April 7, 2003
NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The University of Notre Dame men’s tennis team (6-11) will play host to #61 Ball State (13-6) on Wednesday at 3:30 p.m. (EST). The Irish, ranked 55th in the latest national rankings, will then finish their regular-season slate with matches at #13 Kentucky on Sunday and home vs. #67 Indiana State on Tuesday, April 15. Notre Dame has won each of the last 13 meetings with the Cardinals.
LAST TIME ON THE COURTS: Notre Dame dropped a 4-3 decision for the fifth time this season, falling at #49 SMU on Sunday. The teams split the singles matches — including four decided in three sets and two in third-set tiebreakers — but the Mustangs won the doubles point, which was played last, with the contest tied 3-3. Notre Dame had a chance for victory, leading 3-2 with the lone remaining singles match in a third-set tiebreaker. Irish tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) had a 3-1 lead in the final-set breaker at No. 2 before Lukasz Senczyszyn won six of the final seven points to even the team match. SMU then won the bottom two doubles contests to take a 4-3 victory.
Irish players did register three big upsets in the loss, with Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) beating #55 Johan Brunstrom in a third-set tiebreaker at No. 1 and Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) topping #52 Gwinyai Chingoka 6-4, 6-2 at No. 3 for the Irish sophomore’s biggest-ever upset in singles. D’Amico and Scott also delivered an upset at No. 1 doubles, beating the #51 team of Brunstrom and Henrik Soderberg in a tiebreaker. In singles, junior Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista) pulled out a three-set triumph at No. 5, but SMU gained wins from Alexis Rudzinski at No. 4 and #87 Lukasz Senczyszyn at No. 2, in a third-set tiebreaker.
IRISH vs. CARDINALS: Ball State enters the week with a 13-6 (3-0 MAC) record and No. 61 national ranking, having won six of its last eight matches. All six Cardinal losses were to teams currently in the national rankings — #1 Illinois, #28 Indiana, #47 Northwestern, #51 Louisville, #67 Indiana State, and #68 Michigan — with the contests against the Wildcats and Wolverines being decided by 4-3 scores. Ball State’s only victory over a team currently among the top 75 in the nation was a 4-3 triumph over #50 Purdue. The Cardinals were not ranked in the preseason and did not enter the national listing until Feb. 19 before peaking at 57th on March 19. Notre Dame and Ball State have faced seven common opponents — Indiana, Illinois, Wisconsin, Purdue, Michigan State, Northwestern, and Michigan — with the Cardinals going 3-4 and the Irish 4-3 against them. Notre Dame’s 5-2 win over the Wolverines was the difference. Cardinal senior Chris Varga is a Granger, Ind. native and a 1999 graduate of St. Joseph’s High School. He is 20-11 this season, including 13-4 at No. 1 singles, playing the spot for the first time in his career.
The Cardinals returned seven of 10 monogram winners from last season’s team that was 13-14 (4-1 MAC), finishing second in the Mid-American Conference in the regular season before topping Bowling Green 4-3 in the league championship to secure an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Ball State lost 4-1 to Purdue in the opening round of the NCAAs, in a match played at the Courtney Tennis Center. Head coach Bill Richards is in his 31st year at Ball State with a 464-244 (.655) record.
After not playing at all before that point, Notre Dame and Ball State will meet for the 34th time since 1970. The Irish and Cardinals have played each other every year during that span except 2001, when the match was cancelled. Notre Dame leads the series 28-5 and has won each of the last 13. The Irish took the initial meeting, 8-1, on their way to winning each of the first 13 contests between the teams. Ball State broke through for its first-ever victory over Notre Dame in 1983, beginning a streak of five wins in a seven-year span (1983-89). Those are the only Cardinal wins in the series. The last BSU victory over the Irish was a 7-2 decision in Muncie, Ind. in 1989. Notre Dame has won five straight at home against the Cardinals.
