Aug. 29, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team will have a busy fall slate before taking on nine teams earning berths to last year’s NCAA tournament in the spring dual-match season. The Irish open their season Sept. 11-14 at the Crowne Point Invitational in Houston, Texas, as part of a seven-date fall schedule highlighted by a pair of home events — the Oct. 3-5 Tom Fallon Invitational and an exhibition match against rival USC on Oct. 17.
Following the season-opening tournament, Notre Dame will travel to Peachtree City, Ga. for the adidas Invitational from Sept. 26-28. The ensuing weekend will be the 17th annual Tom Fallon Invitational, the lone home tournament on the slate, to be played at the Courtney Tennis Center. The event, named after the legendary former Notre Dame coach, features a showcase of many of the top teams from the midwest and beyond.
Just one day before the teams meet on the football field, Notre Dame and USC will lock horns on the tennis courts. In continuing a tradition that began in 1989, the squads will face off in exhibition play on the Friday prior to the Trojans’ visit to Notre Dame Stadium. The last time the teams played was in October, 2001, when the Irish pulled off a 5-2 victory over the eventual national champions. Concurrently with that match, Notre Dame and USC also will meet in women’s tennis action.
The final full-team event of the fall portion of Notre Dame’s schedule will be a trip to East Lansing, Mich. from Oct. 23-28 for the Intercollegiate Tennis Association (ITA) Midwest Championships.
In addition, a few top Irish players may participate in the Oct. 9-12 Icy Hot/ITA All-American Championships in Chattanooga, Tenn. and the Nov. 6-9 National Intercollegiate Indoor Championships in Ann Arbor, Mich. Those are the first two of three legs in the collegiate grand slam, which concludes with the NCAA Singles & Doubles Championships in May, 2004. The field for the All-American Championships will be announced Sept. 8, while the qualifiers for the national indoors are announced in October.
In spring action, which gets underway Jan. 17, 2004, at Indiana, Notre Dame 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).
The Irish 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.
Notre Dame will face four new opponents in 2004: 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.). Notre Dame and the Hawks have never met, while the Irish and Red Storm have never played in the regular season, though Notre Dame has taken a pair of matches in the BIG EAST Championship, including a 4-0 decision in last year’s quarterfinals. The Irish and Redbirds have played seven previous times (plus on four occasions in exhibition matches), but have not faced off since 1989. The Aggies and Irish will play for the third time ever and first since 1999. Both previous encounters came in the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic.
This will mark the 14th consecutive season the Irish will participate in the Blue/Gray, one of the nation’s most prestigious in-season tournaments. That event, played in Montgomery, Ala., will be from March 11-14. The previous week, Notre Dame will travel to La Jolla, Calif. for the Pacific Coast Doubles tournament, from March 4-7.
The Irish will attempt to win their fourth crown at the BIG EAST Championship, slated for April 29-May 1 in Coral Gables, Fla. Notre Dame and Miami have met in the final each year since the Irish joined the conference in 1996. In ’03, the title match was suspended and abandoned due to inclement weather, with the Hurricanes gaining the league’s automatic berth to the NCAA Championship due to conference policy.
The ’04 NCAA tournament starts with first- and second-round action on campus sites May 15-16 before culminating with the final four rounds May 22-25 in Tulsa, Okla. That also will be the site of the season-ending NCAA Singles and Doubles Championships, scheduled for May 26-30.
In all, Notre Dame will face 15 teams that finished 2003 in the national top 65. The Irish also will face the challenge of playing just one home match in the final two and a half months of the season after opening with nine of the first 13 contests to be played in the Eck Tennis Pavilion.