Sept. 10, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team is set to open its season this weekend, as it will send nine players to the Crowne Plaza Invitational in Houston, Texas to compete in individual competition. After just two days of organized practice, the Irish will begin fall play on Friday against a strong field of competition featuring four ranked singles players and a pair of top-10 doubles teams. It is the earliest season-opener in the 82-year history of varsity men’s tennis at Notre Dame.
CROWNE PLAZA INVITATIONAL: Four teams that finished in the national top 55 a year ago — LSU, Notre Dame, Tulsa, and host Rice — will send players to the Crowne Plaza Invitational, to be held at Jake Hess Tennis Stadium. The tournament consists of four singles flights (A, B, C, D) and two doubles flights (A, B), with each consisting of two participants per school. Each player will play one singles and one doubles match per day.
The A flight in singles includes four nationally-ranked players. Leading the way are Rice’s Barker twins, with Richard ranked 18th and William 21st. Tulsa’s Dustin Taylor is 58th, while Notre Dame’s Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) is 64th. Fellow Irish senior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) will take on William Barker on Friday. Irish sophomore Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) and freshman Stephen Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) will play in the B flight, while sophomore Eric Langenkamp (Scarsdale, N.Y./Scarsdale H.S.) and first-year competitor Irackli Akhvlediani (Vienna, Austria/Vienna International School) will be in the C flight. Junior Jimmy Bass (Bronxville, N.Y./Iona Preparatory School) and freshmen Ryan Keckley (South Bend, Ind./St. Joseph H.S.) and Bobby McNally (Miami, Fla./Gulliver Preparatory School) are slated for D-flight action.
In doubles, Haddock and Keckley will have a challenge on Friday in the A flight, taking on the nation’s seventh-ranked pair, Bryan Fisher and Jason Hazley of LSU. Also in the flight are Scott and Langenkamp and the No. 1 doubles team in college tennis, the Barker twins. Buchanan and Akhvlediani will play together in the B flight, as will Stephen Bass and McNally, who have a bye on Friday.
Two Irish players will not compete this weekend due to injuries. Junior tri-captain Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School), ranked 100th in the nation in singles, is scheduled to be out until at least mid-October after undergoing elbow surgery in June, while freshman Barry King (Dublin, Ireland/Gonzaga College) will miss the season-opening event due to tendinitis in his wrist.
This will mark the second trip for the Irish to Rice for a fall tournament. Notre Dame participated in the Rice Invitational in 1999 and was slated to again in 2001 before the event was cancelled due to the terrorist attacks on the United States.
GETTING A HEAD START: With the Irish beginning their season on Sept. 12, it marks the earliest season opener in the 82-year history of the Notre Dame men’s tennis program. Since the fall portion of the schedule was adopted in 1970, the previous earliest an Irish team began play was Sept. 13, 1998, when Notre Dame played in the Western Michigan Invitational.
CAPTAINS EARN PRESEASON NATIONAL RANKINGS: All three Irish tri-captains earned mention in the preseason Intercollegiate Tennis Assocation (ITA) national singles and doubles rankings, released earlier this month. Senior Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) and junior Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) each gained career-best listings in singles, coming in at 64th and 100th, respectively. In doubles, D’Amico and senior Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) are ranked for the first time, at 50th.
THREE OF A KIND: After never having tri-captains in the first 80 seasons of Notre Dame varsity tennis, the Irish have had three team leaders in each of the last two seasons. A year ago, Brian Farrell was joined by Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) and Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris). The latter two return as captains this season, becoming the 10th and 11th players in school history to serve multiple terms. They are joined by junior Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School). In all, 74 teams had a single captain, five had a pair, and the 1984 squad was captainless.
TOUGH DUAL SLATE AWAITS IRISH: During the spring dual-match season, Notre Dame will face a schedule including the defending national champions and nine NCAA tournament participants from a year ago. The Irish will have 10 home matches, highlighted by the first-ever visit by Texas A&M (Jan. 23), which finished ’03 ranked 11th in the nation, as well as matches against Kentucky (Jan. 27, ranked 16th at end of ’03), Ohio State (Feb. 28, 17th), and BIG EAST rival Miami (Feb. 29, 33rd). Notre Dame also will have a number of difficult road trips, including matches at defending NCAA champion Illinois (Feb. 26) and Duke (Jan. 31), which was ranked ninth at the end of last season. The Irish will face four opponents they did not see in ’03: Texas A&M, St. John’s (Jan. 25 at home), Illinois State (Jan. 25 at home), and St. Joseph’s (March 7 in La Jolla, Calif.).
The fall slate features seven events, but three will be for just the top two or three Irish players. Notre Dame’s two home dates are the Oct. 3-5 Tom Fallon Invitational and an exhibition match vs. USC on Oct. 17.
IRISH EXCEL ACADEMICALLY, AS WELL: Notre Dame was one of 24 Division I men’s tennis programs to earn a 2002-03 ITA All-Academic Team award, which goes to teams with a cumulative GPA of 3.20 or better. The Irish were one of just four squads to earn the distinction and finish in the top 55 in the final national rankings. Notre Dame, which had a 3.273 team average, was led by senior Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) and junior Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School), who also were named ITA Scholar-Athletes for earning a monogram and maintaining at least a 3.50 GPA for the season.
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 all 26 varsity sports and serves as a supplement to the game recaps and weekly releases provided on the official athletic website, 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 Eileen Carroll at email@example.com, who also can provide any needed information about the Irish tennis program.