A year ago, the seventh-ranked Irish took a 4-0 lead to clinch the victory against Ball State in Muncie before the Cardinals rallied for three wins to make it a one-point final score in Notre Dame’s regular-season finale. The Irish, playing without No. 1 singles/No. 1 doubles player Javier Taborga, who was forced to sit out due to NCAA playing-date restrictions, won the doubles point when Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) and Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) beat Klint Knable and Andrew Seni 8-4 at No. 3 in the last match on-court. Notre Dame got straight-set victories at Nos. 3-5 singles to clinch the win before Ball State rallied for points at Nos. 1, 2, and 6, winning in three sets at the top and bottom of the lineup and in a match tiebreaker at No. 2. At the top spot, Cardinal Jason Pressel delivered a three-set upset of Notre Dame’s Casey Smith, ranked 87th in the nation in singles.
AMONG THE NATION’S ELITE: Notre Dame stands 55th among the 75 teams ranked by the Intercollegiate Tennis Association in the latest Omni Hotels Collegiate Tennis Rankings, the third set to be based on the point-per-match computer formula, as opposed to coaches’ voting, which determined all the previous sets of rankings this season. A new listing will be released on Wednesday. The Irish have been listed in every set of national rankings since head coach Bob Bayliss, in just his third year at the school, guided Notre Dame to its first-ever national ranking midway through the 1990 season, meaning the Irish have been constantly ranked for over 13 consecutive seasons, in more than 200 straight sets of rankings.
Junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) crept back into the national singles rankings at No. 122 on March 26 after being absent in the previous rankings. A new set of individual rankings also will be released Wednesday.
DO THEY ALL HAVE TO BE THIS CLOSE?: The Irish have had a penchant for playing matches with outcomes undecided until late in the affair. Seven matches this spring have been decided by 4-3 scores, with five of those tilts being decided by the last singles match on-court and one with the score tied 3-3 and the doubles matches remaining. In addition, the Irish lost 4-2 to Duke with the abandoned match in a third set and beat Virginia Tech 5-2 in a contest featuring four three-set affairs.
Notre Dame is 2-5 in one-point matches in ’03, and the Irish have lost five of six contests that were tied 3-3 with one point remaining. Zach Held pulled out a three-setter against Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) to lead Indiana over the Irish in the season opener. At No. 1, Mat Cloer finished a close straight-set decision over Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) to help Florida State edge Notre Dame. Two consecutive February matches not only came down to the last match on-court, but were decided by a third-set tiebreaker in that contest. Haddock topped Andy Formanczyk 7-2 in the breaker at No. 1 in Notre Dame’s win over Michigan State, but Adam Schaechterle edged Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) 7-3 in the deciding tiebreaker to help Northwestern over the Irish just three days later. Both of those deciding matches also featured tiebreakers prior to the final set. Tulsa’s Dustin Taylor rallied from a 5-2 third-set deficit for a 3-6, 6-2, 7-6 (7-2) win over Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) in the first round of the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic. Finally, the Irish led 3-2 against SMU with the lone remaining singles match in a third-set tiebreaker and Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) leading 3-1 before Lukasz Senczyszyn won six of the final seven points to win the tiebreaker and even the match at 3-3, setting up SMU to win the doubles point to claim victory.
D’AMICO’S DAY: Notre Dame’s Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) had his best day as a collegiate player on Sunday vs. SMU. The Irish sophomore posted his biggest-ever upsets in both singles and doubles, knocking off a top-55 singles player and a top-55 doubles team in the same day. D’Amico teamed with Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) to pull off a tiebreaker victory at No. 1 doubles against Johan Brunstrom and Henrik Soderberg, the 51st-ranked team in college tennis. Immediately thereafter, D’Amico delivered a convincing 6-4, 6-2 upset of #52 Gwinyai Chingoka at No. 3 singles.
