April 21, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s and women’s tennis teams will look to continue their remarkable history of postseason success when they participate in the 2003 BIG EAST Conference Championships Friday through Sunday at the Neil Schiff Tennis Complex on the University of Miami campus in Coral Gables, Fla. Since joining the BIG EAST in 1996, both Irish tennis squads have advanced to the championship match every season, with the women winning four titles (1996, 1997, 1999, 2001) and the men picking up three championships (1996, 1999, 2002).
The 27th-ranked Notre Dame women (13-8), under the guidance of 14th-year head coach Jay Louderback, are seeded second in this year’s BIG EAST Championships and have received a bye into the semifinal round. The Irish will play Saturday at noon EDT (11 a.m. EST in South Bend) against the winner of the quarterfinal match between No. 3 seed Boston College and sixth-seeded Syracuse. Notre Dame is 7-0 all-time against BC and 3-0 lifetime vs. Syracuse. The Irish are 2-1 against BIG EAST opponents this season, defeating No. 60 Virginia Tech (the tournament’s fourth seed) and No. 69 Boston College by identical 6-1 scores back in mid-February. The Irish also fell to top seed (and 19th-ranked) Miami, 6-1, in their regular-season finale on April 12 in Coral Gables.
Led by 16th-year head coach Bob Bayliss, the Notre Dame men’s squad (8-12) finds itself in an unfamiliar position as the No. 3 seed, having to play on the tournament’s first day for the first time since the current six-team format was established in 2000. The 54th-ranked Irish will take on sixth-seeded St. John’s in quarterfinal action Friday at noon (EDT), with the winner moving on to meet No. 2 seed Virginia Tech in the semifinal round Saturday at noon (EDT). Notre Dame has faced St. John’s just once before in its history, ousting the Red Storm, 4-0 in the semifinals of the 2000 BIG EAST Championship. The Irish are 1-1 against BIG EAST opponents this year, defeating No. 49 Virginia Tech, 5-2, back on March 23. Notre Dame also lost at 29th-ranked Miami (the tourney’s top seed), 6-1, on March 30.
The winners of this weekend’s BIG EAST Championships will earn the conference’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championships, which begin May 10-11 at campus sites around the country. The Irish men have qualified for NCAA play in each of the last 12 seasons, including a trip to the championship match in 1992. Meanwhile, the Notre Dame women have appeared in the NCAA tournament nine times in the last 10 seasons, advancing to the quarterfinals in 1996.
— ND —