGE — NOTHING STAYS THE SAME: Two Notre Dame road matches have been moved from their original dates. The Irish will travel to Wisconsin on Tue., Feb. 4 instead of two days later, and Notre Dame will be at Kentucky on Sun., April 11 instead of two days earlier.
BASS, SOUTH BEND’S KECKLEY SET TO JOIN IRISH: Bob Bayliss recently announced the signing of two incoming freshmen for the 2003-04 school year. Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) and Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph’s H.S.) have signed national letters of intent to enroll at Notre Dame next year and join the Irish tennis team in the fall. Both competitors are among the top 18 current prep players who will be entering college in the fall and each has posted an undefeated record in regular-season singles matches in high school. Bass, whose brother Jimmy Bass (Bronxville, N.Y.) is a sophomore on the Irish tennis team, is ranked 23rd in the USTA Boys’ 18-and-under rankings and is 10th among American players who will enter college in the fall. He competed in the boys’ singles and doubles draw in the 2002 U.S. Open. Keckley completed a perfect 18-0 senior season by capturing the Indiana state singles title last fall. He is 46th in the USTA Boys’ 18s rankings and is 18th among current high school seniors in the U.S. Both players advanced to the round of 32 in the USTA Boys’ 18s National Hard Court Championships last summer.
2002 REVIEW: In 2001-02, the Irish earned their second-highest ranking in the program’s history, defeated three top-10 teams and the eventual national champions, advanced to the NCAA round of 16 for the first time since 1994 and finished 23-7 and 14th in the nation. The ’02 squad was a fixture among the country’s finest teams, being listed in the top 10 in every poll throughout the regular season. The Irish peaked at No. 4 on two different occasions, marking the highest midseason ranking in school history.
In the fall, Notre Dame posted a 5-2 win over eventual national champion USC in an exhibition match, which helped it earn a preseason national ranking of No. 7. The Irish jumped out to a 6-1 start in spring play, including 4-3 wins vs. No. 10 Duke and No. 7 Pepperdine. Following a seventh-place finish in the National Team Indoor Championships, the Irish won eight straight matches, highlighted by a 4-3 road win over Illinois one day after the Illini fell from their No. 1 national ranking. After winning four of six to end the regular season, the Irish captured their third BIG EAST championship.
Making its 12th consecutive NCAA appearance, Notre Dame was selected as one of the 16 campus sites for the first and second rounds of action in the NCAA tournament. The Irish avenged a late-season loss to Michigan in the first round and posted a second-straight shutout against Purdue to advance to the round of 16 in College Station, Texas, where Notre Dame would drop the third meeting of the season with Illinois.
Javier Taborga, the second Irish player in three years to win the ITA National Senior Player of the Year Award, became the second player in school history to earn All-America honors in both singles and doubles in the same season. The Bolivian was 19-5 at No. 1 singles and was the only player in college tennis to defeat both the nation’s final No. 1 singles player (three-time NCAA singles champion Matias Boeker of Georgia) and No. 1 doubles team. He was ranked as high as 11th in the nation in singles and finished at No. 18.
Taborga and Casey Smith put together one of the best doubles seasons in Irish history. The pair was 31-13 – the most wins in a season by a doubles pair in the Bayliss era – including a win over the nation’s top-ranked team, UCLA’s Marcin Matkowski and Jean-Julien Rojer. Smith and Taborga was ranked as high as No. 4 in the nation, marking the second-highest ranking for a Notre Dame doubles squad.
Also posting exceptional seasons in 2001-02 were Andrew Laflin and Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris). Laflin was 24-2 in singles, while Scott was 32-5 overall and 24-3 in dual matches.
Bob Bayliss was named conference coach of the year for the seventh time, while Billy Pate became the first Irish coach to be named National Assistant Coach of the Year.
KEEPING UP WITH NOTRE DAME TENNIS: For the fastest results of Notre Dame tennis matches, call the Notre Dame sports hotline at (574) 631-3000 and choose #8. The hotline provides schedule and results information for varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the game recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website at www.und.com. The hotline is the first medium updated with the results of each Notre Dame tennis match. In addition, media members and fans may be added to the sports information e-mail release list by contacting Bo Rottenborn at Rottenborn.firstname.lastname@example.org, or Chris Masters at Masters.email@example.com, who also can provide any information about the Irish tennis program.