Prior to Sunday, D’Amico had just two career wins over ranked players in singles (vs. #84 Ryler DeHeart of Illinois and #114 Alex Herrera of Florida State in back-to-back matches in January) and one in doubles (over #55 Ryan Livesay/Dustin Taylor of Tulsa in the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic).
Overall, D’Amico is 10-6 in singles dual matches (1-1 at No. 2, 9-5 at No. 3) after playing in just four dual matches a year ago, going 1-3 at No. 6. In doubles, D’Amico is 8-9 this spring – all at No. 1 – after being 14-7 a year ago, playing all but one match at No. 3.
BATTLE-TESTED: Each of Notre Dame’s regular starters in singles has had extensive experience this season playing in close matches while the outcome of the team match is hanging in the balance.
Junior tri-captain Luis Haddock (Caguas, P.R./Notre Dame H.S.) has been playing in crunch time at No. 1 on five occasions. With the match tied 3-3, he lost to Mat Cloer of Florida State in a close two-setter, but defeated Michigan State’s Andy Formanczyk in a third-set tiebreaker. Haddock lost 7-5 in the third set to Tommy Hanus with the Irish leading 3-2 against Northwestern, but came through in three sets against Francis Huot of Virginia Tech and SMU’s Johan Brunstrom (in a final-set tiebreaker).
At No. 2, junior tri-captain Matthew Scott (Oakton, Va./International School of Paris) beat Andrew Wakefield in a close two-setter to clinch the 4-3 win over Purdue, but has had his only two three-set matches of the spring be losses in 4-3 Notre Dame defeats. Tulsa’s Alejandro Tejerina beat Scott in the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic and Lukasz Senczyszyn of SMU rallied from a 3-1 deficit in a third-set tiebreaker for a win to even that match at 3-3.
Sophomore Brent D’Amico (Castle Rock, Colo./St. Stephen’s Episcopal School) fell in a third-set tiebreaker after leading 5-2 in the final set against Dustin Taylor of Tulsa, with the match tied 3-3 in the Blue/Gray Classic. D’Amico also lost a three-set verdict to Cameron Marshall of Michigan State in Notre Dame’s 4-3 win against the Spartans.
Senior tri-captain Brian Farrell (Lilburn, Ga./St. Pius X H.S.) lost to Indiana’s Zach Held in three sets with the match tied 3-3 in the season opener, fell 7-5 in the third to Jonathan Stokke of Duke to clinch the Blue Devils’ 4-2 win, fell 7-5, 7-6 (7-4) to Shunsuke Shimizu of Tulsa in the 4-3 loss to the Golden Hurricane, and lost in three sets to Alexis Rudzinski of SMU in the one-point defeat at the hands of the Mustangs. Farrell came through against Virginia Tech, upsetting #64 Saber Kadiri in three sets in one of four three-setters in a 5-2 match.
Junior Nicolas Lopez-Acevedo (Guaynabo, P.R./Colegio Marista) has been in three-setters in one-point matches four times this season. He won against Jimmy McGuire of Michigan State and SMU’s Henrik Soderberg in 4-3 matches, but fell to Purdue’s David Robinson and Northwestern’s Ahmed Wahla.
Freshman Patrick Buchanan (Fullerton, Calif./Servite H.S.) has dropped three-setters on three occasions this spring when the Irish ended up losing 4-3. He fell to Jullien Vulliez of Indiana in the season opener, to Adam Schaechterle of Northwestern in a third-set tiebreaker with the match tied 3-3, and to Tulsa’s Tom Murray in the first round of the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic. Buchanan came through in a similar situation against Virginia Tech, defeating Michael Kurz in three sets to clinch the Irish victory.
NEED MORE ACTION: Notre Dame will play only 20 matches during the regular season this year after having competed in 25 contests heading into the postseason a year ago. In 2002, the Irish played one more scheduled match, were in the championship of the Blue/Gray National Tennis Classic (adding another match), and played three times in the USTA/ITA National Team Indoor Championships.
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.